It is important to first explain what is real and what is representation. Real and reality are words which normally refer to something literally existing or something which is not artificial or an imitation of something else. Representation can refer to the action of talking or ‘representing’ someone or something. Representation can also refer to the way something is presented or ‘re-presented‘ to another by the news media or through another form of communication, where the real is distorted into a representation – “This postmodern condition entails the perpetual vanishing of the real into representation…” (Bignell, 2000, p 31).
In the context of media discourse; real, reality and representation all refer to the way in which information is mediated to us by the various information sources that dominate today’s world. A representation of something could be a snippet, a snapshot of a second in the events of a day, portrayed to us in one light or another by these mediators. An example of this can be seen every day; in the news we watch, on the posts we interact with on Facebook and the tweets with which we gorge ourselves on.
The simple idea of these broadcasting methods boils down to the laziness of us, the viewer. It is much easier to absorb these easy truths or untruths and leave it at that, as opposed to conducting our own research or engaging with these mediators on a critical level. Our lives are incredibly busy between work, school and college and it is very rare that we make the time to actually begin a critical thought process about the things we see and hear, or so we like to tell ourselves. This even goes as far as an aversion to reading and hearing as opposed to an obvious preference to seeing visual images; these mediators are careful to acknowledge this: “News stories which are lacking in pictures will be less likely to be included in a news bulletin…” (Bignell,p 120, 1997).
These mediators that diffuse the ‘news‘ to us also know various communication methods very well and orchestrate their words, body language and other subtle communication forms to portray certain topics in a poor light or a good light, more often than not, depending on the views of the broadcaster. With this in mind, the broadcaster understands that we only “…engage with representations” and that is that (Talbot, p 3, 2007).
To conclude briefly; more often than not the news we engage with is nothing more than someone else’s interpretation of the actual events. It is a story which is told to us by someone or something with a set agenda and a plan on how the general public is supposed to feel about a particular topic. This goes far beyond what we see and hear and delves right down into the way something is said, who is saying it and why we are even being told about this. Every media text has an agenda and it is our duty as media analysts to pick them apart and see what is real and what is fake in the most unbiased way possible.
Bignell, J. (1997). Media semiotics. 1st ed. Manchester [England]: Manchester University Press.
Bignell, J. (2000). Postmodern media culture. 1st ed. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Talbot, M. (2007). Media discourse. 1st ed. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.