Authenticity versus narrative?

One of the most interesting observations about the recent Social Media Club Sydney event came from the esteemed Servant of Chaos (a.k.a. Gavin Heaton) in his post  Social Media Club Sydney Kicks Off.

Gavin noted that the theme of narrative (“storytelling and satire”) came up with each of the speakers at SMC Sydney. This is interesting because in social computing in general, and in social media in particular, much has been made of the virtues of authenticity. But are the two – authenticity and narrative – interlinked in important ways?

Lately I have become conscious of how much power authenticity achieves when it is placed within an effective narrative framework. Being authentic but dull or repetitive becomes boring.

A key element of powerful authenticity is personalisation of a story to create the feeling of  connection. And other key elements seem to be time and consistency. We need to see consistent appearance or message over time, or at least a consistent evolution over time.

A great example of this is Nick Hodge, whose recent Red Cordial Catharsis really got me thinking. As Nick has revealed more about his motivations and underlying ideas within a narrative context & this self revelation has made his ustream shows much more powerful.

This raises a lot of other interesting questions:

  • How do we demonstrate authenticity?
  • Why is it so compelling?
  • How do we know it when we see or hear it?
  • And, why are we so angry when we feel that authenticity is faked?

These are some of the issues that I’m thinking about at present, and I suspect there’ll be more on this topic later.


3 thoughts on “Authenticity versus narrative?

  1. Thanks for the kind words, Kate!

    There is an underlying trend in our society that I have been observing for years. It is the fascination for back story. Because we have been inundated with meaningless images (which make us say ooh, ahh and appeal to our vanity), another part of our makeup drives us to get “behind the scenes”. This is why “the making of” sections of DVDs are so popular.

    It is in providing that back story that we are suddenly able to reframe what we are seeing/hearing. And once we know that, we can fit it into our own view of the world. The art of communication is not just about telling a story, but framing it for your audience … and that is easier said than done.


  2. How does one establish credibility? I think we can create lots of sub questions:

    – How believable is the narrative?
    – How credible is the author? Where does the credibility come from (e.g. History, reputation, backed by a credible organisation)?
    – Does the author lend their own credibility to the narrative, in the narrative, or is their style standoffish?
    – Does the author create a relationship of trust in the narrative?

    But I think Gavin has given a good comment too – provide a back story, allowing people to fit your narrative into their own point of view.

    I think we could get into some fairly deep analysis here. Interesting stuff.


  3. This brings to new light some thoughts I have been stewing on as I read the biography of Adolf Hitler and his Berlin Mastermind Goebbels.

    Goebbels build authenticity through propoganda, which – it seems to me – was particularly effective because for many people the newspapers were the main form of communication.

    I wonder if in todays connected world such a man could inspire such a following. Obviously I listed to “spin” on the radio and TV news each day so they are still trying, but nothing so blatant as some of the narrative the intelligent Goebbels came out with.

    Has authenticity itself changed because of these technologies, or is it simply harder to achieve.

    I think in some ways the proliferation of information now causes a similar effect to the lack of information back in 1930s Germany. Maybe things haven’t changed that much after-all?


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