Professor Klaus Krippendorff presented a challenge to a meeting on Dialogue and Representation of the 13th International Conference on Dialogue Analysis in Montreal April 26-30, 2011. His paper, titled “Representation, re-presentation, presentation, and conversation” offered an epistemological critique of the concept of representation and suggested analytically less deceptive or more productive ways of analyzing such prototypical ‘representations’ as photographs, roadmaps, computer interface icons, medical symptoms, representing absent others, and cognitive sharing.
In this paper I will examine several common uses of “representation” and offer a critique of the abstract conceptual frameworks invoked by academic discourses that serve to reify the illusion of its reality. To do so, I will take a few prototypical examples of commonly called representations; describe how they are situated in everyday uses in order to shed light on what they implicitly entail. I will argue that verifiable representations are extremely rare and that the use of such cases as a metaphor for what language and culture does more generally is epistemologically misleading, and serves at best discourse communities that seek to prevent their members from realizing their involvement in the phenomenon. I suggest replacing representation by re-presentation (making present again), by presentation (creating present realities) to the coordination of understanding in conversations. This shift is a shift from correspondence theories of truths via coherence theories of truths to viable conversational practices of living.