The consensus at the end of the 20th century seemed to be that simulation was the new default paradigm, a concept and technological mode that was at once aesthetic, philosophical, social, and political. Metaphysical questions about ‘the real’ were pervasive, as was the newly urgent questioning about how it might be instantiated, or even protected. For some audiences, The Matrix offered the clearest articulation of the classical problem: how do we know we are not living in a construct, or a cave, that is governed by external forces outside of our control? Narratives about the puncturing of this illusion—we might even say “consensual hallucination” (William Gibson)—thus became ubiquitous, and we were continually taken to the edge of the abyss and shown the circuitry that makes up our world, alerted to the glitch, awakened from the dream, and welcomed to “the desert of the real.”
The questions then, for our moment, are these: how do we understand the concepts of the real and virtual in the context of what is arguably a radically different technological environment, in the era of not just “deep fakes” but also “fake news”? How do we understand the myth of awakening (taking the red pill) in the new moment of paranoia and conspiracy? What is the status and function of immersive fantasy and storytelling? What is meant by liveness and immediacy and what is their cultural value? How, in short, do we understand simulation now?
Course material will include science fiction, philosophy, media theory, film, and anime. Themes and topics include the hyperreal, immersion, surrogacy, reenactments, gaming, training exercises, avatars, synthetic worlds, parallel worlds, computer simulations, modeling, and GANs (generative adversarial networks).