While students may have an intuitive sense of how the media represents certain phenomena, they need to learn some particular research techniques for how to analyze these representations. It is often useful to model these different techniques, demonstrating how you use them in analysis of a particular example.
The following are some steps involved in conducting studies, following by specific aspects associated with analysing representations:
- Select a specific group, topic, issue, or phenomenon, and then discuss different representations of this topic/phenomenon in your texts.
- Note patterns in these representations in terms of similarities in portrayals/images instances of stereotyping or normalising categories.
- Note value assumptions in terms of who has power, who solves problems, how problems are solved.
Define the intended audiences for these representations:
- What messages are conveyed to what audiences?
- Whose beliefs or values are being reinforced or validated?
- How are certain products linked to certain representations for certain audiences?
Define what’s missing or left out of the representation:
- What complexities or differences are not discussed?
- What is included and what is excluded?
Find alternative or counter-examples (this way you construct an argument)
Consider the potential consequences of stereotyped representations of gender, class, race, or age on people and the way they behave
List descriptions of others or oneself and note instances of stereotyping (how have values been altered)
Note how consumer practices reflect the need to live up to representations (aspirations)
In analysing representations, students can focus on the following aspects:
Images. The images employed that reflect certain positive versus negative value orientations based on cultural codes and archetypal meanings, for example, uses of dark or black colors to portray an urban area as dangerous or threatening (Lacey, 1998). In this semiotic analysis of representation, students are examining how the meaning of images as signifiers (wearing jeans vs. suits) creates certain signified or implied meanings (casualness/formality/dress for success). (Cullin-Swan, B., & Manning, P. K., “Codes, Chronotypes, and Everyday Objects” )
These codes are culturally constituted. Stuart Hall (1997) cites the example of the meaning of traffic lights—the fact that the signified meanings of red and green are culturally determined based on a code system that indicates that in certain cultures, red means “stop” and green means “go.” The difference between red and green is what signifies the meaning based on the cultural code. To determine how images are representing a social or cultural world, you need to determine the code system underlying the media texts.
Sound/music. Media texts represent social worlds through the uses of sound or music. They may represent certain regions of the world by using music associated with those worlds, for example, Samba or Calypso music to represent South American worlds. These uses of sound or music are often based on audience’s prior knowledge of certain types of music as associated with certain types of experiences or worlds.
Intertextuality. Media representations also depend on audiences’ knowledge of intertextual links between the current texts and other previous texts using the same images, language, sounds, or logos. For example, understanding the Energizer Bunny battery ads, in which the Energizer Bunny suddenly appears at the end of an ad, requires a prior understanding of previous Energizer Bunny ads. Audiences understand the meaning of certain representations because they have knowledge of these intertextual lnks. They enjoy fact that they are “in the know” about the intertextual references being made. In analyzing media representations, you therefore need to determine the intertextual links being employed to previous texts, and how these links are being used to represent a world in a certain manner.
Dan Chandler’s discussion of intertextuality
Gunhild Agger, Aalborg University, Intertextuality Revisited: Dialogues and Negotiations in Media Studies
Language. In studying how language is used to represent experience, you are studying how language actually serves to create realities or worlds. The idealized language of advertising is used to create worlds in which flaws or problems are instantly dealt with or solved. The language of sports commentary is used to dramatize the significance of a game to keep viewers watching the game.
In defining these debates, you are also determining how audiences are being positioned to accept certain representations as “normal” or “common sense” constructions of reality. You may then describe how you are being positioned by these debates by asking the question: “What does this text want you to be or think?”
For more click here