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Authenticity in the digital realm: ethnographic insights 

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Melanie Rügenhagen, IBI


22 April 2014

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Authenticity in the digital realm is difficult because digital objects can be altered with little effort, and because people have different perspectives on what is authentic. Authenticity plays a vital role when it comes to preserving digital objects for the future, since the means for preservation inevitably entail changes. The goal is to find a balance between the mutability of digital objects and the degree to which people tolerate alterations. This affects how long-term digital archiving strategies and methods make sense, since they depend on what users expect them to achieve. At the heart of this are people’s expectations about authenticity and how they conceive of the digital realm. This is what I examined as part of the project “Shaping Knowledge”, which belongs to the Cluster of Excellence “Image Knowledge Gestaltung” at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. I conducted an ethnographic study to find out how people perceive authenticity in the digital context. Interviews allowed a deep insight into the perspectives of a sample of researchers from the Cluster. My talk reports on this research.

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