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.
Brett will be on sabbatical
MFCO223 Documentary and reality media
Supervisions Successfully Completed
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).
Ryan Tippet, Constituitive surveillance and social media(completed 2021).
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).
16 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).
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
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].
Nicholls, B. (2022, June). It's RAT time: The rapid antigen test as (new) object of the everyday. Verbal presentation at the Cultural Studies Association of Australasia (CSAA) Conference: Bodies in Flux, Perth, Australia.
Nicholls, B. (2021). [Review of the book Universality and identity politics]. Continental Thought & Theory, 3(3), 400-403. doi: 10.26021/12246
Nicholls, B. (2021). Do we really want a return to normal? [Introduction]. borderlands, 20(2), 1-3. doi: 10.21307/borderlands-2021-010