Critical Analysis of the Introduction of ‘Representation, second edition’ edited by Stuart Hall, Jessica Evans and Sean Nixon.

The introduction of ‘Representation’ is mainly concerned with informing the reader on the concepts of meaning, culture, language and representation. It is clear to see, through Hall’s explanation, how each of these are so closely linked and how one can influence the other. For example how meaning can be communicated by language, but how culture can affect how someone will interpret that meaning. Stuart Hall begins by introducing the concept of representation, he informs us that each of the subsequent chapters will discuss the question of representation in different ways and  in relation to different aspects within society. 

He goes on to ask a few more questions, inciting the reader to consider what representation, meaning and culture are. He is essentially opening up a dialogue between himself and the reader, inviting them to be an active and engaged reader, trying to determine their own thoughts on representation.

He swiftly moves on to speak about culture, asking ‘what is the connection between [culture and representation]?’ Hall goes on to explain that culture is about ‘shared meanings’, people from the same culture will have a similar outlook on the world and will share similar values, which will influence how they interpret the meaning of what people say or do.

Throughout the introduction, meaning is at the heart of the discussion, how do we give things meaning and how do we communicate this meaning? Hall explains that we communicate meaning by attributing signs or symbols to certain objects, emotions and concepts. An example could be music, in this case musical notes represent a certain concept or emotion. Or in another example we use words in language to communicate with each other. The  words we use are not the actual object, feeling, or idea, but a symbol of the actual thing. 

This is where culture is reintroduced, it is clear to see why Hall focuses so much on meaning, language and culture in this introduction.They are all an integral part to explaining representation.  Language acts as a symbol or ‘representation’ of an object or concept, but because language is an action that two or more people are engaged in, the second part of how something is represented is by how someone receives that symbol of representation. The person speaking explains and the person listening interprets what is said. We can therefore, understand why someones culture would affect the meaning conveyed by the speaker. Their interpretation would come from their values and opinions, which could differ from that of the speakers.

Hall says ‘Representation through language is therefore central to the process by which meaning is produced. This is the basic, underlying idea which underpins all six chapters in this book.’ We have now been introduced to the key idea of the book and Hall is preparing us for the subsequent chapters by giving the reader a basic understanding of how language transmits symbols or representations and how meaning is given to those representations.

As an animator a part of the introduction that I found particularly relatable, was when Hall describes the contents of Chapter 3 which deals with exhibition. It is not only what the artist creates and the meanings they convey through the symbols they create, but the meaning is also affected by the way the artwork  is curated and exhibited, ‘exhibition too is a ‘system’ or ‘practice of representation’ – and therefore works ‘like a language’. ‘Every choice – to show this rather than that, to show this in relation to that, to say this about that – is a choice about how to represent ‘other cultures’; and each choice has consequences both for what meanings are produced and for how meanings are produced.’

This is similar to animation because the animator has complete control over what to put in or leave out of each scene. They have control over how the character will look, and subsequently have to put much time and thought into producing  characters that will resonate with audiences rather than offend and misrepresent different cultures.

Animation is a two way conversation, the animator creates the meaning and communicates it through visual symbols, language, music and so forth and the audience can interpret and react to that meaning. There are so many components to a film that must be taken care of, each element adding to the dialogue and the message that is conveyed through that dialogue. As an animator it is important to be aware of each one and conscious of the audience and how they will receive the film and it’s meanings.

References

Hall, S. , Evans, J. and Nixon, S. (2013) Representation. London: Sage, Second Edition.