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Media Studies

www.curriculum-press.co.uk

Number 004

Representing the world


This Factsheet provides an introduction to the study of media
representations.
1. What is representation?
2. The Construction and Mediation of Representations
3. Audiences perceptions of representations including i) the
reflective, ii) the intentional and iii) the constructionist
approaches
4. Why do we need to consider representations?

This is not a happy family it is a re-presentation of a happy


family.
This is a professionally-taken and
posed picture. Whilst there is no way
to know if the people in the picture are
related, it is most probable they are
not, but are professional models.
The facial expressions connote
happiness and the framing shows
unity and physical closeness. The
mother acts as a nurturer as she has
her arms around two of the children
and the father, carrying the child,
depicts a caring, masculine strength.
The framing of the picture and the
angle of the shot focuses our attention on their faces showing
that their happiness is the most important aspect of this group
and other visual clues provide an understanding of a range of
ideals about family and gender roles: the female child is sweet
and sensitive; the small male child is boisterous and a bit of a
handful (although controlled by a strong yet gentle father);
both parents are patient, kind and conservatively dressed not
the kind of family youll see on Supernanny (C4).

1. What is representation?
Representation is:
the constructed and mediated presentation of people, things,
ideas, places etc.
and
representation is:
the process by which the media present the real world (Rayner)
The idea of representation is an important one in understanding
meaning in media texts.
In other words, everything in the media is a representation
everything we see is being represented.
Individuals Chantelle Houghton (Celebrity Big Brother: C4
2006)
Groups Teenagers
Places - New York
Nations Iran
Ideas Religion/the family
Regions/Locations - the North of England

2. The Construction and Mediation of Representations


A news photograph for example may appear to be presenting us
with a factual image but it has been through a process of
construction:
the photographer has selected his/her position, lens, angle,
exposure and framing before taking the picture
the picture editor will decide if the image needs to be cropped,
enhanced or in any way altered before inclusion into the paper
an editor will choose which, of the many available
photographs of the image, will be the one chosen for inclusion
in the newspaper and, importantly at this stage, the images
which do not meet the needs of the text will be rejected

Questions we would ask when analysing representations:


WHO or WHAT is being represented?
HOW is the representation created?
WHO has created the representation?
WHY is the representation created in that way? What is the
intention?
WHAT is the effect of the representation?
When starting to consider this concept, it is worth considering the
word itself.

Even then, further mediation takes place:


Will the photograph be large or small?
Will the photograph be on the front page or, less visible, on
page 8?

Representations are re/presentations

Placement choices like this, along with cropping and framing, act to
focus the attention of the reader in a certain way.
What headline and text will be used to accompany the
photograph?
Will the photograph have a caption?
Will it be positioned close to another photograph?

The media re-presents people, ideas and events. What we see in the
media is in some way a second-hand version it is clearly not the
thing itself. The representation has been created or constructed by
the selection of specific media language elements. In addition,
everything we see in a media text has gone through some process
to get to us this is called mediation.