January 18 , 2012
Theories and Methods
The whole thing feeds into media representations.
-We want to look at the media and study the media and be able to say something intelligent about
it. Therefore, we have to have some tools or some lens to do that, and some theories that are out
there that are accepted by many scholars so that we can explain the forms of media
representations.Also we have to look at some methodologies, like the different methods that we
use when we look at a picture, and what we use to analyze.
The issue of representation. The media is all about it. What is representation?
Representation is the construction of aspects of “reality”- do we construct reality? or is it out
Representation constructs these realities which mean, media is part of that construction, not
really what it gives us is real, it constructs a reality for us to a very large extent.
Representation which is the main function of media is basically means that there is a distant
between that is real, and the image of that is real. Often, that image equals the reality, there is no
distant. We take the image out of reality.
This construction happens in any media especially in mass media. So these representations can
be in speech, writing, moving picture, etc.
Representation is not a fixed image. It is a process, a work, so it is both a process and an end
product. Therefore, studying the concept itself is also very important. E.g. a picture or a beer ad,
is an end product, but there is a process in that picture that was involved until that end product
was created. It is important to know that process. How did they decide to have a blonde girl and
not a girl with black hair, or one with cleavage, etc. It leads to an end product.
-It is not natural, but we have come to see it as natural.
We have come to believe that representation is an expression of real, like a camera.
In this way, we always have systems of representations that sometimes we take as real. Systems
of representations are those ideologies that frame the reality for us. They tell us what is the scope
of our vision, what should be excluded, what should be in our sight or vision, everything.
Representation is always distant from that reality in which it represents and when it is long term,
it replaces the reality.
-Systems of representations are those ideologies overarching ideologies that frame the real. E.g.
patriarchy, male domination, that is the dominant ideologies. That ideology has a lot ot do with
what we see, how we see, what we see as the real, who is in it, who is not, what colour is being
used, etc.Ads, who’s pleasure is being addressed? Men. If we had women as the most powerful
social group, what kind of commercials would we get? More triggered to what women want and
their pleasures, and what makes us happy.
Representation is unavoidable. We are human beings by nation, and we represent reality.
Representation is also always selective and bias which foregrounds some things and
backgrounding others. Now, we have women almost naked washing cars. Why? What is the
relationship to that? It makes the car more appealing because she is with the car. The car
represents the man, so if she is doing stuff with the car, she is doing it with the man. Subliminal
message that if you buy it, you’re going to get laid. It influences people’s choices in the car they want to buy. It’s unavoidable and selective. So when we see something that is representing, there
is a host of questions we have to ask. The kind of questions you should ask when looking at an
What is being represented here? How is it being represented? How is the representation made to
see true or common sense or natural, what is foregrounded and backgrounded, is there any
notable absesnces. Absences are just as important as the things that are on the frame. Who`s
representations is it, who`s interest does it reflect. IN order for you to analyze a media product,
you need to ask.
These issues are important because you have to be aware of all these issues.
Semiotics- focuses on the process of representation. If you take the semiotic approach, you know
that reality is always represented, and we do not have access to the objective reality. Semiotics
argue that representation becomes natural or feels like natural when it is repeated. If you repeat a
lie enough, it becomes a reality. It makes it believable. If you don’t know what the real is, then
that is real.
If you look at the way certain races are stereotyped in the media, you come into contact with
these groups, and you have these preconceived notions, then you believe it because that is what
you know. Social groups are represented in social media over and over and it’s so hard for us to
think otherwise, and when you come into contact, usually because we don’t have contact to that
social group outside our own, that is the image for us for the rest of our lives.
Self-fulfilling prophecy- if you tell someone something over and over, they’ll start acting like
Reality is so diverse, maybe we’ll never know.
Representation is not fixed, it is a process and have mutual affects on reality and creates the real.
Semiotics is a way in which we can interpret representation.
What we do is interpret the representation.
Content analysis- This image is representation of something, and analyze the content.
What is represented in the women in beer ad?
Main thing being sold is beer. That is just one layer, it’s not finished. Beer is represented here,
heterosexuality is being represented, women’s sexuality is represented through objectification of
her body, ideal women is being represented because she is blonde and skinny, nature is being
represented here, though her boobs are fake.Association between women and desirable nature.
The idea that women is a passive women. How do we know all these things? The way she sits,
the body language, what we are taught as kids, our conventions, our common sense, our culture
tells us that this image represents sex, sexuality, desirable women, passive women, etc. Who is the target of this ad? Men. We know. How do we know this? Usually ad would not tell us
the natural choice.
Millions of images are out there and this is how scholars do content analysis.
Is it sexually appealing for man? If that’s his type of women, yes. There is a distant between the
reality which is not some men might not like blondes and what our culture tells us. Our culture
tells us that every men likes this. The receiver looks at an image, and the way you interpret, it
depends on whether you are a man or a women, you have a different interpretation.
3 analytical approach to media representation.
Thematically- E.g. you want to look at a TV series and analyze it. You might look at it
thematically. Base the way in which age, gender is represented in that series. Or on topic on how
motherhood is represented. How royalty or childhood, is represented. How teenage moms are
represented. That is thematically.
The other way is generically- E.g. you choose one lens and you want to see the bias in the news,
and then you look at 5 diff news channels and see how they are bias, or how class is represented
in soap operas. We all know that Rosanne is working class.
Media-specifically- you look at TV and you look at film and magazine.
Two methods we can use in the study of any media.
Food for Thought-Exercise
We know that there are specifically key themes for every social groups.
In popular culture, ads, 4 key things in racial representations get rep