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Lecture 2: Representing Reality? Introduction to Media Analysis

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Carleton University
Communication Studies
COMM 1101
Chris Russill

Lecture 2: Representing Reality? Introduction to Media Analysis  Media create reality  Think that media shows us reality, like a mirror or window  Media only shows us one side of story (bias), oversimplifies an issue  For example, rise of citizen journalism; transformation in who can create news for a global audience o Used to be done by professionals o If you believe you find something newsworthy, you can take a picture of it or write about it, and have it seen/read by millions of people  Citizen journalists seek to find the unbiased truth and help to progress a legitimate new-media news outlet  Conventions: technological (shutter speed), aesthetic (colour), social (framing)  Context: social and historical o Juxtaposition of the text? o In a blog or a book? o On a TV news story or a museum? o Would you interpret it in the same way as someone from another country?  POINT: celebration of citizen journalism is important, and a transformation in what constitutes journalism and what is newsworthy; and when people get excited about media developments and how it brings us closer to reality, we’re making the same accidents of omission that we’ve done with every media practice/technology, e.g. the style of realism in painting, introduction of photography/film, when TV entered the home, and reality TV o “Now we have access to the truth.” o But really, we’re finding different versions of reality, not a more accurate reality Representation  The use of language and images to create meaning about the world around us  We use words and images to understand, describe, and define the world as we see it  Language as a system of representation  The word “podium” or an image of a podium; you understand the meaning of that word  Do we construct the world and its meaning?  Still life painting: motivated by desire to reflect material objects as they appear in the world, rather than trying to represent them (give a version of reality)  Is it a mirror of real objects painted for the sake of showing what is there?  The painting is telling a story; elements telling us something o Eggs and bread: not luxurious food; connote a rustic, peasant lifestyle o Get a sense of the kind of person living there without actually seeing them o Food is half-eaten, which tells us an activity o Food and drink can be heavily symbolic (eggs = fertility, wine/bread = religious)  Not a mirror of real life, but representation of real life that carries specific means  We construct the meaning of things through the process of representing them  Photography: construction of reality, but think of it as providing us with the truth  Seen as a real representation of the world  Don’t ask whether or not a photo is manipulated  Throughout history, photography has been associated with realism  History of newspapers: before photography, newspapers, in order to illustrate news, would use drawings or prints of engravings  Photography is seen as m
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