Table of contents
2 Identity construction
3 On ‘being authentic’
4 Authenticity and digital storytelling
5 Content analysis
5.5 Comparison between different types of celebrities
Nowadays almost every celebrity has his own homepage containing more or less information about him as a private person. Once being established in the media, a webpage can reinforce oneself’s popularity among the online community. Surely can there be assumed that this digital representation of themselves is located somewhere between PR and privacy.
Due to celebrities’ extraordinary status in society, it may be an interesting question in what way they still can be considered as a private person. As Tolson holds, there is “a quest for an authentic mediated identity today” (Tolson 2001: 456) what, referred to celebrities, could be realised through effective external communication in form of web pages.
In this regard, this term paper will aim to figure out to which extent these kinds of digital selfrepresentations can be considered as “authentic” towards illustrating something really personal or private. What kind of identity(-construction) can there be seen behind the mask of being someone famous and to what extent can one call the presented material about the self “authentic”? Furthermore, what are the consequences for celebrities regarding either presenting themselves too much as business people or private persons?
To get a deeper insight to these questions, the first part of the term paper will contain a discussion concerning theoretical approaches of both authenticity and identity. Following, there will be a qualitative analysis regarding the content of three different types of German celebrities’ homepages (“A”, “B” and “C” celebs – respectively men and women), concentrating on a chosen amount of features and traits on these sites. Thereafter, the content of the mentioned homepages will be compared with each other and referred to the theoretical content.
The ambition of this term paper is to show how an assortment of celebrities is representing themselves digitally on the net by creating own web sites and to analyse how or if this is matching the theoretical understanding of authenticity.
2 Identity construction
As Gauntlett holds, web pages are acts of deliberate creative production and self-expression as they are ways in which people communicate messages or impressions to others about themselves. (Gauntlett 2007: 2)
Reflecting on modern identities, Giddens argues that “all social activity has become the object of reflection and analysis” in the public and as a result “responsibilities and expectations become more fluid and subject to negotiation” (Giddens 1991, 1992, in Gauntlett 2007: 9). In this sense, the media contribute significantly to social change and have strong influence on social actors’ conduct as they know of the media’s power in society, “reinforced by the discourses of tabloid newspapers, radio DJs, TV presenters” and so forth. (Gauntlett 2007: 9)
In special, celebrities are aware that they are highly observed by the media, which is causing their comprehension of the fact that they cannot avoid communication in the Watzlawick sense. Sticking to his understanding, celebrities as such are communicating anyway (if they want to or not – they do), so it is up to them to do it properly or, in other words, to do it professionally. In this context every public performance is representing themselves and thus their chosen public identity. Generally speaking, “all social actors have to think about their identity”, because when it comes to the public “it becomes inescapable”. (Gauntlett 2007: 9) Regarding the term of public identity, celebrities in modern societies are representing themselves by creating own web sites, leading to the fact that „members of the public telling stories, in public “. (Thumin 2006 in Hertzberg-Kaare & Lundby 2008: 108)
According to Giddens there is a requirement for individuals in modern societies to define and refine their identities reflexively (Giddens 1991) what, in relation to digital selfrepresentation, can be achieved through creating digital identity in form of these web sites shaping mediated identities. The sites’ content, however, is assuming identity as it is “whatever you want it to be” (Brake 2008: 287). Accordingly, all content chosen is constructing public identity due to the fact that “it is impossible to create a profile without examining one’s self” (Brake 2008: 286).
3 On ‘being authentic’
While trying to describe the horizons of authenticity it might be helpful to have a first look on the psychological understanding of authenticity. In this regard, one may be considered as ‘authentic’ while acting in agreement to one’s inner self, to one’s inner beliefs and values and according to one’s fundamental impetus. Any human is basically authentic if he is both credible and not willing to pretend when acting according to his talking and talking according to his true thinking. As a result, authenticity in the psychological context means the unconstrained acting out one’s true self in everyday life. (Ernst 2008: 22).
