Jean Baudrillard (1929-2007)

On Tuesday, March 6, French theorist Jean Baudrillard passed away. Trained as a sociologist, Baudrillard put his knack for observing society and its engagement with mass media to work as a philosopher. His writings on television, video, and electronic mediation placed him among the earliest writers to have been called 'media theorists,' and after publishing approximately thirty books and many more essays, he is certainly one of the field's most prolific. Baudrillard pioneered the notion of 'hyperreality,' and his theories on simulation and simulacra are often employed in contemporary analyses of new media art. Baudrillard was also an active photographer whose art career was overshadowed by his academic celebrity, but whose creativity was nevertheless reflected in his writings on the 'ecstacy' and 'seduction' of the media. While his writing on the 'political economy' at play in semiotic exchange leaned slightly toward abstraction, he was steadfastly attentive to the real. He authored outspoken essays on AIDS, the Gulf War, the Rushdie affair, cloning, and other politicized issues. Baudrillard's more recent, albeit controversial writings about the nature of terrorism plumbed at contemporary western morality and boldly scrutinized the fear manufactured and perpetuated within networked society. He died in Paris, at the age of 77. - Marisa Olson