Representation Theory

Authored by: Keith Kenney

Handbook of Visual Communication

Print publication date:  November  2004
Online publication date:  December  2004

Print ISBN: 9780805841787
eBook ISBN: 9781410611581
Adobe ISBN: 9781135636531


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Behaviorists attempt to observe and measure the real world directly. Phenomenologists are exclusively interested in a person’s introspective experience. Semioticians and rhetoricians try to understand the linkages between our internal world and the external world, and that linkage is necessary, they believe, because the external world is always mediated by our senses and our mind. Whereas rhetoricians have investigated how humans create and manipulate symbols in order to persuade other humans, semioticians have been more interested in how humans (and other animals) interpret all kinds of signs, including symbols, that were created by other people, as well as natural signs that may have resulted from plants, animals, or inorganic matter. Both rhetoricians and semioticians, therefore, are concerned with how signs “mediate” between the external world and our internal “world,” or how a sign “stands for” or “takes the place of” something from the real world in the mind of a person. What these scholars are concerned with is called representation. This chapter explains the strengths and weaknesses of four types of theories of how pictures represent.

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