[Latin repraesentare ‘to make present or manifest’]
1. Depicting or ‘making present’ something which is absent (e.g. people, places, events, or abstractions) in a different form: as in paintings, photographs, films, or language, rather than as a replica. See also description; compare absent presence.
2. The function of a sign or symbol of ‘standing for’ that to which it refers (its referent).
3. The various processes of production involved in generating representational texts in any medium, including the mass media (e.g. the filming, editing, and broadcasting of a television documentary). Such framings of the concept privilege authorial intention. See also auteur theory; authorial determinism; sender-oriented communication.
4. A text (in any medium) which is the product of such processes, usually regarded as amenable to textual analysis (‘a representation’).
5. What is explicitly or literally described, depicted, or denoted in a sign, text, or discourse in any medium as distinct from its symbolic meaning, metaphoric meaning, or connotations: its manifest referential content, as in ‘a representation of…’ See also mimesis; naturalism; referentiality.
6. How (in what ways) something is depicted. However ‘realistic’ texts may seem to be, they involve some form of transformation. Representations are unavoidably selective (none can ever ‘show the whole picture’), and within a limited frame, some things are foregrounded and others backgrounded: see also framing; generic representation; selective representation; stylization. In factual genres in the mass media, critics understandably focus on issues such as truth, accuracy, bias, and distortion (see also reflectionism), or on whose realities are being represented and whose are being denied. See also dominant ideology; manipulative model; stereotyping; symbolic erasure.
7. The relation of a sign or text in any medium to its referent. In reflectionist framings, the transparent re-presentation, reflection, recording, transcription, or reproduction of a pre-existing reality (see also imaginary signifier; mimesis; realism). In constructionist framings, the transformation of particular social realities, subjectivities, or identities in processes which are ostensibly merely re-presentations (see also constitutive models; interpellation; reality construction). Some postmodern theorists avoid the term representation completely because the epistemological assumptions of realism seem to be embedded within it.
8. A cycle of processes of textual and meaning production and reception situated in a particular sociohistorical context (see also circuit of communication; circuit of culture). This includes the active processes in which audiences engage in the interpretation of texts (see also active audience theory; beholder's share; picture perception). Semiotics highlights representational codes which need to be decoded (see also encoding/decoding model; photographic codes; pictorial codes; realism), and related to a relevant context (see also Jakobson's model).
9. (narratology) Showing as distinct from telling (narration).
10. (mental representation) The process and product of encoding perceptual experience in the mind: see dual coding theory; gestalt laws; mental representation; perceptual codes; selective perception; selective retention.
11. A relationship in which one person (a representative) acting on behalf of another (as in law), or a political principle in which one person acts, in some sense, on behalf of a group of people, normally having been chosen by them to do so (as in representative democracies).