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Mediated Authenticity

How the Media Constructs Reality

Gunn Enli

This book explores the paradox of mediated authenticity – the idea that our understanding of society is based on mediated representations of reality. Enli argues that mediated authenticity is established through negotiations between producers and audiences in what is coined the ‘authenticity contract’. Sometimes the contract is broken, leading to authenticity scandals and the need to renegotiate this contract. These moments of truth, some of which are analysed in this book, are important moments in media history. Through case studies, this book examines mediated authenticity in broadcast and online media, from the infamous War of the Worlds broadcast, quiz show scandals, to manufactured reality-TV shows, blog hoaxes and fake social media, and the construction of Obama as an authentic politician. The book demonstrates that authenticity has become an increasingly important factor in the media, and that solving ‘authenticity puzzles’ – separating the fake from the real – has become an inherent practice of media use.


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The concept of authenticity is everywhere. It’s a buzzword used in sales slo- gans for everything from jeans and coffee to holiday destinations and lifestyle coaching. Yet, authenticity is also about socially constructed notions about what is real, and the media play a key role in this construction of authenticity. My aim with this book is to investigate the notion of authenticity in relation to mediations of reality. I have not investigated the notion of mediated authenticity without sup- port from the research community and fellow media researchers. My sincere gratitude goes to the highly competent scholars Daniel Dayan, Knut Lundby, Peter Lunt, Hallvard Moe, Ole J. Mjøs, Vilde S. Sundet, Trine Syvertsen, and Espen Ytreberg. Thanks for the inspiring comments. A key to success is the publisher, and I am indeed thankful for the pleasure of working with editor Mary Savigar at Peter Lang Publishing. Likewise I have had the pleasure of working with brilliant people, such as language editor Nils Nadeau, research assistant Anne Nordheim, and my colleagues at the Department of Media and Communication, University of Oslo. I dedicate this book to my three favourite people: my daughter Oda, my son Johannes, and my partner Kjell-Olav. Thanks for encouraging me to write the book, and for being a perfect support team. Oslo, January 2015

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