Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Discourses of the Real

When a comment is added to a text in a blog, the action constitutes a discourse. A discourse as defined by Foucault is "a group of statements which provide a language for talking about - a way of representing the knowledge about - a particular topic at a particular historical moment" (Hall 1992: 291).

According to the constructionist theory, 'reality' and audiences are formed within discourses, and discourses are what make up the meaning in our daily lives, how we behave, how we see things, and how things are seen as norms in our social lives. We come to understand what is 'real' through what we know and expect of the material world, just as we come to know about our subjection to the law when we read about punishment for crimes in the newspaper. By knowing about the law we learn how we should behave in a society and this knowledge produces power that makes us subjects.

This means in essence that 'discourse produces the objects of knowledge' and that 'nothing which is meaningful exists outside discourse' (Hall 1997:44; Foucault 1972). This does not mean the inexistence of the material world, but that 'meaning' does not exist outside discourse. When a topic about something is discussed, we talk within a discourse. When we see things in the 'real' world but do not talk about it in an understandable language, 'meaning' is lost and communication is broken.

So what is actually the 'real' world? Is it a construct? According to media studies, the 'real' is a construct make up of representations within discourses. When we read in the newspaper about a war in the Middle East as an audience far from the site of occurrence, we essentially depend on the reporter to tell us the story. The story, although 'real' as far as the media and its audience are concerned, is from someone who provides meaning to what he or she hears and perceive about the event, which is usually quite different from the view of a person experiencing it.

Discourse about what is 'real' is simply how we seek to understand about representations. As readers and audiences we need to know how to see things from difference perspectives in order to understand the meanings of what messages are being conveyed in media texts and through understanding negotiate our positions as subjects in the society.

REFERENCES
Foucault, M. (1972), The Archaeology of Knowledge. London: Tavistock.
Hall, S. (1992), "The West and the Rest", in Hall, S. and Gieben, B. (eds), Formations of Modernity. Cambridge: Polity Press/The Open University.
Hall, S. (1997), "Discourse, Power and the Subject" in S. Hall (ed.), Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices. London: OU and Sage.

1 comment:

deborah said...

Hie,

I'm a fellow journalist in the making! Am impressed with your blog.. rock on, dood. =)

At last, I found another fellow partner-in-crime. ;)

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