December 2, 2007

Careers in Communication - Representation

I am going to assume that since we are all enrolled in this program that most of us either are currently or will be in the future working in the field of Communications. When we were discussing the ideas of representation, I was immediately able to relate the importance of this concept in our field. As managers of a communication process, whether it's internal, public relations, marketing, advertising, production...etc., our world revolves around sending and receiving messages. Representation may very well be the most prominent theme in our field. Since employees and the public look to us for information, we must constantly be aware of the way our messages will be interpretted. Since we are not physically present in order to explain our messages, we must ensure that whatever we send, whether it's a picture, an email, a press release, an advertisement...etc., will be accepted and interpretted correctly. Obviously there will always be room for error and a portion of the audience who will misinterpret no matter how hard we try to eliminate room for error. However, especially in today's world where new words and definiteions are continuously and frequently added to our language, we must remain up to date on the most current experiences and inventions in order to help us control the receiving end of our messages. We live in a very critical world and this class has definitely provided us with a plethora of examples of communication pieces that can easily be distorted.
Working in a large corporation, I have seen many instances of miscommunication gone bad. A simple miswording of an email or unclear sentence can lead to a world of chaos!

8 comments:

brett said...

yeah, a strategic approach to communication would be to consider miscommunication as the rule; the tactics employed in this kind of orientation would be to reduce the possibiltiy for miscommunication. Though now I wonder what this has to do with visual communication: well, everything. As Julie offered, representation is a fundamental concern within the field of communication, and all the more so with images. Back to Barthes: Images embody 'foating chains of signifieds' that are able to anchored by linguistic messages. An image rarley speaks for itself (?), so representation (as intended) is rarely assured without a linguistic message. But, as Julie indicated, linguistic messages may also foster conditions for miscommunication. All the more complex when images and linguistic messages are intentionally combined for a single unified message.

JK said...

It's Jen; haha. Yes, you make a very good point, Brett. Combining images with linguistics can either create a very solid way to ensure the image is interpretted in the way in which you are trying to depict it, but it can also add more confusion. When we were discussing language and symbolism, we were trying to come to an understanding of whether language creates culture or culture creates language. Do you think that images or language have a greater chance of being misinterpretted? Throughout the class, we have used language in order to figure out the significance of the images. Think back to the one presentation where we were shown images without the words in the advertisement. We were able to create multiple meanings of the image but once we were shown the text with the image, the intentions of the advertisers became clear. I think images can be very complex and especially hard to interpret in our field. Images and language must work together in order for people to correctly interpret the meaning...at least that's what I think. However, branding also comes to mind because certain companies brand themselves so well that they can use one simple image (logo) to represent their company. Representation becomes much more complex when studying photos or videos. Without anything leading into a photo or an article to describe the photo, people will use their own culture and experiences in order to try to interpret that image. Just my random thoughts...

Dan said...

Welcome to the world of HR and legal documentation?

JK said...

ha. Legal documentation is a great example. It's pretty hard to mix up those boring messages. But there lies the problem of zapping creativity out of everything.

Meg said...

what about HIPPA!? however, I think it interesting that the communications field as a whole was brought up..good idea Jen! as I have seen reporters twist and mis quote numbers in articles to "misrepresent" my company..in print mind you

Through A Retina Darkly said...

There is a book titled Communication As...Perspectives on Theory (Shepherd, St. John & Striphas, 2001, Sage). It is an edited collection of some 30 short essays by many luminairies in the field offering different, competing metaphors for communication.

One of my favorites, by St. John, (Ch. 27) is titled "Communication as Failure." It eloquently argues that communication is miscommunication. It fails more often than not. And it is this failure that constitutes its natural state. He writes: "I believe that much of what we define empirically and qualitatively as 'communication' cannot be demonstrated as such; should not be evaluated as such; and can only with difficulty, and through the application of a set of subtly compensatory symbols and gestures, be defended as such" (p. 250). It is based on fictions, like the "I" who writes these words, the "you" who "I" think will read them. In fact, the very need to write can be viewed as a failure, rather than an occasion for the success of communication.

But, St. John insists, our hopes for it are enormous. 'We can't not communicate,' as the axiom goes. He likens communication to panning for gold: we fail more often than not, but that is part of why we do it - the result, is precious metal.

Thus, St. John concludes, "we should be studying failure, not communication." In a sense, that is what we have been doing all semester. Studying failure. Not only because we fail more often than we succeed, but also because in doing so "imagination succeeds in ways that communication never has and probably never will" (p. 255).

Meg said...

makes me think of the Dyson Vacuum guy..and his commercial about how he goes through thousands of failures before he comes up with a model that works..

Dan said...

Not to keep going off topic, but the Dyson really does suck...but in a good way!