Studying Media Representations

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Module 5: Studying Media Representations

Objectives: After completing this module, you will be able to:

- identify the specific ways in which media representations uses images, sound/music, intertextuality, language, and techniques to construct a version of reality associated with a particular phenomena, group, world, institution, or profession. - apply these specific aspects of media representations to analysis of a media text. - be familiar with websites/texts that contain examples of texts illustrating certain types of media representations - construct a webquest that involve students in analyzing media representation of a particular phenomena, group, world, institution, or profession.

What Are Media Representations?

Media representations are the ways in which the media portrays particular groups, communities, experiences, ideas, or topics from a particular ideological or value perspective. Rather than examining media representations as simply reflecting or mirroring “reality,” we will be examining how media representations serve to “re-present” or to actually create a new reality.

For example, beer ads portray drinking beer as a primary component for having a party. SUV ads create the impression that driving an SUV as an exciting, outdoor adventure. And, perfume/cologne ads imply the using perfume/cologne makes one sexually appealing. These ads all create idealized experiences associated with the uses of these products, experiences that may not jive with alternative perspectives on these experiences:

http://www.nothing-sacred.net/articles/1/171/

Similarly, the Disney Corporation, one of the major producers of film and television, represents stories and fairy tales for children primarily in terms of White, Western, middle-class values. And, DisneyWorld/Disneyland creates artificial realities that represent different “worlds”—other “lands” in ways that sanitized and idealize any political, cultural, and ideological differences constituting the unique cultures of those worlds. For example, “Safari” boat trips represent Africa as a primitive jungle experience. For a discussion of the role of Disney in constructing their own representations of different realities, go to the following site and click on the video:

http://www.mediaed.org/videos/CommercialismGlobalizationAndMedia/MickeyMouseMonopoly/

Why Study Media Representations?

Why study media representations? Media representations shape adolescents’ perceptions of experience—their beliefs about gender, class, and race, their assumptions about what is valued in society, and their notions of urban, suburban, and rural life. However, it is important to recognize that adolescents are not simply passive dupes who accept all of these representations without some interrogation. As James Tobin (2001) argues, students are able to resist these representations, resistance that is often specific to adopting stances valued in certain context, particularly is they can parody or adopt creative alternatives to representations.

Creating a critical context in the classroom where students practice interrogation of representations helps them acquire a critical stance. In adopting this stance, they learn to examine the underlying value assumptions inherent in a representation and whether they accept or reject those assumptions. For example, in studying local television news representations of urban landscapes as rife with crime and danger, leads them to challenge these representations as serving to reify suburban viewers presuppositions about the city as dangerous and problematic, beliefs held by many suburban adolescents.

Students learn to adopt a critical stance by recognizing how the media serves to “mediate” or define ways of defining the world and their own identities. For example, the so-called “reality” television shows portray ways in which the...
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