The Ecstasy of Communication


Baudrillard, Jean. ‘The Ecstasy of Communication’ The Anti-aesthetic ed. by Hal Foster (New York: The New Press, 1998) 145-154


The description of this whole intimate universe – projective, imaginary and symbolic – still corresponded  to the object’s status as mirror of the subject, and that in turn to the imaginaery depths of the mirror and “scene”: there is a domestic scene, a scene of interiority, a private space-time (correlative, moreover, to a public space). The oppositions subject/object and public/private were still meaningful. This was the era of the discovery and exploration of daily life, this other scene emerging in the shadow of the historic scene, with the former receiving more and more symbolic investment as the latter was politically disinvested.


But today, the scene and mirror no longer exist; instead, there is a screen and network. In place of the reflexive transcendence of mirror and scene, there is a non-reflecting surface, an immanent surface where operations unfold – the smooth operational surface of communication.

If one thinks about it, people no longer project themselves into their objects, with their affects and their representations, their fantasies of possession, loss, mourning, jealously: the psychological dimension has in a sense vanished, and even if it can be marked out in detail, one feels that it is not really there that things are being played out.

[discusses Barthes “automobile”]


[…] what was projected psychologically and mentally, what used to be lived out on earth as metaphor, as mental or metaphorical scene, is henceforth projected into reality, without any metaphor at all, into an absolute spce which is also that of simulation.


[…]it must be seen that these changes – the decisive mutations of objects and of the environment in the modern era – have come from an irreversible tendency toward three things: an ever greater formal and operational abstraction of elements and functions and their homogenization in a single virtual process of functionalization; the displacement of bodily movements and efforts into electric  or electronic commands, and that miniaturization, in time and space, of processes whose real scene (though it is no longer a scene) is that of infinitesimal [minuscule] memory and the screen with which they are equipped.


In a subtle way, this loss of public space occurs contemporaneously with the loss of private space. the one is no longer a spectacle, the other is no longer a secret.

Their distinctive opposition, the clear difference of an exterior and an interior exactly described  the domestic scene of objects, with its rules of play and limits, and the sovereignty of a symbolic space that was also that of the subject.

Now this opposition is effaced in a sort of obscenity where the most intimate processes of our life become the virtual feeding ground of the media.

Inversely, the entire universe comes to unfold arbitrarily on your domestic screen […] : all this explodes the scene formally preserved by the minimal separation of public and private, the scene that was played out in a restricted space, according to a secret ritual known only by the actors.

Certainly this private universe was alienating to the extent that it separated you from others – or from the world, where it was invested as a protective enclosure, an imaginary protector, a defense (sic) system.

But it also reaped the symbolic benefits of alienation, which is that the Other exists and that otherness can fool you for the better or the worse.

Obscenity begins precisely when there is no more spectacle, no more scene, when all becomes transparence and immediate visibility, when everything is exposed to the harsh and inexorable light of information and communication.


It is no longer the traditional obscenity of what is hidden, repressed, forbidden or obscure; on the contrary, it is the obscenity of the visible, of the all-too-visible, of the more-visible-than-the-visible. It is the obscenity of what no longer has any secret, of what dissolves completely in information and communication.

Marx set forth and denounced the obscenity of the commodity, and this obscenity was linked to its equivalence , to the abject principle of free circulation, beyond all use value of the object.

The obscenity of the commodity stems from the fact that it is abstract, formal and light in opposition to the weight, opacity and substance of the object.

The commodity is readable: in opposition to the object, which never completely gives up its secret, the commodity always manifests its visible essence, which is its price.


Something that was free by virtue of space is no longer. Speech is free perhaps, but I am less free than before: I no longer succeed in knowing what I want, the space is so saturated, the pressure so great from all who want to make themselves heard.


[Baudrillard likens our state to that of the schizophrenic]

What characterizes him [the schizophrenic] is less the loss of the real, the light years of estrangement from the real, the pathos of distance and radical abstraction, as is commonly said: but, very much to the contrary, the absolute proximity, the total instantaneity of things, the feeling of no defense, no retreat.

It is the end of interiority and intimacy, the overexposure and transparence of the world which traverses him without obstacle.

He can no longer produce the limits of his own being, can no longer play or stage himself, can no longer produce himself as mirror. He is now only a pure screen, a switching center for all the networks of influence.

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