I was really impressed with the presentation in class today, it was extremely dense with a lot of thought provoking ideas that came across faster than I could keep up with by taking notes. I checked out the mef (Media Education Foundation) website and found a transcript of the video presentation, Stuart Hall: Representation & the Media, here is a link to it in case anyone is interested. The video is there also.
One of the ideas that Stuart Hall mentioned, which struck me as esoteric and challenging to my sensibility, was his assertion that “nothing meaningful exists outside of discourse”. Hall anticipates this doubtful sentiment from students, and I would not disagree with his next point, that the assertion “Nothing exists outside of discourse,” is a mistaken conclusion to draw from his previous statement. So if I understand what he is saying, that there is an objective world out there, and there are events that do take place beyond any human discourse, there is no objective meaning out there until humans have a discourse to interpret and “make meaningful sense of it.” I feel challenged to find a counter argument, although I may risk missing his point. What about somebody who is surfing, alone with no one watching, and for whatever reason they drown or maybe a great white shark eats them. I would say that dying was a pretty meaningful event for them, although there was not necessarily any discourse occurring during this event. There might be some internal dialog, such as “oh shit, I’m being eaten by a shark.” Maybe I’m answering my own question, internal dialog involves interpreting reality, so I guess it is a discourse with one’s self. Otherwise, there might not ever be any discourse beyond someone later noting the victim’s absence, or a chewed-up surfboard or something. I think the point that Hall is making is that people do not encounter meaning until they subjectively create meaning when they interpret events. It’s a tricky point to make, you can say that humans only experience meaning through their interpretations of their sensory perceptions and physical interactions with the external world, but that feels too cerebral to me. People experience emotions, feelings, and zen-like mystical states that are certainly real and yet they sometimes evade classification or description in terms of language, and it seems to me that these experiences are often the most meaningful, although I couldn’t adequately explain why in words.