Title

Socially mediated authenticity

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2010

Publication Title

Journal of Communication Management

Department

Communication Studies

Abstract

Purpose – Use of digital media channels is growing in public communication. Given the importance of public trust in government figures and agencies, combined with the risk and fear of misrepresentation inherent in online interaction, it is important to develop theoretical frameworks for investigating the ways in which authenticity is constructed in online public affairs communication. The purpose of this paper is to produce a preliminary model of authenticity in online communication, with particular emphasis on public institutions.

Design/methodology/approach – The paper first develops a theoretical model of authenticity from existing literature in various disciplines. It then uses that model to explore a quantitative and qualitative content analysis of the comments on the US State Department blog, DipNote, from its inception to the end of the Bush Administration.

Findings – Despite limited interactions between DipNote authors and commenters, the types and quantity of responses to posts indicate a desire by some readers to discuss the topics raised in the blog space. These responses also suggest that at least some commenters find that the blog meets their criteria for authenticity to the extent necessary to engage in community-type interaction within its virtual boundaries. A functional-structural analysis of the blog responses supports the essential components of the theoretical model proposed, which suggests that DipNote presents a mixed form of authenticity.

Originality/value – Authenticity is particularly important in the public sphere, and public institutions are increasingly engaging with social media as a means of connecting with constituencies. This paper proposes a starting-point for theory development regarding this significant emerging area of communication.

ISSN

0021-9916