Culturalism: Media Representation (WEEK 2)

Stuart Hall suggests that there is a gap between the media representation of an event and the truth of that event, and Stan Cohen and the Glasgow Media group would agree. If this is a problem, how might we try to solve it?

On week-2 seminar, we have discussed Stuart Hall’s theories about Media Representation with Andrea. Here are three key points of his theories: 1. Multiplicity of meanings; 2. Power ideology; 3. Apply 1&2 above to the practice of stereotyping.

The first key point he argues is that no image, no sort of event has a single fixed meaning – in other words, no information would be understood in exactly the same way by every individual or every group of people. So a single image could have a wide range of meanings to be understood differently depending on the person’s background, the historical moment occurred etc. This argument reminds us a similar argument made by E. H. Carr: true objectivities is virtually impossible, no historian or journalist can ever completely separate him/herself from the historical moment which they are living. The social economic background, the gender, the race…would always affect historian interpretation of past event, same as journalist. This is a similarity of the theories between Carr’s and Hall’s.

The second part of Hall’s argument is that ideology and power fix meaning, or attempt to lock meaning down, to impose one meaning on a event or a image. But are all the meanings equal? Hall says no. He believes that putting meanings into circulation and letting them become familiar to everyone is depends on who hold the power in society – whoever is in authority controls the meaning that actually begin to circulate.

The third argument: he applies the theory of multiplicity of meanings and power ideology to the practice of stereotyping, and specifically stereotyping in the media. Stereotyping is an attempt to fix meanings that applies to certain groups. The stereotyping function is that every time an image of a person from a particular group is shown to people, they have a certain and usually very limited set of characteristic to be applied to that person; for instance, racial stereotyping. Black people often associating with violence and criminality, that is the way how stereotyping works –  conditioned to make those assumptions about a person. Hall argues racial stereotypes has become inscribe in media coverage. They are not even recognized as something manufactured or created by someone, people start to think that is just how things are and how reality is. This phenomenon becomes naturalized, which is how an image becomes fixed or a meaning gets down to be one thing, it’s deeply embedded in the world around us.

However, it is not difficult to realize that stereotyping could be a biased thinking. Can we change this kind of ‘fixed meaning’ (in another word – ‘stereotyping’)? In the seminar, we have discussed this question and came up with two ideas: education and constantly media affection, to try to solve the gap between the representation and truth. Firstly, education makes us learn to think critically in subconsciousness. Secondly, we couldn’t deny that media has affected the world intensively, when media reports news about a certain group of people, they should try to avoid implanting any idea to the audiences. In another way, reporting from various of aspects to tell audience not everyone is like that. Thirdly, journalists – people who write the news, should enrich themselves, because as journalists they will get in touch many different areas, like medicine, economics, politics, laws etc, knowing certain knowledge helps them to write a good piece of news.

(Total words: 599)


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