What is Real? The Loss of Authenticity

We live in a world where almost anything is possible. Technology has given us the ability to alter and create what we feel is an ideal world.

Last spring, I traveled to Prague. It was always a dream of mine to travel to this city I have read so much about. My first sight of the city after emerging from the metro tunnel was mixed. This city was absolutely beautiful as I had expected with its gold ornamentation and beautiful colored buildings. The deeper we traveled to the center of the city, my mind started to become confused. For a moment, I felt as though I entered into an imaginary fantasyland, and not because of the beautiful people and wonderful smells. It was because of the buildings. They looked so familiar and I made direct associations to pictures I have seen in Disneyland. In America, we all have seen images of Disneyland even if we have never vacationed there. What threw me was though that I knew Disney Land was constructed in 1954 and opened in 1955. Prague was built hundreds of years ago, with the Prague Castle being built in the 9th Century. I have been waiting my whole life to go to Prague, and unfortunately I became slightly depressed because I felt as though I had seen it all before. I had to remind myself that this was the real thing, this was the original, this has character and this has authenticity. I had to remind myself that Prague was built of sustaining strong materials, where Disneyland was built quick, cheap and most likely not to last for hundreds of years. I started to understand the importance of this grand city and its authenticity in the world. I then began to question authenticity of other things as well.

    

I feel that because technology has given us so many opportunities most people would never have, it almost hinders us from seeking out the authentic. As if we just settle for the imitation. And for those who try to find the original, are sometimes left with an anticlimactic feeling. This is seen from plastic surgery to Las Vegas with its imitation Eifel Tower and Sphinx. I do agree that technology has produced some “fake” materials that do help us such as laminate flooring that looks like wood. This provides a good service in a home where one may have a pet and does not want to pay a lot of money to have natural wood floors that need a lot of maintenance when they can buy a substitute for less. There is a division between things that are fine to replicate, and things that should stay original to keep their grandeur and importance in the world.

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2 comments

  1. wang1139

    I had never been to Vegas until this summer. People always say it’s crazy and there’s just so much to see that you cannot possibly take it all in in one trip. The night we arrived, I was just in shock. As usual, my attention was caught at first on all the pretty lights and ornamentation and excitement of being in Vegas, but the next day I just couldn’t believe everything I saw. It may sound silly, but every direction I looked, I thought “This is just ridiculous, where am I?” In any other city, the tall structures would be filled with offices, apartments, or businesses. In Vegas, those structures are an entire different world inside each one. One day we were in Venice, another in Rome, and the next in New York. The cities are replicated inside where you seem to get lost in this ideal world, having to remind yourself it’s not a bit real. Just as you said in the beginning, “Technology has given us the ability to alter and create what we feel is an ideal world” –lask0062. I can say I know for a fact now. I have experienced it. Nowadays, people don’t need to travel to the “real” Venice or Rome if they don’t want to. They can just go to Vegas. To me, I enjoyed Vegas; obviously it was a blast. However, I also agree that Vegas has taken advantage of the abilities technology has given us. If Vegas remains, how do we really appreciate what is authentic culture, design, and food if we can have such easy access to a cheap imitation, paying the cost of Vegas and have the “feeling of Venice” rather than going to Venice?

  2. I agree with lask0062 that people do not appreciate authenticity when they have become familiar with the imitation. When I went to the Louvre in France and saw the Mona Lisa I was unimpressed and did not think it looked very special, because I’ve seen so many fakes of it, much like how lask0062 was not very impressed by buildings in Prague, though she knew that she should be (consider the time, effort and skill that went into those buildings vs. Disney Land). I also feel that imitations can rob importance and meaning from their original counterparts, such as the fake Eiffel tower and Sphinx in Las Vegas, mentioned by both wang1139 and lask0062. Their examples bring to mind Asian food restaurants with exterior’s that use faux materials and design to imitate traditional Asian temples/ buildings. Having seen many such temples in person, I can assure you the experience leaves much to be desired. Many people may feel that they don’t need to see the real thing, even though the feeling they could get from the real things could be much different and more impressive, especially seeing them within their original context. Despite looking the same, imitation is very different from the real thing. Imitation cannot have cultural or traditional value; it is cheap and does not represent a culture or tradition to its fullest. This could lead to less appreciation for history and culture and their value, which in turn would mean that people wouldn’t be learning as much.
    However, like lask0062, I do see some advantages to the use of imitation. Imitation material is a better option for structures that we know we will take damage in some cases, like lask0062’s dog example. Public buildings such as restaurants may use imitation materials for this very reason (Olive Garden, for example, with it’s fake stucco and Italian theme). Sometimes giving up a bit of authenticity can lead to a stronger structure. For example, though old buildings built entirely out of brick have an undeniable charm and remarkable craftsmanship, using only an exterior of brick and an interior of concrete can make a building much sturdier (many buildings on campus employ this technique). Moreover, the savings in cost or labor that using imitation materials yields could be used for better equipment within the building, or even as a charitable donation to those in greater need.

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