The post-modern French philosopher and social theorist Jean Baudrillard died recently on March 6, 2007 but his ideas continue to be most relevant to our digital culture in general, and Second Life in particular.
One of the few skills I've learned so far in SL is the simple creation of a sphere that can be programmed to say a phrase when an avatar comes nearby, then offer another phrase if touched. I created two objects I called 'blather balls' or 'curiosity generators' that I programmed to ask "Is this reality?" and then "Where is Jean Baudrillard?" I was hoping that I could find a way to invite him into Second Life to discuss his theory of ''hyperreality".
Though I'd read snippets of Baudrillard's philosophy in grad school, my most memorable early encounter was in the indy film The Snowflake Crusade
directed by Megan Holley. This fabulous first film is shot in Richmond, VA and centers on the identity struggles of Clive Barclay, the clone of a childless Nobel scientist whose accomplishment and judgment loom over Clive. While watching a bar-full of people enchanted by a TV show about clones called "Scion Hearted", Clive berates them for wasting their lives on a show that is essentially about a series of simulacra or a collection of copies with no original noting that Baudrillard would be "laughing hyperreal tears of delirious joy" that would duplicate and reduplicate endlessly until we were drowning in simulation with no clear hold on reality.
Though Baudrillard is most recently known for a connection to The Matrix, he has commented that the film misunderstands his theory, though it shows a shot of his classic text Simulacra and Simulations hollowed out to hide pirated software containing recorded scenes from other people's experiences - a dense web of simulations.