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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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Chapter 4: Ordinariness as Authenticity: The Reality TV Genre


· 4 · ordinariness as authenticity The Reality TV Genre In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes. —Andy Warhol, 1968 The reality TV genre claims authenticity and is often used as a point of ref- erence in critical debates about manipulated reality in contemporary media. Compared to the 1950s, when Charles Van Doren became a celebrity through his participation in game shows, TV from the 2000s has become a celebri- ty factory and an arena when Andy Warhol’s cliché phrase about everyone’s “15 minutes of fame” has become a key business formula. This “participatory turn” in broadcast television is partly a response to the interactivity offered by the web, but also to an increasingly exhibitionist culture, and accordingly, broadcast media increasingly serve their publics as players and participants as well as citizens and consumers (Syvertsen, 2004; Enli, 2008). As reality TV has grown into one of the most dominating trends in contemporary TV, ordinary people have to a degree replaced actors and scripted reality has to a degree replaced fiction. This chapter explores the authenticity illusions in reality TV, and how authenticity puzzles are an essen- tial part of the hybrid genre. This chapter has three main parts. The first investigates the genre of reality TV, its origins, and its implications for the TV industry and celebrity 66 mediated authenticity culture. The second part presents the case study, in which I explore the reality-TV participant Susan Boyle, and the construction of an authenticity icon. Lastly, the chapter will discuss...

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