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Media Representations Intro

Media Representations Intro
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How did the media portray the so-called developing  world and to what effect how and why do media   representations of development matter? These  are some of the most important and contentious   questions that scholars have been preoccupied  with since at least the mid-1970s. The starting   point of this debate is that the media do not just  reflect or mirror the world around us they do not   just convey facts and information they interpret  these facts and give meaning to them to the kinds   of language and images that journalists choose to  portray particular places, events, ideas or social   groups.
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In short the media constructs the world  and in doing so they can profoundly shape the   way that audiences understand and relate to the  world around us. The media can bring us closer to   other cultures, societies and they can help us  understand and engage with development issues   but the media can also reinforce harmful  stereotypes they can simplify complex development   problems and they can reinforce the divide between  us and them.
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What follows from this is that media   representations of say global poverty climate  change or migration are never neutral they arise   from a specific cultural and historical context  so take for instance terms like illegal migrant or   refugee in media coverage of displacement or terms  like climate change climate, crisis or ecological   breakdown each of these terms refers to the same  phenomenon but each carries a particular meaning   and a particular world view.
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Media messages are  often highly structured and patterned giving rise   to what media scholars call dominant discourses  and these dominant discourses of development   reflect imbalances of power between different  countries and different parts of the world   and this is one of the key themes we’ll be looking  at in the next step where we look at western media   representations of Africa. However it’s important  to recognize that the effects of these media   messages are not direct or uniform audiences have  the capacity to negotiate contest or even reject   media content.
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But media messages are powerful  because they make certain ways of understanding   the world available and others less so and this  can have real material consequences on for example   public support for development aid or global flows  of trade, finance or tourism or more generally on   how we relate to cultures and people in other  parts of the world. So media representations of   development matter but how exactly they influence  the real world is an incredibly complex question.

Our first main topic is ‘media representations’. Watch the video above to find out how and why the way the media cover the world around us matters for development.

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Why Does Media Matter for Development?

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