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MFCO301 Critical Problems in Film and Media

A survey of the major critical and theoretical approaches to film and media to include the impact on contemporary digital media convergence and transmedia productions.

How do media contribute to transformations of time, space and subjectivity? How do they help us remember the past? Can media harm us? how do media facilitate the monitoring and control of surveillant technologies? How does the increased circulation of images change the aura of the image? Is cinema dead? Is consuming celebrity culture detrimental to social life? How does media participate in the sexualization of culture? In MFCO 301 we consider these and other burning questions and the debates that they ignite.

Paper title Critical Problems in Film and Media
Paper code MFCO301
Subject Media, Film and Communication
EFTS 0.15
Points 18 points
Teaching period Semester 2 (On campus)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $955.05
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

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18 200-level FIME or MFCO points or GEND 205 or GEND 305
FIME 301
Schedule C
Arts and Music
Teaching staff

Convenor and Lecturer: Dr Brett Nicholls

Paper Structure

The paper is designed to engage you in current critical problems, and to build upon knowledge and skills engendered in the other core papers: MFCO 101 and MFCO 210. In order to focus our discussion we organise our work around the notion of mobility considered from a number of different perspectives. VHS video and cable TV disrupted the stable ecologies of cinema and television, while debates around Postmodernism were over-turning common-held paradigms for media and culture.

We start with case studies from the 1980s, with the new forms, aesthetics and threats produced by the rise of Music Television and the moral panics around video nasties. Mobility can refer to how media moves around but it also has a social and cultural meaning, referring to global flows. People also move around and use media to imaginatively recreate the homes they have left or to express their intercultural positioning. Meanwhile, the neo-liberal pressure to consume at all costs informs make-over narratives, in which upward mobility and transformation of the self become a source for entertainment.

Coming closer to the present moment, we shift our work into the age of the digital image and the internet. We ask how 'poor images' might disrupt hierarchies amongst media, and how convergence and intermediality make it hard to differentiate the educational from the entertaining, art from commerce. We also consider how cinema is intricately linked with surveillance narratives. The paper ends with a study of spectatorship. We interrogate how (for better or worse) technologies such as twitter and Instagram and the relocation of cinema beyond the movie theatre enable new forms of intimacy, obsession, expression and possession.

Assessment (indicative only):

  • Critical problem 1: 30%
  • Critical problem 2: 30%
  • Research project: 40%
Teaching Arrangements
Two 50-minute lectures and one 120-minute screening per week.

Readings available in Course Reader and on Blackboard.

Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Communication, Critical thinking, Cultural understanding.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes

Students who successfully complete the paper will:

  • Be familiar with some of the major critical problems in Film and Media Studies
  • Show a thorough understanding of the theorization of transformation and change in relation to media
  • Show competence in gathering information using a range of methods
  • Have gained an advanced competency in the presentation of research

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Semester 2

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system

Film Screening

Stream Days Times Weeks
F1 Monday 16:00-18:50 28-34, 36-41


Stream Days Times Weeks
L1 Monday 10:00-10:50 28-34, 36-41
Wednesday 10:00-10:50 28-34, 36-41


Stream Days Times Weeks
Attend one stream from
T1 Wednesday 11:00-11:50 29-34, 36-41
T2 Wednesday 14:00-14:50 29-34, 36-41