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Concepts in “Representation & Media” by S. Hall Essay

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Updated: Jun 20th, 2020

The process of reality cognition and the design of concepts that will later on be used in communication are truly miraculous. The differences in the cultural and social background seemingly eliminate the opportunity for people to create a successful discourse that could be easily understandable for others. However, the coexistence of people in the society contributes to the creation of the so-called shared conceptual maps, thus, making the communication process possible. By linking representation to power, Hall makes a statement about the necessity for the participants of a specific communication process to work on identifying the points of contact between their systems of representation, as the participants in question share equal amounts of power in defining the synapse between various elements and phenomena of their environment.

The two-fold system of representation, which the identification of an object and its further incorporation into the vocabulary presupposes, in fact, demonstrates the element of power in representation in a rather obvious manner. As Hall explains, the fact that a person is capable of creating the concept of an object and later on identifying the aforementioned concept with the object in question proves that the specified person has the power of shaping their representation system: “If you put down a glass you are holding and walk out of the room, you can still think about the glass, even though it is no longer physically there” (Hall 17).

At this point, the concept of discourse deserves to be mentioned. Traditionally defined as a “level or component of language use, related to but distinct from grammar” (Darnell 507), a discourse is related directly to the representation of objective reality though the prism of one’s subjectivism. Herein the connection between the phenomenon of representation and the concept of discourse lies: the content of the latter is predetermined by the way, in which its author represents objective reality and what symbols they will choose in order to render a specific message, which the video in question displays in a very graphic manner: “Media have real and strong effects on the world” (Hall “Representation & Media” 4:39–4:41).

The similarity between the “conceptual maps” (Mattos, Borges and Castro 33) that people have predisposes the premises for successful communication; otherwise, Hall argues, there would be no opportunity for a successful conversation: “Now it could be the case that the conceptual map which I carry around in my head is totally different from yours, in which case you and I would interpret or make sense of the world in totally different ways” (Hall 18). Herein the significance of shared conceptual maps predisposed by belonging to the same cultural background lies.

Hall’s argument, in fact, can be taken to an even higher level of communication, i.e., the process of interaction between the members of different cultures. The lack of proper experience and cultural baggage demonstrated by either of the sides may lead to quite deplorable results because of the inconsistencies in the combination of the two representation models. Unless at least one of the opponents is willing to envision a certain issue or phenomenon through the lens of the vis-à-vis, the communication process will inevitably fail due to the lack of understanding between the participants.

Hall, therefore, makes it obvious that every single person has equal and nearly unlimited power in determining the elements of their system of representation; as a result, any instance of communication requires that certain compromises should be made for the conversation to occur successfully and for its participants to locate common elements of reality representation.

Works Cited

Darnell, Regna. American Anthropology, 1971-1995: Papers from the American Anthropologist. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2002. Print.

Hall, Stuart. “Representation & Media.” YouTube. 2011. Web.

Hall, Stuart. “The Work of Representation.” Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices. Thousand Oaks, CA: The Open University, 2003. 15–74. Print.

Mattos, Carmen Lúcia Guimarães de, Luís Paulo Cruz Borges and Paula Almeida de Castro. “Conceptual Maps as a Methodological Approach in Educational Research.” QUERTY 8.2 (2013), 32–43. Print.

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