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‘Are you for real?’: New webinar series to examine the significance of authenticity in the contemporary world

Authenticity has become a buzzword for our times. The travel industry is full of companies providing ‘authentic’ experiences, global brands fight to be seen as ‘authentic’ and social media platforms are awash with arguments about the authenticity of posts and even influencers.

But what we do mean by authenticity? And why have these debates grown so dramatically in the last two decades?

Loughborough University’s Centre for Research in Communications and Culture is hosting a new series of webinars in a bid to provide answers to these and other related questions.

Commencing this autumn, the four-part series will feature high-profile social sciences scholars from around the globe, including Professor Sharon Zukin of City University, New York, and Professor Sarah Banet-Weiser, of the London School of Economics.

The series will kick off with a webinar on ‘Cities and Urban Culture’ on Thursday 29 October and will be followed by talks on ‘Place and Heritage’, ‘Social Media and Digital Communication’ and ‘Gender and Identity’.

The webinars will take place every Thursday from 29 October – 19 November and will be aired from 2pm-4.30pm, except from the penultimate talk which will take place 10am-12.30pm.

The series organisers Dr Michael Skey and Dr Thomas Thurnell-Read say they are “thrilled to be able to welcome such high-profile researchers to the university” and are “excited at the response to the announcement of the webinar series, which has generated widespread interest around the globe.”

In a joint statement, they said: “The concept of authenticity has a long history, having first emerged as a response to the processes of homogenisation, rationalisation and standardisation at the heart of modernity.

“In recent years, authenticity has again come to the fore where social, political, cultural and technological upheavals give rise to feelings of distrust, detachment and alienation against which supposedly authentic people, places and things are sought out for their reassuring certainty and value.

“Yet, there are huge contradictions and inequalities in who can make claim to authenticity and its construction and communication invariably involves competing narratives and oppositional assertions about what is authentic and how and why the authentic gains its value.

“The purpose of the webinars – and of an edited book planned to follow the series – is to provide a space for scholars interested in the culture, politics and ethics of authenticity to share their research and insights and together examine the continued salience of this concept to understanding of contemporary social, cultural and political life.”

Each webinar features a keynote speaker followed by a panel of three to four research presentations and time for questions and discussion. 

Registration is free and can be done via the individual links included in the session summaries, which include further details on each talk, on the event’s information page here.

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 20/158

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2020 QS World University Rankings and University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2019.

Loughborough is in the top 10 of every national league table, being ranked 7th in the Guardian University League Table 2021, 5th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2020 and 6th in The UK Complete University Guide 2021.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.

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