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BA(Hons) PhD(Murd)                                                                                                                   Brett_2019
Senior Lecturer


Office: 3N2, 3rd floor, Arts (Burns) Building
Tel: +64 3 4798819
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Baudrillard Now
Borderlands: Culture, Politics, Law and Earth

Research Interests

I have recently been working on how communication produces social reality and makes the real seem real. This work involves looking at a range of media forms, such as documentary film, wearable fitness devices, social media, and television. My basic position is that contemporary social and political life is shaped by technological forms that attempt to hide the processes of mediation. As a consequence, media and social life become inseparable. Media doesn't mediate a social reality outside media, in many instances media is social reality itself, or, in other instances, it promises direct, unmediated access to the real. This lack of mediation produces strange effects, from fake news to the emptiness of social values, and from the quantified self to the disappearance of the political. The coordinates for this work have been thinkers such as Baudrillard, Zizek, Berardi, and Deleuze and the debates that have emerged in relation to their work. This work, for me at least, seems to provide the most critical insight on the problem of communication and social life today.

Supervisions Successfully Completed

11 PhDs

Anita Brady, Constituting queer: Performativity and commodity culture (completed 2007).

Garth Cartright, We live inside a dream: Ideology and utopia in the films of David Lynch (completed 2011).

Anne Begg, Brand New Zealand: Media governmentality and affective biopower (completed 2012).

Ma Weijun, Fruitful land and national cadres: Mainstreaming resistance and critical realism in contemporary Chinese TV drama (completed 2012).

Florian Deffner, Communicative mobility and networked mediation in transnational lifeworlds: A case study of European expatriates in Australia (completed 2013).

Donald Reid, Solid to liquid culture: The institutional, political and economic transformation of New Zealand state broadcasting (completed 2014).

Chris Hacon, The algorithmic subject: the neo-liberal apparatus and the social media technology of power (completed 2017).

Massimiliana Urbano, Becoming-common: Affective technologies and grassroots activism in contemporary Italy(completed 2017).

Paul Kirkham, Mimesis and power (completed 2019 and added to the Humanities Divisional List of Exceptional Doctoral theses).

Thaera Yousef, Women and Islam in Malaysia: Narrative and myth in the qualitative analysis of two controversial online news stories between 2014 and 2018 (completed 2020).

Ryan Tippet, Constituitive surveillance and social media (completed 2021).

6 MAs (by thesis only and coursework dissertations)

Donald Reid, Cultural citizenship and the TVNZ charter: the possibility for multicultural representation in the commercial television environment (completed 2005).

Logan Valentine, The subject of the cell phone (completed 2009).

Alison Blair, Children of the revolution: Bolan, Bowie and the carnivalesque (completed 2017).

George Elliott, Deterrence and disappearance: A Baudrillardian analysis of war and spaceflight (completed 2021).

Caroline Morrati, Contemporary tragedy in the time of cancellation: Examining parallels between cancel culture and Greek tragedy within a framework of democratic citizenry (completed 2021).

Casey Longstreth, Alt-text and accessibility content: Translating the visual to the written (completed 2022).

17 Honours Dissertations - the most recent include:

Rosa Marden, “Spaces of information: an analysis of surveillance, the supermarket and self-scan” (completed 2012).

Alastair Lynn, “News or infotainment? an analysis of the shifting ideology in New Zealand current affairs programming” (completed 2013).

Siala Farini-Tomlin, “Poster girls: an exploration of post-fordist labour practices in the HBO show, Girls” (completed 2013).

George Elliott, "Obscene & fatal transparency: War porn, Baudrillard's hyperreal & plobal post-9/11 war" (completed 2017).

Grace Fogavai, "Trust the process: Tik Tok and its transformative impact on young social media users" (completed 2021).

Rachel Tsai, "The empty promise: A poststructuralist discourse analysis of Taiwan's 12-Year basic education (completed 2023).


Nicholls, B. (2024). The emptying empty signifier: Antagonistic discourse and the far-right Australian League of Rights. Proceedings of the International Association of Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) Conference. (pp. 62). Retrieved from Conference Contribution - Published proceedings: Abstract

Millar, I., Nicholls, B., Overell, R., & Tutt, D. (2024). Power and politics in Adam Curtis' Can't get you out of my head: An emotional history of the modern world. In C. Owens & S. Meehan O'Callaghan (Eds.), Psychoanalysis and the small screen: The year the cinemas closed. (pp. 163-189). Abingdon, UK: Routledge. doi: 10.4324/9781003272069-11 Chapter in Book - Research

Nicholls, B. (2023). An antagonistic history of the Australian League of Rights. Proceedings of the Australian & New Zealand Communication Association (ANZCA) Conference: Ka mua, ka muri: Bridging communication pasts and futures. (pp. 160). Retrieved from Conference Contribution - Published proceedings: Abstract

Moro, S., Overell, R. & Nicholls, B. (2023, August). Barbie: Possibilities and impasses. Pop up discussion hosted by the Media, Film and Communications Programme, University of Otago, New Zealand. [Public Discussion]. Other Research Output

Nicholls, B. (2022, November-December). A Satanic master signifier: The prosperity preacher, the President, and the disobedient virus. Verbal presentation at the Performing Global Crises Conference, [Hybrid]. Conference Contribution - Verbal presentation and other Conference outputs

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