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Stuart Hall’s ‘Encoding and Decoding’ Essay

Stuart Hall stated in his key paper, Encoding/Decoding, that the codes of encoding and decoding are not identical or symmetrical, but relatively autonomous. This means that a message sent by the encoder may not have the same content or appearance when processed or decoded by the reader because the two parties may not use the same language, and therefore they used different codes. Hall’s work focuses on the possibility that readers (decoders) are mislead by their thoughts or will have misunderstood a written work because reading is an individualistic activity.

This means that whatever the idea that the author wants to convey or the path he want the reader to take will not always be understood or followed by the readers. He stated “there is no necessary correspondence between encoding and decoding, the former can attempt to ‘prefer’ but cannot prescribe or guarantee the latter, which has its own condition of existence (Hall, 135).”

Codes for encoding and decoding may be different and this difference results to misunderstanding of the idea the author originally had but the symmetry can be increased when the relationship between the author-encoder and reader-decoder is strengthened. Still, no matter how tight the relationship between them may be, they will still work independent of each other. Thus, there is still a degree of ‘understanding’ and ‘misunderstanding’ of both parties, especially on the reader or the decoder’s side.

Work Cited:

Hall, Stuart. “Encoding/Decoding.” Culture, Media, Language. Eds. Hall, et al.  London: Hutchinson & Co., 1980. 128-138.

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