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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 7: Towards a Theory of Mediated Authenticity

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· 7 · towards a theory of mediated authenticity I am half living my life between reality and fantasy at all times. —Lady Gaga This book investigates mediated authenticity and how the media construct real- ity. The media in this context should be understood as mediated communica- tion, which, by definition, requires some measure of adjustment, refinement, and even manipulation to adequately communicate a message. Mediated communication is a process practiced by media professionals, such as movie producers and news editors, as well as amateurs, such as bloggers and social media users. These groups of media producers have in common their use of specific techniques designed to make them come across as authentic, and thus also trustworthy, believable, and appealing. Mediated authenticity is a term that signals a certain pragmatism towards the media’s construction of reality, as well as an awareness of the pre-planned, formatted, and manipulated aspects of mediated communication. As a term, it is neither relativist nor value free, but it does highlight the paradox whereby a negotiation between producers and audiences is crucial to the success of the communication. A key premise of this book is that mediated communication is our primary source of knowledge about the world and a common point of our navigation within it. Access to relevant, adequate, and trustworthy media 132 mediated authenticity and communication is therefore essential to our quality of life, and it can even be a resource for ensuring the welfare of the citizens (Syvertsen et al., 2014). Thus the degree of...

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