September 18, 2007
The C3 Team's Talk with Joe Pine (2 of 2)

The second part of our discussion yesterday with Joe Pine focused on his work with Gillmore on authenticity, which is part of a forthcoming book of his.

This discussion began with Pine describing the three aspects of a product that make people determine it to be inauthentic: the first would be in terms of popularity, in that products often become less authentic as they become more mainstream or taking into account mainstream interests; the second would be in terms of machine, as the lack of human crafting usually causes people to view a product as less authentic; and, finally, there is the aspect of money, in which the more lucrative a product is or the more the creation is perceived to be driven by profit, the less authentic it is.

This discussion moves away from explicit concerns of derivative-ness, although perceived originality has much to do with the authenticity of many products. Age also has a lot to do with our concepts of authenticity, since we often perceive products as being more authentic if they are older. In the C3 discussion yesterday afternoon, we talked about, for instance, signs outside restaurants establishing the year they were created, which often feel inauthentic when it is "Est. 1994," because of the perception that it is more authentic if it was established before you were born.

We had a long discussion about Las Vegas in particular, as a site of interesting debates about the nature of authenticity. Are Las Vegas sites authentic in trying to recreate the look of sites like Venice? Perhaps it depends on the eye of the beholder, but it depends on the criteria one is holding the site to. On the other hand, Joe and I discussed afterward how, while consistency also seems to play a part in the authenticity of many products, Las Vegas as a city becomes authentic through its constant changing of identity, just as Madonna's image has. In fact, if these images were to remain static, they would be in danger of becoming inauthentic, because the nature of their initial fame was based on that constant shifting of identity.

We also discussed the ways in which the blogosphere has helped accelerate the rate by which something becomes authentic in relation to age, as the acceleration of discussion and archiving conversations about a property moves very quickly. Certainly, the nature of authenticity on the Web, and the rate of generations of activity online, are much shorter on the Web, reminding me of my favorite anecdote from Ben Franklin entitled The Ephemera.

Joshua Green, C3's Research Manager, discussed his own move to the U.S. in relation to his previous knowledge of the States through his experience of the U.S. through media products and how the real experiences of being in the U.S. measured up to his previous understanding of what U.S. life would be like.

We also discussed this in relation to transmedia, in which no one product gives you the authentic experience. Certainly, part of the experience that drives both the business model of transmedia storytelling and fan interest in transmedia storytelling is the search for the definitive authentic experience of a media property or brand. When Sharon Mazer was here (see podcast), she discussed pro wrestling events in this manner and how each aspect of the WWE's machine seemed to produce a part of the event, but sent the fans on a constant quest for a more authentic experience. Watching on TV might make you feel you need to be in the arena to have a truly authentic experience, while being in the arena drives you back to the TV. It's in that impossible space, between all of these places that you can't be at once, that the "authentic" experience lies, and consuming media products in multiple formats is, in some ways, driven by this search for complete authenticity.

We discussed this in relation to sports in general, how we often go to events where we have a much worse view, cannot hear the commentators, and forego instant replays, all for the desire to have a more "authentic experience," since perhaps live-ness is perceived as a more meaningful way to consume. After all, we value the feedback of people who were physically close to a natural disaster rather than those who watched them on screen, and the nature of ideas like "imbedded reporting" rests on the idea that the story is really "on the ground."

We would love to have some of your feedback regarding the discussion, or else to get some responses from some of the others sitting in on our discussion about what happened yesterday afternoon. The podcast from Pine's colloquium talk should be up in the next few days.