representation in the media

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Representati on in the Media

Author: ryanwoods

Post on 28-Nov-2014




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A look at how media institutions mediate and represent within media texts. A good resource for A-Level Media studies key concepts and BTEC Level 3


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Representationin the Media

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• By definition, all media texts are representations of reality.

• This means that they are intentionally composed, lit, written, framed, cropped, captioned, branded, targeted and censored by their producers, and that they are ultimately artificial versions of the reality we perceive around us.

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Do you think this is a fair representation?

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Think about how the flash lighting and composition havecreated a stark, unflattering image

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Change the lighting, angle of view and background etc. and the result is very different.

We say the media MEDIATE reality to produce a REPRESENTATION

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Is this image simply reality?

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No. It clearly uses lighting, pose and framing to create a mood of menace, mystery or threat.

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When studying the media it is vital to remember this - every media form, from a home video to a glossy magazine, is…

A representation of someone's concept of existence, codified into a series of signs and symbols which can be read by an audience.

REMEMBER SEMIOTICS – study of signs: denotation (meaning)and connotation.

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Truth or Lies?

• Media representations - and the extent to which we accept them – is a very political issue.

• As the influence the media exerts a major impact on the way we view the world.

• By viewing media representations our prejudices can be reinforced or shattered.

• Generally, audiences accept that media texts are fictional to one extent or another. Sometimes!!

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Studying Representation

The study of representation is about decoding the different layers of truth/fiction/whatever.

In order to fully appreciate the part representation plays in a media text you must consider:

• Who produced it?

• What/who is represented in the text?

• How is that thing represented?

• Why was this particular representation (this shot, framed from this angle, this story phrased in these terms, etc) selected, and what might the alternatives have been?

• What frame of reference does the audience use when understanding the representation?

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Analysing Representation

The analysis of different sorts of representation forms an important partOf Media Studies.

The factors of representation most commonly addressed are:

• Class

• Age

• Gender

• Ethnicity

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• Reality is subject to mediation.


“The process by which an institution orindividual or a technology comes between events thathappen in the world and the audience that receive this


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• Representation is a fluid, two-way process:

• Producers position a text somewhere in relation to reality and audiences assess a text on its relationship to reality.

• This is mediation in play – it is VERY important to be aware of this.

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Representation is concerned with how media textspresent and mediate ideas of the following:

PeopleHow are they represented? What activities are they doing?

PlacesHow is this place ‘given’ to the audience?

EventsIn the represented event, what is included and what partsare left out?

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Consider the following images taken from a Google search on Women and Men on Magazine covers…

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You might think they are typical images from women’s magazines.

Compare them to some equivalent images of men….

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• The media create reality:

They take something that is real, a person or an event and they change its form to produce whatever text we end up with.

• Reality goes through a process.

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Mediation and the News

• We tend to believe what is said in the news – but it is sure to mediated as anything else.

• Someone decides on the news items that are ‘newsworthy’ – chosen shots, graphics etc.

• So it is mediated because it is completely different from the experience of someone who was at the scene of a news event.

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Mediation – three things to look for

1. Selection

2. Organisation

3. Focusing

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What is on the screen/paper/website – much more would have been left out.

News Story – it has been selected from hundreds of others

Pictures – has been chosen from an enormous number of alternatives

Look at exclusive stories in magazines, newspapers and websites and think why they have been used

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Various elements of a media text have been organised in a specific way – real life is not.

Visual media – mise-en-scene and the organisation of narrative

Recording of an album – production might involve mixing a track

E-media – narrative of the website. Gaming websites have podcasts, advertising and promotional material

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Mediation ends up with us, the audience being encouraged towards focusing on one aspect of the text

When watching a film – camera pans to the character it wants you to focus on

In a tabloid – headlines scream for your attention

This is VERY different from our everyday lives

You would not see a sign in a field telling you to look at a flower – you make your own decisions in life that is worth your attention. The media text through mediation tries to do this for us.

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These images are not a simple recording of J Lo’s character or life but have been taken, selected and edited to REPRESENT certain aspects of her to suit the intention of the people who have made the text.

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Representation Theory

Professor Stuart Hall introduced a theory about how we

make sense of representations.

This is based on how we “read” representation.

Look at this website and then a close up of one image

and think about how it is coded…

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You might have noticed:

1. The image itself is a head and shoulders shot emphasizing his expression of seriousness, sincerity ?

2. He is facing the camera directly to perhaps suggest the same qualities

3. He is wearing a suit with a BLUE tie (Conservative colour)

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4. The image is “professionally” lit – although this is a little odd actually but still has connotations of high status, authority.

5. His image has been cut out and put onto a stylised Union Flag signifying patriotism and authority. (Q. Would this have conveyed a different meaning had he been shown in front of his country house? Or in his car?)

6. There is other coding in e.g. the text when it uses words like freedom, fairness, responsibility.

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You could have broadly three reactions to this representation.

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1. I am convinced! He is an honest, competent leader who loves his country and whose posh social background doesn’t matter as he believes in all the right things.

2. He is a total idiot! We are being fooled by the images and text – I don’t trust or like him at all. The whole thing was put together to give us a false picture of him and his party.

3. I don’t go along with all the things the image suggests but I suppose he has some abilities as a politician and is doing the best as he sees it.

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The first of these would be called the preferred reading (meaning that it is the one the producers of the website wanted you to have)

The second is called an oppositional reading. (You reject or oppose the meaning offered).

The third is called a negotiated reading. You take -or perhaps we should say- you make your own meaning depending on your knowledge, life experience etc.

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So the three readings are:


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Advertising works in the same way:

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Preferred reading would be something like – attractive young people

drink Coca-Cola… I want to be like that so I will buy a Coke!

An oppositional reading could be – I hate big companies selling us junk

by appealing to our material desires.

A negotiated reading could be – I know they just want us to buy their

brand but actually this ad is quite fun and I do like the drink so I may

consider it next time I am in the supermarket…

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Any representation is a mixture of:

• The thing itself.

• The opinions of the people doing the representation. (presenter, web designer etc.)

• The reaction of the individual to the representation. (us, how we understand it, preferred, oppositional or negotiated reading)

• The context of the society in which the representation is taking place. (hierarchal/social/political)