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Challenging Communication Research

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Edited By Leah A. Lievrouw

Communication scholarship has not enjoyed the same kind of theoretical cohesion or ontological security as some disciplines. The field’s intellectual «roving eye» and resistance to establishing a single core body of knowledge has inspired serial rounds of soul-searching and existential doubt among communication scholars, on one hand, and celebration and intellectual adventurism, on the other. The theme of the 2013 ICA annual conference thus raised an interesting question: For a field that is perpetually in flux and «decentered», what exactly is, or should be, challenged? How, and by whom?
The chapters in this collection, chosen from among the top papers presented in London, suggest that the challenges themselves are constantly being reinvented, broken down and reorganized. The communication discipline undergoes continuous change rather than following an orderly, stepwise path toward the neat, complete accumulation of knowledge. The chapters challenge familiar approaches, notions or assumptions in communication research and scholarship and reflect on the field’s multifaceted and increasingly open character in an era of shifting social relations, formations and technologies.
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Chapter Seven: Representation Matters(?): When, How and If Representation Matters to Marginalized Game Audiences

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CHAPTER SEVEN

Representation Matters(?)

When, How, and If Representation Matters to Marginalized Game Audiences

ADRIENNE SHAW



Why does representation matter? I begin many a class discussion on media diversity with that question. Most of my students give answers that imply some sort of media effect: “bad” representation, representation that casts a group in a negative light or makes people biased toward marginalized groups. “Good” representation, that which helps normalize marginalized groups, provides evidence for equality. Students working in areas of media production argue that it is important to represent groups well so that they will watch/listen/read/play/buy a product. Occasionally, someone will also say that representation matters so that children can grow up and have positive self-images, something that can only happen if they see “good” media representation of people like them. In nearly all cases, my students only talk about these effects in terms of other people, rarely connecting it to their own media consumption practices or experiences unless directly prompted.

My students’ responses jibe well with the long history of research on media representation. Jessica Davis and Oscar Gandy (1999) assert, “Media representations play an important role in informing the ways in which we understand social, cultural, ethnic, and racial differences” (p. 367). Julie D’Acci (2004) demonstrates the ways that “television representations of gender … have very profound effects on very real human bodies, societies, and economics” (p. 376). Film scholar Richard Dyer (2002) argues...

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