Cinematic Representation and the Gaze
Some theoretical terms you may need to know....

(NOTE: These terms were processed through OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software and I have intentionally left the misrecognized characters in for the sake of edifying irony.)


 signifying practices that interact to produce meaning in and through given objects.


Signify Practice:
 the processes by which an object produces meaning through language within culture; language not being restricted to just spoken language, rather it is any systematic structuring of signs to produce meaning. i.e. The language of cinema, the language of painting, the language of traffic signs, etc. These are culturally constructed.


how the object is described, depicted, portrayed, etc. Three representational theories: 1) reflective: meaning lies in the text and language only reflects it to us. 2)intentional: the speaker or the author imposes her or his own meaning on the object 3) constructionist: this approach recognizes the social, historical, and public character of the text and we construct meaning by understanding the representational system


Cultural Practice:
objects/texts have constitutive roles; they can be responsible for the reproduction of social norms. Film is no longer regarded as a self-contained system whose capacity to create meaning is only dependent on it's internal elements. When part of cultural practice, films are to be read or decoded (practice) to understand their meanings within culture.


The film, the book, the painting, etc. Not just the discrete meanings contained within the film, book' painting, etc, but the meaning which is produced through a social field. Text is a space of representations that the viewer/reader traverses.


Passive consumer, viewer, reader who is completely and utterly consumed with the image.


Viewing Subject:
critical reader who does not assume complete ident~fication  ; also someone who, through her/his encounter with the text, is 'tproduced" or constructed


Subject Position:
 the position from which you view the text/object, or how you are "bound into" the representation


the way in which the spectator is bound into the representation by cinematic devices (such as camera point of view) "In film terms, it became possible to examine the placement of women in commercial film less in terms of camera angle, point of view, and other grammatical codes than of the ways in which these and other practices work to produce patriarchal ideology." pg. 219, Hall of Mirrors. Patriarchy is viewed less as an historical fact (that it exists in the codes) than as the effect of the codes.



something that stands-in for something else and confers psychological, sexual, etc power on the owner or perceiver; something which becomes a replacement for the desired


An instrument of social construction. Entire system which produces meaning (in film, for instance, the star system, corporate support, the grammar of the film, marketing, any kind of image production, the size of the film, the marmer in which it is received, the technology through which we survey and are surveyed. "Machines are social before they are technical.", Gilles Deleuze

Imaging Technologies Models for Thought

Camera Obscura (as drawn by DaVinci, 1646)

Thaumatrope (wonder turner), 182S: Persistence of vision toys
Phenakistiscope, 1830 (deception viewer) Joseph Plateau

Zootrope, (wheel of life) 1843 William Horner

Stereoscopes 1820 and 30's, Charles Wheatstone

Edward Muybridge " Galloping Horse " 1878 Chronophotography

Chronophotographic portable movie camera, 1882,J . Marey

Panopticon, Jeremy Bentham 1843


 Apparatus as:
-not just a technical or mechanical device
-a model for thought
-as something which shapes visuality
-an appartus which constucts reality
-appartus with social consequences


-instrument of sight
-something capable of being seen
-produces mental images
-something which appeals to the sense of sight
-images which construct our social reality