Media, Identities & Representations – Introductory Lecture

In this module, we are considering the role that the media has in how we create, perceive, represent and circulate ideas surrounding identity and to analyse media material representing different groups.


Identity is something difficult to define and can be influenced by several factors. Identity, according to the dictionary, is ‘the fact of being who or what a person or thing is‘.

Identities are…

-a means to acquiring and circulating power…

-living social relationships that we create via our interrelations with the symbolic and material world…

-The process of locating ourselves within the social world and its power relationships…

-An ongoing process of marking out who we are and who we might become in relation to how we have been represented and in what capacities we represent ourselves…

-social positions that we enact…

-dependent on the process of relating and differentiating ourselves from others…

-always in process and under construction‘ (Carah and Louw 2015: 167-169)

The four main identities are CLASS, GENDER, NATIONALITY and RELIGION.


Representation connects meaning and language to culture… Representation is an essential part of the process by which meaning is produced and exchanged between members of a culture. It does involve the use of language, of signs and images which stand for or represent things. But this is far from simple…‘ (Hall 2013:1)

Remember that media is constructed. Think about who creates these representations.

Circuit of Culture (Du Gay et al1997/2013; Hall 2013: xviii)



  • Shortcuts to understanding.
  • As humans we see patterns and group people together using patterns.


  • Semiotics and signs.
  • Not just connotations, but also looking at social ‘myths’ that texts replicate and reinforce.
  • Myths are stories our culture perpetuates.
  • Myths are not fixed and can change over time.
  • E.g. Before: Gay people as subversive and dangerous. Now: Marriage and monogamy.


We perceive people as ‘other’ to ourselves. In media, the reader and author are assumed to be the same and not part of the ‘other’ group. Example: An article about Muslims where they are referred to as ‘them’ and the reader and author as ‘us’ creates alienation and ‘others’ Muslims. Seeing people as the ‘other’ can lead to the perpetuation of stereotypes, myths, fear and divisions.


This is the idea that identities overlap and that interest groups may have similar ideals. We don’t necessarily belong to just one group or identity but rather, many.

These are notes from my Year 2 Semester 1 lectures and seminars.
The image is from:

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