The Media & Communications in Australia

By Stuart Cunningham; Graeme Turner | Go to book overview
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6
Representation
Kate Bowles

WHAT IS REPRESENTATION?

One of the central concerns of media analysis involves the study of ‘representation’, which at one level is simply the question of how the media portray events, people and ideas, and how that portrayal then influences the real world of events, people and ideas. But before looking in more detail at key representational concerns such as gender, race or ethnicity, this chapter will look more closely at what exactly we mean when we say ‘representation’, and what kinds of baggage the term has collected since it became a commonsense shorthand for describing the way in which meaning is made when we communicate with one another.

Tired of watching cooking shows that are nothing like the reality of your kitchen adventures? (The Magazine, Austar TV Guide, EMAP Contract and Austar Communications, November 2000, p 115)

The first thing to be said about representation is that it is both a process and a product (both the practice of representation, and the representation which results from it) which has some kind of assumed relationship to something else we call ‘reality’. So a cooking show is a representation of two things: first, it is a constructed version of an idealised state of affairs called ‘cooking’ and second, it is an edited version of what happened in the making of the show itself. We all know that cooking shows produce their fair share of outtakes, and that presenters of cooking shows, like TV news readers, are only pretending to talk to us one-on-one, but in their reality they are surrounded by off-camera assistants busily chopping, arranging, cooking and making food look good. Despite what the above writer thinks, most of us probably watch cooking shows precisely

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