Representation is defined as the description or portrayal of someone or something in a particular way or as being of a certain nature. This idea of representation is extremely important because it more times than not gives people a view into who or what something is.
Stuart Hall, a Jamaican-born cultural theorist, political activist and Marxist sociologist breaks representation into three theories: reflective, intentional, and constructionist. Hall displays his favor for the constructionist theory, because he believes it is important in cultural studies. The constructionist theory is broken into two different models: the semiotic approach and the discursive approach. Before getting into this reading I was convinced that representation was an easy concept to understand, but it’s actually more difficult than it seems. Representation is deeper than most perceive it to be because it includes many different aspects like images, intention, language, and signs. The three theories of language Hall mentions are reflective, intentional, and constructionist. Reflective refers to the true meaning, something in the world that exists already, this can includes events, objects, and people.
Hall uses the example of poet Gertrude Stein saying “a rose is a rose is a rose” (Hall, 1997), to explain that regardless if the rose is two-dimensional or three-dimensional you know it is a rose because of the understanding of what a rose is. The intentional theory focuses on the author’s or speaker’s actual feelings towards the specific topic. I feel like now intention is often looked over, people are too quick to condemn actions without looking at why it was done.
For example, the looting during 2015 in Baltimore, if one looked at the situation quickly they might think that the people who are doing this are criminals and maybe even crazy, one might even ask why would they destroy their own community. But, if you dive deeper you would realize that the murder of Freddie Gray cause that unrest. The people in that community were tired of the maltreatment of black people and decided to act out, as most people would and have. There were also unrest and chaos in cities when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.
Hall discusses that he doesn’t believe that language intent is as private as we think:”Language can never be wholly a private game. Our private intended meanings, however personal to us, have to enter into the rules, codes and conventions of language to be shared and understood. Language is a social system through and through.
” (Hall, 1997)But in the same token, intention is only really easy to tell if looking at actions, in language intentions are harder to tell. I think that when speaking about language intent it is private because of the many different things that are factored in; you must read into the connotations of the words being used, tone of voice, setting, and situation. The third theory is the constructionist theory. This is the theory that focuses on meaning and how people make the things mean the way they do. Hall favors this theory, and I think it’s because is ultimately makes the most sense, and it’s the one that is easy to prove.
People construct meaning for things, we say words and due to a lack or abundance of representation associated with these words we have an opinion or “understanding”. This relates to one of the first days of AFS 363, when Dr. Miletsky told the class to close our eyes and asked us what we saw when he said “All- American”. The things that people thought of were blonde hair, blue eyes, white, Barbie & Ken, country, and a varsity football player from the 1950s.
Now the American population has more than just white people from the 50s who live are country and have blonde hair and blue eyes, so why did the whole class think the same thing? See I always thought I knew the power of the media, but I knew then I have a lot more to learn. Most times when you see or hear All-American you do see a 4th of July barbeque with white people having a gathering in their big green backyards, and there’s always a dog, most likely a gold retriever. Relating this theory back to AFS 363 the media only portrays