Delve into the realm of the hyperreal where appearance is truth and substance is secondary.

Hyperreality [1] was initially defined by 20th century philosophers as any set of representations or symbols that have no real object to reference back upon. The set of symbols that constitute a hyperreality do not represent anything in the real world but rather the ideal version of a real object.

In a social context, a culture might desire an idealized reality, and in the pursuit of that desire they fabricate a false reality, a hyperreality, to match that ideal. Consumerist culture feeds off our collective hyperreality hallucination, promising in reality what can only exist in our imagination.

The oft-cited example of a blatant hyperreality is the “Main Street USA” facade of American Disneyland theme parks [2], though this doesn’t touch upon how deeply we believe in our false realities. The theme park example falls short because we know that it’s just a facade, a stage for a performance. The real subversive hyperreality that we fall prey to are the countless “main streets” of real American cities that the theme parks emulate. These main streets are the epicenter of where communities fabricate their own idealized version of a town, all while enacting policies to perpetuate the illusion, marginalizing and institutionalizing those that do not fit their ideal vision.

Because our perspectives of reality can only be formed with information that we have access to, control of that information can alter the perceived realities of entire populations. Bombarded with snuff-film-infotainment from commercial news outlets, public perceptions of reality can be steered by the whims of the owners, investors, advertisers and other stakeholders of these outlets.

Hyperreality was notably explored by philosopher Jean Baudrillard [3] in his series of essays “The Gulf War Did Not Take Place”. In these essays, he asserts that the tightly controlled media presentation of the Gulf War as a “traditional war” is a false narrative of the events that actually took place. This interpretation views the overt military actions as more of an act of publicity for political purposes rather than a traditional military conflict.

With increasingly prevalent and continually evolving technology, the means to practice collective hallucinations, a shared hyperreality, have become more powerful.

Interconnectivity via omnipresent social media can surround an individual in a repetitious deluge of shared thoughts and ideas, closed off from new or opposing perspectives, forming a hyperreallity reflecting the users own ideals.

Immersive virtual simulations promise to go beyond merely isolating thought and limiting information, into the realm of tricking our primitive biological senses into believing new false realities.

At the forefront of some of these technologies, participation is voluntary and largely for entertainment. But as the technologies become more pervasive, these new hyperrealities will be populated by information starved, passively consenting masses.