Coming closer to a media context, authenticity may be understood in that way “individuals are said to possess an inner, irreducible essence, a ‘real self’ behind whatever public face, or mask, they might project”. (Tolson, 2001: 445) Contrary to the issue of image management, the concept of authenticity “is often used to denote the quality of being genuine or not corrupted from the original”. (Deuze 2007 in Hertzberg-Kaare & Lundby 2008: 110) Furthermore, as Guignon holds, the attempt of being authentic implies introspection and selfreflection as well as expressing one’s true self, which has been discovered through inwardturning, in all actions made. (Guignon 2004: 146)
4 Authenticity and digital storytelling
By referring to the fact that „there are several genres of digital narratives and various forms of digital storytelling” (Hertzberg-Kaare & Lundby 2008: 105) the consideration of personal web sites as a kind of digital storytelling opens up for further possibilities in examining them upon authenticity. In this context, it may be stated that both “assumed authentic forms of expressions” likely to “the expectations that the content of the stories should be based upon the autobiographies” of the author constitutes two core characteristics of digital storytelling. (Hertzberg-Kaare & Lundby 2008: 105)
Since it is possible to relate the content of digital storytelling to its author (as shown above), it might be argued that the author is even actuating this content in so far that it becomes “a more or less strategic self-representation” implying a “kind of self-reflexivity”. (Brake 2008: 291) Compared to the development of social network sites like MySpace, as it claims to be “a place for bands to promote their work” (Brake 2008: 295), even personal web sites entail a certain potential to promote either private or professional content. In this regard, digital stories “represent the performance of mediated identities which might be perceived as ‚authentic’”. (Hertzberg-Kaare & Lundby 2008: 110)
Finally, Meadows points that „telling stories about our own life is regarded as an authentic, universal and age-old human activity“ (Meadows 2003: 191) and since these stories are considered as media products, with an author telling ‘the story of his life’, authenticity cannot only be estimated from the author’s but also from the recipients side. Hence, one cannot solely speak of a constructed identity within either a social network profile or a personal web site but a melting together in the perception between both the production and reception side that is enabling identity towards authenticity. Authenticity, however, is not only emerging by establishing digital content according to one’s true self but to a large extent also by others conceiving and approving this self-representation as ‘authentic’. (Guignon 2004: 158)
5 Content analysis
The following part will contain a qualitative analysis of three different types of celebrities’ homepages (“A”, “B” and “C” celebs – respectively men and women, see below), that will be compared with each other thereinafter. The distinction between different types of celebrities, that German media is using in order to classify them in societal rankings, based on reputation, may be useful because of their different social status which can be related towards authenticity.
In this context “A” means that a celebrity is not only very well-known but quite famous and his reputation is widespread all over Europe. “B” means that the celebrity mostly is known only within his own country and viewers know him or her from the national television. “C” is related to the phenomenon of “pseudo events” Friedrich Krotz is describing: media is creating new stars where there are in fact none. (Krotz, 2007: 276) Those ‘celebrities’ are in a way fake-celebrities using the dynamics of media-productions (Big Brother, for example) making them popular for a while.
Celebrities to be analysed:
illustration not visible in this excerpt
The analysis of these homepages (see above) will take place in four steps. First of all, entering the homepage, the first impression will be described. Then, inspecting the pages’ areas, the question will be raised, how much private content can there be found. Third, observing the private content, it will be asked for how ‘private’ it is. Last, general impressions and particularities will be figured out in case there are some. However, this sequence will not be adhered to strictly while analysing due to web pages being ambiguous or interweaved to some extent.
 Paul Watzlawick was describing that people cannot avoid communication because everything they do to from the moment they perceive each other is some kind of communication due to them sending signs to each other, consciously or unconsciously. (Watzlawick 2000) [The proper German translation is: “Man kann nicht nicht kommunizieren.”]
 One pecularity about the term authenticity in relation to social psychologists’ point of view is that they consider identity as something not being fixed. In that respect people are checking and revising their identity, their relations and everything making them an entire social being from time to time by dismissing what they regard as wrong, apocryphal or forced and stick to what they consider authentic. (King/O’Boyle in Ernst 2008: 22) Therefore authenticity is not only a term but a development as well.