Main content

Aleks Krotoski asks what it means to be authentic in a digital world full of filters.

Technology has always allowed us to push the boundaries of what's real and not real. From filters on our holiday snaps to recreating life in a laboratory.

Is it any wonder then that amidst all this 21st century noise we're searching for an authentic voice?

But what authenticity actually is can be difficult to define, particularly in the digital sphere where filters, artifice and simulation are part of the fabric of how we engage on social media.

From Aristotle to Frankenstein, to politicians tweeting from the bathroom, Aleks Krotoski goes in search of the authentic, taking a look at the drivers behind our preoccupation with allowing others to see 'the real self'.

Contributors include: science writer Philip Ball, Stephen Lussier of DeBeers, sociologist Ruth Penfold-Mounce, author Professor Andrew Potter, Dr Suzy Jagger and Instagrammer Stina Sanders.

Producer: Caitlin Smith.

Available now

30 minutes

Music Played

  • Ratatat

    Wildcat

  • DJ Pitch Black

    It's All Real

  • Pfeifferhorn

Philip Ball

Philip Ball

Philip Ball is a science writer and presenter of Radio 4’s Science stories.  His writings on science for the popular press have covered topical issues ranging from cosmology to the future of molecular biology.


He talks about the age old cultural insecurities about the authenticity of nature, verses man-made, scientific discoveries - and how it reflects on our idea of self.

Dr. Suzy Jagger

Dr. Suzy Jagger

Dr. Suzy Jagger is an Emeritus Fellow of the University of Roehampton. Suzy’s research has focused on professional ethics, which involved the creation and development of a 3D virtual online game - Virtual Values.


She was diagnosed with the Bulbar Onset form of ALS (Motor Neurone Disease) in October of 2016, meaning she will eventually lose the ability to speak. As a singer/songwriter and more recently a university lecturer, her voice was an integral part of her identity and career.


She talks to us about banking her own authentic voice, and how using technology in this way means for her, family and friends. 

Stephen Lussier

Stephen Lussier

Stephen is a Senior Manager of DeBeers, one of the largest diamond traders in the world.


He showed us some of the most beautiful diamonds they have and explains why people have placed such value in diamonds for millennia, and why authentic gemstones still hold the most value today.

Dr. Ruth Penfold-Mounce

Dr. Ruth Penfold-Mounce

Dr. Ruth Penfold Mounce is a sociologist at the University of York with an interest in the digital world, celebrity and visual culture.


She tells us why authenticity is such a valuable commodity, one that celebrities, advisors and politicians all want to get a piece of - despite the danger of overstepping the boundaries of social media.

Andrew Potter

Andrew Potter

Andrew Potter is a Montreal-based academic and journalist, and is the author of the book ‘The Authenticity Hoax: How we get lost finding ourselves.’


He talks to us about challenges we face when we have to feel one way yet perform in another within society, and how the value of the authentic may be more about status competition than personal truth.

Stina Sanders

Stina Sanders
Stina Sanders is a model, writer and instagrammer. She tells us about a Instagram experiment in ‘being real’ that nearly caused disaster in her offline life and career.

Euan MacDonald

Euan MacDonald

Euan MacDonald was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) in 2003. Together he and his father Donald established the Euan MacDonald Centre for MND research at the University of Edinburgh and later set up Speak:Unique.

This is a research project that aims to develop personalised synthetic voices to help people with MND to sound like themselves when speaking becomes a challenge.

Speak: Unique is currently running a small pilot study in the central belt of Scotland involving the use of voice donors. The patient’s voice is merged with that of the donor, who has been selected because they are the same age, sex and region, which means it feels more authentic to the patient.  

Broadcasts