I recently finished writing a chapter for The Sage Handbook of Social Media, which is being edited by Jean Burgess, Alice Marwick and Thomas Poell. My chapter is about self-representations in social media, like blogs and selfies and such, but in the table of contents, the editors put the title as “Self-presentations in social media.” Presentation, not representation. Uh oh. What, exactly, is the difference, I wondered? I have always preferred to use representation, because my background is in literary studies, art history and media studies, where we are taught to analyse representations. Representations are constructed. They are not authentic or unmediated or objective, and I like that assumption. But many scholars who study digital media prefer to think about presentation.
This is the most popular image on Instagram. Ever. It was posted by Kendall Jenner in May 2015. It shows Jenner herself, and although it is obviously not a selfie, it was posted by her to her own Instagram account and so is certainly a form of self-representation.
I ended up spending quite a while reading and thinking about the differences between representations and presentations, and Jenner’s image became a bit of a catalyst for that.
Here is what I ended up writing about the two terms?—?and yes, it includes a semiotic analysis of Jenner’s image. How could I not? But I don’t watch the Kardashians, and I don’t know all the backstory here. I expect I missed a lot. I’d really appreciate it if you share any extra knowledge you have!!
But here is what I wrote about what I think the difference is between representation and presentation.