Okay those are definitely not real words. Onward!
Today we’re going to look at our final concept before we launch into how what we’ve learnt so far applies to real-world constructs like language and sports and stuff like that. As the title suggests we’re going to look at a topic that has a little to do with perceptions.
The usual meaning of representation has to do a lot with whether a thing’s description reflects or distorts reality. In the technical sense, and the one we’ll be using for the purpose of this blog series, representation can have three connotations.
…As the Stand-In
Have you ever had an event of any kind that you weren’t able to attend (or didn’t want to) for whatever reason? You didn’t want to be rude so you decided to send someone to go in your place? Case in point, recently my dad had a board meeting to attend but he couldn’t make it and so he sent his secretary in his place. She went as his representative.
That’s how representation can stand in for something.
…As the “On-Its-Behalf” Speaker
Sometimes when you and someone else are very close, or necessity demands a close relationship, that person is able to speak for you. In matters of the law, attorneys often find themselves in this position – they have a more comprehensive knowledge of the legal system and are able to speak for their clients without implicating them and so on.
That’s basically how representation can speak on behalf of something.
…As the Reimagination
The last meaning is a new representation of the word ‘representation’ itself. Cool how that works out, huh? We re-imagine the word ‘representation’ to re-presentation (It only sounds different when you say ‘ree’ instead of ‘reh’). In this case we attribute a new meaning to something and present that something again – just as something different.
Hope that wasn’t confusing. But just in case you need an example, let’s take the word ‘dog’. We have a meaning for ‘dog’ as being man’s best friend, a furry four-legged creature that’s a great companion. We also have a meaning for ‘dog’ that’s a derogatory term for an unfaithful man. We’ve re-presented ‘dog’ as being a woman’s worst nightmare.
That’s sort of how representation reimagines something.
This breakdown of representation points out a very important pitfall of the usual definition of the word, which is one we must be cognisant of when it comes to this blog series. It’s too straightforward. Here, thanks to Cultural Theorist Stuart Hall, we are forced to ask ourselves the difficult question:
Is there really one essential, fixed, true meaning against which we can measure the level of distortion or reflection of reality?
You’re probably sick of me saying this by now – or at least you probably will be by the time this blog series is finished but – meanings are in people, not in words.
The truth is that human beings are the ones responsible for the construction of meaning. Further still, the meaning that we create is wholly dependent on our experiences with that thing to which we are attempting to attribute a meaning. How something is represented determines what meaning we give to it.
Deeper yet is the fact that each individual has different experiences borne out of their culture and the like, and thus things are represented differently – rather than in the same way across the board. A multiplicity of representations are created in tandem at any given time by different viewers so that there never exists one single representation of a given thing. One thing, many truths.
How Representation Falls Into Place…
Caribbean. Identity. Culture. Globalisation. Communication. Representation.
Six different concepts all interconnected. How?
Communication is a vehicle for the creation of meaning. It is through communication that a culture – Caribbean culture, for example – is passed down through generations. In many ways we use our culture to shape who we are as individuals – that is, to establish our identities. That culture is influenced by globalisation, which generates numerous representations of what our culture and identity ‘is’.
Next time we’ll dive into how what we know of these concepts is applicable to language.
Cyndi, the Cultural Scholar