This book studies authenticity, which is a kind of truth to self, through the study of heritage tourism. When a heritage site is inauthentic, it leads to misinformation. Tourism scholars have been studying authenticity for about 50 years, and this book draws upon the theories and approaches of tourism studies to understand better misinformation, which has become a major topic of study since the US presidential elections in 2016. The book includes a discussion of common-sense and academic notions of authenticity, surveys a half century of scholarship on authenticity, and provides three case studies of heritage tourism sites: Lindsborg, KS (known as Little Sweden, USA), Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, and the Gettysburg battlefield in Pennsylvania.
William Aspray is Senior Research Fellow at the Charles Babbage Institute at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. He formerly taught at Colorado (Boulder), Harvard, Indiana (Bloomington), Penn, Rutgers (New Brunswick), Texas (Austin), Virginia Tech, and Williams. He has also served in senior management positions at the Charles Babbage Institute, Computing Research Association, and the IEEE History Center. He served as the editor of Information & Culture: A Journal of History and is the author or editor of more than 30 books on the history and use of information in modern societies. Most recently, he co-edited Deciding Where to Live (R&L 2021), edited Information Issues for Older Americans (R&L, 2022), and co-authored with James W. Cortada both Fake News Nation: The Long History of Lies and Misinterpretations in America (R&L, 2019) and From Urban Legends to Political Fact-Checking (Springer, 2019).
James W. Cortada is Senior Research Fellow at the Charles Babbage Institute at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. He formerly worked at IBM Corporation in a variety of sales, consulting, research, management, and executive positions. His research and writing have focused on the business history of information technology and in the role of information in modern societies. He is the author or editor of more than three dozen books and serves on the editorial board of key journals devoted to the history of information and its technologies. Most recently he co-authored with William Aspray, Fake News Nation: The Long History of Lies and Misinterpretations in America (R&L, 2019) and From Urban Legends to Political Fact-Checking (Springer, 2019); and authored Building Blocks of Society: History, Information Ecosystems, and Infrastructures (R&L, 2021).
About the Authors
“The most thoughtful work on authenticity since Miles Orvell’s classic, The Real Thing. Orvell’s domain was objects, while Cortada and Aspray’s is time, place, people, and acts as they creatively and expertly analyze inauthenticity and misinformation in heritage tourism—offering rich intellectual journeys through Colonial Williamsburg, Gettysburg, and Lindsborg, Kansas.”
“I admire and appreciate this unique book on many levels. In a deft interdisciplinary stroke, the fields of Tourism/Leisure Studies and Information Studies are taken from a state of curious flirtation to a real partnership. Aspray and Cortada enact this feat by focusing analytical attention on heritage tourism sites and by exploring a single concept – authenticity – from dual perspectives. In addition to expert, systematic reviews of the literatures on the topics from both sides, three case studies trace (with an eye to authenticity) how heritage sites come into being. The detailed and sometimes surprising historical accounts establish grounds to understand and problematize the nature of authenticity in fresh ways. I believe that readers of this book (myself included) who visit heritage sites hereafter may not be so easily carried back in time. But on the bright side, we will more mindfully experience their aspirations, tensions, and complexities as socially-constructed environments and as ‘information ecosystems.’ In a quiet but important methodological triumph, Aspray and Cortada may have produced the long-lost blueprint for Jesse Shera’s vision for information studies—social epistemology.”
"Authenticity marries information studies with tourism studies to provide much needed context to our understanding of the world of misinformation. Through case studies of famous cultural heritage sites, readers get a glimpse into the historical, cultural, emotional, and political dimensions that shape these sites and their implicit and explicit misinformation production, which in turn shape the way we view the United States and its corresponding cultures. An intriguing and necessary book."
Using tourism and heritage as a vehicle, the authors map the intellectual space between authenticity and reimagination to raise fundamental questions about misinformation and the ways it has been and should be studied.
Aspray and Cortada’s Authenticity is a very evocative and compelling book that breaks much new theoretical and narrative ground. It will be useful to historians, anthropologists, sociologists, and information and cultural studies scholars for years and decades to come.
March 7, 2023, Author Interview: