Section 1b Lesson 4 - Representation

Dyer argues that if we use textual analysis alone, we risk a narrow understanding of representation- seeing representations as fixed within a text, ready for us as readers to draw out of the text, analyse, and then judge (in terms of their veracity/ accuracy/ truthfulness).

Dyer’s typography of representation offers a model that emphasises this idea of representation as process. We can use it to help us consider how representation constructs meaning at various stages in the process.

Dyer identifies 4 stages/ areas for us to consider:

1) Re-presentation
– media language in a media text conveys a representation; textual analysis (conventions of camerawork, mise-en-scene, lighting, and editing) help us understand how the representations in your text convey meaning.

2) Being representative of- How much have you used ‘types’ and thereby reinforced dominant representations of particular social group. For example, if your main subject is a British Asian Muslim woman, how does your representation relate to those found elsewhere in the media? (issues of gender and religion). To what extent are you reinforcing dominant ideas about this social group? To what extent are you challenging dominant discourses? Is this group often stereotyped in the media? How is your text offering a more informed, nuanced representation by providing a portrait of one person- not a type, but an individual with a unique and unstable, contradictory sense of self (as honest as possible, not least because you as filmmaker are acknowledging from the start that it can only ever be a mediated representation).

3. Who is responsible for the representation “that is, in the sense of speaking for and on behalf of”. Institutions creating a media text obviously influence representation. Consider representations of gender, ethnicity, religion…and the contentious issue of white middle class men doing much of the representing.

4. What does the audience think is being represented to them?Audiences can construct different readings of media texts than those intended by the texts producers. Stuart Hall’s reading positions (preferred, negotiated, oppositional, and aberrant) are useful here, as they offer a way for us to think about how individuals actually make meaning from media texts.

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