Deepfake, or Provisional Signs Marked by the Presence of Nonpresence

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Abstract

Until we make the necessary decision to jettison deepfake from our discussions of AI-generated media, we will fail to invent arguments that are well suited to the needs of people who do not live their lives in relation to a digital environment filled with fake and genuine media but, instead, to a digital environment that presents computer-articulated human beings with a diet of provisional simulations marked by the presence of nonpresence. Even though deepfake has come to mean very much the same thing to people from different walks of life when pressed to invent persuasive claims about deepfake media at the rhetorical levels of conjecture, definition, quality, and action, the rhetorical work that has been done at the level of definition has created an exigence within the discourse on deepfake media. Because culturally recognizable digital forms, including deepfakes, are computer-generated simulations, it must be concluded that deepfake simulations express themselves in the manner of simulations, meaning that they give provisional (arranged for the present, changeable, temporary) expression, marked by the presence of nonpresence, to mathematically described, algorithmically defined models of the real. Being another form of simulation within an environment of simulations, deepfake cannot be defined as either fake, false, or inauthentic, or genuine, true, or authentic. Instead, computer-generated media, including deepfakes, must be defined as provisional signs that circulate above and beyond the order of truth as defined by both the order of obligatory signs (medieval) and the order of arbitrary signs (modern) because computer-generated simulations of arbitrary signs are constrained to speak the absence of presence, the presence of a concept not present, the presence of nonpresence.