Hyper-reality

The concept of hyper-reality, as used by writers such as Baudrillard, refers to the idea that it is no-longer possible, in a media-saturated world, to distinguish between what is real and what is not (what is, in essence, a simulation of "reality"). Hyper-reality, therefore, is a situation in which nothing and everything is "real"; it is a situation in which we have lost the ability to distinguish reality and fiction.

In Baudrillard's, classic (and controversial)  example, the 1991 Gulf War was an event that existed on at least two levels of "reality":

Firstly, something was happening in the Gulf that was experienced as real by those involved - people were shot, killed, maimed and so forth.

Secondly, the way this conflict was reported added a second level of "reality", one experienced by the vast majority with no first hand experience of the conflict - the huge majority of the population who experienced the conflict vicariously, second, third or even fourth hand, via their television screens, from the way it was reported.

What this example shows is not that the "Gulf War" didn't happen. Rather, it demonstrates the idea that every single person touched by the conflict experienced it in subtly different ways. The point here, of course, is that if everyone experiences and interprets the world in different ways, the concepts of "truth" and "reality" fly out of the window - all we are left with is many millions of different versions of "reality" - each one "true" and each one "false"...

This, however, is where the mass media becomes important since it has the ability to fuse these many potential versions into some form of reality - but because it is simply an amalgamation of different "truths" it is more appropriate, according to post-modernists, to call it "hyper-reality" - a situation in which many different versions of the same thing can happily co-exist in the same time and space.

Dave Harris sums-up this idea when he notes:

"The real and the representations of the real have become fused together totally in our society, so we no longer know or care whether the America represented in Disneyland's American Pavilion is more or less real than the cities which lie outside it: that 'real' outside Disneyland (or outside any other versions of it) is disappearing anyway. In fact, massive efforts are needed to talk up the fast-disappearing real - including providing obviously naff places like Disneyland, so we can all still believe in some reality outside of it!"