The University of Minnesota defines media representation as “the ways media portrays particular groups, communities, experiences, ideas, or topics from a particular ideological or value perspective.” In other words, media representation tells us that media reflect ideology, not reality. It makes us aware of how media “construct” or “re-present” reality and affect our perception of ourselves and of our surroundings.
According to BBC, these key terms help us grasp media representation in a more critical manner.
Below is an example that illustrates how each of these key factors play a part in media representation:
In terms of construction, what stands out in the advertisement is the color, the lighting, and the objects within the frame. This advertisement, like most advertisements, went through a rigorous process of mediation: a lengthy transaction between a client, an advertising agency, a graphic artist, a photographer, a researcher, and the like. It also went through a process of selection wherein typical content ideas like a colorful photo of a bottle of ketchup were perhaps rejected. The anchorage would be the statement, “No one grows Ketchup like Heinz.” All these factors point to the ideology that freshness and simplicity are the most valuable aspects of a product. What makes this advertisement more effective is the way it upholds the stereotype of freshness and simplicity equated to good.
Media representation is an interesting, multi-layered topic in media and information literacy. It examines the influence and responsibility of media, as well as the responsibility of those who receive and provide information. It also encourages us to examine how our own values and beliefs, our sense of right and wrong, and our definition of truth affect and shape these media representations.