What it is

Representation is the depiction of a thing, person or idea in written, visual, performed or spoken language. In representing we make choices from the language offered by these modes. Representation may aim to reflect the natural world as realistically as possible or may aim to convey the essence of people, objects, experiences and ideas in a more abstract way.

There are many different ways of seeing the world as our view is framed by context and culture. This means that representation cannot mirror actual reality but each representation offers a different construction of the world and of experience in it.

Why it is important

Students need to understand that representations are not neutral. All representations carry personal and cultural meanings and have personal and social effects. Sometimes these meanings are produced through a composer’s conscious choices of language and structure and at other times they may be unconscious reproductions of attitudes, beliefs and values in the world. This leads to the potential for different readings of texts as representations are questioned and reinterpreted.

Students need to be aware of the range of choices available to them in representing people, objects, experiences and ideas as well as how cultural convention may put limits on representation, so positioning them to respond to the world in particular ways.

Stage 6

Students understand that in representing the world composers and responders construct, co-construct, deconstruct and reconstruct meaning in and through texts.

They learn that

  • representation organises and influences our views of experiences and ideas
  • representation reinforces, challenges or may attempt to reshape values and ways of thinking
  • systems of representation change according to culture, mode and medium
  • representations in texts require an understanding of the differences between the implied and actual composer and/or responder*
  • the very act of representation is an act of invention*.

*Advanced and Extension courses

Stage 5

Students understand that representation embeds attitudes, beliefs and values.

Students learn that

  • representation may be intentionally or unintentionally biased
  • representation is influenced by and in turn influences its context
  • representation favours or privileges a position by omitting or silencing the views or perspectives of particular groups.

Stage 4

Students understand that representations are not natural reflections of the world.

They learn that

  • representation is the result of conscious or unconscious selection and arrangement according to codes and conventions
  • representation positions a responder
  • representations may be intentionally objective or subjective
  • representations may be intentionally ambiguous
  • mode and medium require different codes and conventions of representation to produce similar meanings.

Stage 3

Students understand that representations position audiences to adopt a particular response

They learn that

  • information and ideas may be represented symbolically
  • representation in each mode operates according to its own codes and conventions.
  • representations may be adapted for different audiences
  • representations influence response.

Stage 2

Students understand that representations are varied and reflect individual experiences and contexts.

They learn that representations

  • are deliberately constructed for particular audiences and purposes and vary according to the capabilities of mode or medium
  • may reflect stereotypic ideas rather than actuality.
  • Vary because of different composers or situations

Stage 1

Students understand that there may be different representations of the same objects, events, people, emotions and ideas.

They learn that

  • differences in representation can occur through different contexts, modes and media or through different choices within these.


Students understand that aspects of the real world and of their imagination may be represented in different modes and media.