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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 5: Fake Personas and Blog Hoaxes: Illusions in Social Media


· 5 · fake personas and blog hoaxes Illusions in Social Media To be natural is such a very difficult pose to keep up. —Oscar Wilde The emergence of the participatory Internet and a collaborative media pro- duction culture has made the relation between the media and its audienc- es more dialogical, interactive, and challenges the distinction between the producers and the audiences (O’Reilly, 2005; Benkler, 2006; Jenkins, 2006b; Enli, 2008; Bruns, 2010). This chapter explores the impact of these changes on the “authenticity contract” and the notion of authenticity in mediated communication. Like every new media technology, the web has been subject to both great expectations and great fears; in line with, for example, radio and TV, the Internet has been expected to democratize the means of media production and make its representations of reality more authentic (Brecht, 1930/1983; Castells, 2007; Shirky, 2008). Migration of communication to online me- dia has, however, also been argued to undermine editorial quality standards and replace real relationships with pale substitutes (Postman, 1992; Fischer, 1992; Anderson & Milbrandt, 2005; Keen, 2007; Siegel, 2008; Baym, 2010; Morozov, 2011; Stalder, 2012). This chapter will contribute to this discussion 88 mediated authenticity by investigating authenticity illusions in blogs and social media, and how trust relations are established in these arenas. This chapter has three main parts. The first part will discuss the growth of social media, with emphasis on the dilemmas of online trust and authen- ticity in online media. The second part analyses authenticity puzzles in social media,...

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