How do you think media (not just news media) have represented the issue in recent months and years?

Published by Jeannie R. Ferrell

Nov 16, 2022

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Video to watch: https://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_ngozi_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story?language=en#t-1054728
Response Journal (200-225 (MAX 225) words not including, citations, quotations, or bibliography): Each week, you will post one Response Journal reflection based upon that week’s content to your assigned discussion board. The Response Journal is an invitation to comment upon what you are reading/viewing in the course, and then to relate this understanding to something within the contemporary cultural moment that is relevant to the study of CMNS. You could consider things like: What is the big idea in the reading(s)/material this week? How does this idea relate to something that you have seen/viewed in the present (or historical) media/communication landscape? Does the material challenge any assumptions that you have? Why do you think the writers are choosing to communicate in this particular way? Who is the audience? How do some of the communication ideas/theories we discuss in the course relate to, or help us to contextualize, their approach? What dominant ideas does the material for the week challenge, or reaffirm? Your response must include AT LEAST 2 quotations in APA 7 (appropriately cited) from the course material. Your response should not simply chronologically re-tell what occurs in the weekly material, but rather critically analyze/engage with one or two key arguments or examples from the course. Writing and critical thinking skills will be considered a primary factor in grading.
Overview: Human beings are semiotic creatures. We are constantly representing and re-representing our worlds. As creatures with language and systems of symbolic meaning, the ability to represent is profoundly tied to what makes us human. As such, at some level, all communications research – and the study of media in general – is built upon the quest to understand, explore, and critique symbolic and political systems of representation, and misrepresentation.
In a famous public lecture titled Representation and the MediaLinks to an external site., Stuart Hall (2005) argued that there are two common ways of thinking about representation. The first is what he called the ‘old’ definition of representation, to re-present. In this sense, media is either a reflection, or a distortion, of an actual phenomena, thing, or event. “Something is there already,” Hall says, “and through the media it has been re presented” (Hall, 2005, 03:05). But for Hall, this idea of representation is not complete. In fact, he goes on to argue that this way of thinking about representation is premised upon a false assumption of meaning being derived from the phenomena, thing, or event as opposed to meaning being given to the phenomena, thing, or event . He argues that “representation is the way in which meaning is given to the things depicted” (Hall, 2005, 04:41). The images and words that we choose “stand for” the phenomena, thing, or event that we discuss (Hall, 2005, 04:25).
In saying this, Hall makes the case that all representation is political. That when we represent something we attribute meaning to it as opposed to representation coming from it. As an example, draw up in your mind a powerful or moving news media-produced photograph that has made an impression upon you. Think about what the photograph means and what it represents. Hall is going to argue that the understanding of that photograph in your mind (whatever photograph it is) is primarily an attributed meaning rather than a meaning that has emerged from the actual phenomena, thing, or event. Hall calls this distance between the phenomena and the representation – between the “true meaning” and the media representation – the “gap of representation” (Hall, 2005, 05:00). As such, there can never be a direct of literal translation of any mediated phenomena, thing, or event (though some may be more ‘true’ than others in Hall’s account). For Hall, in all mass media systems there is an inherent ‘gap’ in any representation, and that gap is informed by dominant ideas, politics, history, culture, class, and competing sources of power in our world.
Key questions for this week’s class:
Representation: what are the implications when we say, “media represent the world” (as opposed to “mirror the world”)? Is representation a neutral phenomenon? Can we represent the world in different ways? Think about a particular issue. For example climate change. How do you think media (not just news media) have represented the issue in recent months and years? Can you think of different ways in which this issue has been represented? Which representation do you think is the most accurate? What makes this representation more accurate than other representations of the same issue? Who/which players benefit from a particular representation? What are some of the historically problematic representation of race, gender and sexuality in media? What do media scholars mean with “misrepresentation?” What is the danger with misrepresentation?
What to pay attention to in the Brooks reading for this week:
This reading relies on several examples of media misrepresentation of racialised groups in society. Can you think of examples of misrepresentation of how race/ethnicity has been portrayed in media? Any specific examples you can bring to class, say from the advertising world or news media? What is Critical Race Theory?
How to approach the content of this week’s video clip:
This week’s clip talks about “the danger of a single story.” According to Chimamanda Adichie, what is the danger of having a single story? In other words, what is the danger of representing the world in a certain way? What does she mean by “show a people as one thing, and only one thing, and that is what they become?” What does Adichie say about the role of power in the construction of a single story? Explain what she means with “stories can be used to dispossess, but also to empower.”

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