Keywords: banal deception, disinformation, social media, artificial intelligence, media theory.
Ongoing debates about phenomena such as disinformation, fake news, social media and artificial intelligence challenge scholars of media and communication to question the relationship between deception and media. Yet the notion of deception remains a substantially undertheorized topic in communication and media studies. This article aims to address this gap by proposing a theoretical approach that acknowledges the structural role of deception in experiences with media, without dismissing media as forcefully manipulative or malicious. Drawing on approaches in social psychology and in the psychology of perception that show how deception is an integral part of our «ordinary» experience, I propose the notion of banal deception to describe mundane, everyday situations in which media mobilize elements of users’ perception and psychology to achieve specific effects. Improving our understanding of these apparently «banal» dynamics will provide us with theoretical and analytical tools to assess conflicting claims about media’s deceptive powers