The Work of Representation

Topics: Semiotics, Structuralism, Linguistics Pages: 10 (2470 words) Published: January 25, 2013
The Work of Representation
Stuart Hall
Summarize by Jesse Tseng

1 Representation, meaning and language

At first we have to know that:
Representation is an essential part of the process by which meaning is produced and exchanged between members of a culture. It does involve the use of language, of signs and images which stand for or represent things. And surly it is not a simple or straightforward process. How this article exploring the concept of representation connect meaning and language to culture? We will be drawing a distinction between three different account or theories:the reflective, the intentional and the constructionist approaches to representation. Most of this text will be exploring the constructionist approach with two major variants or models of the constructionist approach, the semiotic approach- Ferdinand de Saussure and the discursive approach- Michel Foucault. But we have to answer the question first:what does the word representation really mean?

1.1 Making meaning, Representing things

Representation is the production of the meaning of the concepts in our minds through language. There are two processes, two systems of representation.
First, there is the system by which all sort of objects, people and events are correlated with a set of concepts or mental representations which we carry around in our heads.(like chair, table)
Second, Language is therefore the second system of representation.
(When we say we belong to the same culture, it is because we interpret the world in similar ways. That’s why culture is sometimes defined in terms of shared meaning or shared conceptual maps. However we must also able to represent or exchange meanings and concepts.)

The relation between things, concepts and signs lies at the heart of the production of meaning in language. The process which links these three elements together is what we call Representation.

1.2 Language and Representation

As people who belong to same culture must share a broadly similar conceptual map, so they must also share the same way of interpreting the signs of a language.
In the SHEEP example:
In order to interpret them, we must have access to the two systems of representation: to a conceptual map which correlates the sheep in the field with the concept of a sheep: and a language system which is visual language, bear some resemblance to the real thing of looks like it in some way.

The relationship in the system of representation between sign, the concept and the object to which they might be used to refer is entirely arbitrary.(Tree will not mind if we used the word Seert to represent the concept of them)

1.3 Sharing the codes

The meaning is constructed by the system of representation. It is constructed and fixed by the code, which sets up the correlation between our conceptual system and our language system in such a way that, every time we think of a tree the code tells us to use the English word TREE, or Chinese word 樹.

The code tells us that in our culture!
One way of thinking about culture is in terms of these shared conceptual maps, shared language systems and the codes which govern the relationships of translation between them.
Not because such knowledge is imprinted in their genes, but because they learn its conventions and so gradually become culture persons. They unconsciously internalize the codes which allow them to express certain concepts and ideas through their systems of representation.

But of our social, cultural and linguistic conventions, then meaning can never be finally fixed, we can all agree to allow words to carry somewhat different meanings.
Social and linguistic conventions do change over time.

1.4 Theories of representation

In the reflective approach, meaning is thought to lie in the object, person, idea or event in the real world, and language functions like a mirror, to reflect the true meaning as it already exists in the world. We can also call it as...
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