Because they MEDIATE our view
Constructions of Reality
How might the following media construct
rather than reflect reality?
TV News programme (by selecting which
stories to “run” and which to ignore).
TV crime drama
A website for a charity
A lifestyle magazine
Representation – some definitions
• Representation is the ability of texts to draw
upon features of the world and present them
to the viewer, not simply as reflections, but
more so, as constructions (O’Shaughnessy &
Stadler 2002). Hence, the images do not
portray reality in an unbiased way with 100%
accuracy, but rather, present ‘versions of
reality’ influenced by culture and people’s
habitual thoughts and actions
(O’Shaughnessy & Stadler 2002).
Representation of Social Groups
• We often analyse representations in the media
according to categories such as:
• Socio-economic grouping
• An ideology is a belief system that is
constructed and presented by a media
• Media texts represent the world in order to
support a dominant ideology.
• For example, newspapers often promote
the dominant ideology of patriotism
through their representation of race and
Some Dominant Ideologies
• Capitalism. The production of capital and
consumption of surplus value as a life goal.
• Patriotism. To love, support and protect
one’s country and its people.
• Marriage and family. The “right way” to live
is to marry an opposite-sex partner and
• Male superiority. Men are more suited to
positions of power, and more suited to
decision-making at work and at home.
Dominant Ideologies around the
• Many dominant ideologies are extremely culturespecific. For example:
• Christian fundamentalism as a political force in
• Shariah law is some Muslim countries
• The principle of individual freedom in the
• Dominant ideologies are central to people’s
belief systems. It is often difficult or
impossible to challenge them effectively.
• Hegemony is the way in
which those in power
maintain their control.
• Dominant ideologies are
power in society is
which are usually
promoted by the mass
Examples of hegemonic values
The police are always right
It is important to be slim
A credit card is a desirable status symbol
Mass immigration is undesirable
The poor are lazy and deserve their
• Men are better drivers than women
• It is important to wear fashionable clothes
• Stereotypes are characters in a media text who are
“types” rather than complex people.
• Stereotypes are often defined by their role, such as
“bad cop” or “nice old lady”.
• Children’s media texts often use stereotypes so a
young audience can identify quickly with the
• Stereotypes are usually negative representations,
considered to be too reductive. Many are
considered offensive, such as a “drunken Irishman”,
a “fanatical Muslim” or an “over-emotional woman”.
Extension/restriction of our
experience of reality
• By giving audiences information, media
texts extend experience of reality.
• Every time you see a media text, you
extend your experience of life but in a
second-hand way (vicarious).
• However, because the producers of the
media text have selected and constructed
the information we receive, then our
experience is restricted.
Add your own definition of:
to your technical glossary
• How would you
• Who is
The Sophie Dahl “Opium” Ad
Expensive, aspirational accessories
Exposed nipple – a broken taboo
Purple velvet – connotes royalty & luxury
Idealized female form enhanced using Photoshop
Sexually submissive pose
Get used to looking at the
images from different media
Who is being represented and how?
Is it a positive or negative representation?
Does it conform to a stereotype?
Does it demonstrate any dominant