Media and Communication research interests

Browse the research interests of staff in the Media and Communication programme.

For detailed research interests and lists of publications, click on the staff name which will direct you to their respective staff page.


Academic staff at the Media and Communication Programme at Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington are active across a range of specialist research areas. The list below includes the research fields and topics in which our staff are currently engaged, and are exemplary of the kinds of postgraduate research projects that can be supervised in our programme:

Advertising, Marketing and Branding

The focus is advertising, marketing, branding in digital and non-digital contexts. Indicative research topics include the gendered labour of craft beer culture in a global context and the propagation of a “transactional culture” via mobile app platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram.

Celebrity Studies

Cultures of celebrity are an increasingly consequential part of the media. Research in this area is concerned with how celebrity cultures work and what kinds of relationships they have with broader socio-political contexts. Specific topics include social media and celebrity, microcelebrities, celebrity and frameworks of identity (such as sexuality or race), the use of celebrity in news, sport, and reality television.

Creative Industries: High-End TV Drama

Audience demand for high-end TV drama has placed this costly meta-genre at the forefront of change in international screen production. The context is television’s ‘multiplatform’ era, in which this medium combines online portals with linear channels. Key research areas in the study of high-end TV drama include production development and financing, creative innovation, narrative complexity, scriptwriting and authorship, cultural diversity and specificity, and transnational co-production.

Digital, Mobile & Ubiquitous Media

Communication technologies, including mobile devices such as smart phones, has turned a wide array of objects, even our bodies, into media that are constantly sharing and collecting information. How are these digital media re-shaping political, social and media institutions and how do these media intersect with considerations of identity, space/place and commercialisation? Specific topics include surveillance and privacy, social media cultures, big data and algorithms, mobile apps, and ubiquitous media.

Digital Wellbeing

Digital wellbeing refers to the impact that digital technology has on our wellbeing, including distraction, stress, social anxieties, sleep disturbances, study/work/life balance, and data privacy.

Food, Beverages & Media

THow do food and beverages reflect and influence socio-cultural identity and what roles do media play in these processes? This research area explores relationships between food, beverages and media, incorporating considerations of culture, production and consumption. An indicative current research project examines Māori food sovereignty practices.

Gender & Sexuality in the Media

The media is a key site at which our understandings and experience of gender and sexuality are represented and formed. This research area encompasses the relationships between gender and sexuality, deploying a variety of media texts and contexts including television, social media, news media, pornography and popular music. Among the theoretical frameworks that this research engages with are post-structuralist feminist theory, queer theory, and intersectionality.

International Communication

Research focuses on global power dynamics in communication, including communication for development, public diplomacy, and media representations.

Media & Communication: Policy, Politics, and Public Life

This international field divides into the two research areas below:

- Media and Communication Policy

Research in this area examines government policy and regulatory frameworks in an evolving digital media environment. Indicative areas here include the functions of public service media, tendencies and problems in media ownership, censorship and content classification, and the frameworks for regulating and/or responding to the increasing challenges for today’s media platforms of misinformation, disinformation and ‘fake news’.

- Media, Politics, and Public Life

In our digitized and mediatised society, the media influences every single aspect of our cultural, political, and economic lives. Democracy, for example, depends on a functioning and responsible media ecology. The quality of public debate has fallen victim to fake news, political polarisation, and social media partisanship. Examining the role of popular culture, the news media and journalism, political communication, public relations, social movements, and environmental communication helps us to find solutions to the big challenges of our time and safeguard our future.

Media, Identity and Place

Place and identity are contested categories in our current moment of globalisation. The study of how media influence our sense of identity, place and belonging is a rich area of inquiry. Staff working in this area are interested in indigenous media, migrant media cultures, urban cultures, popular music and historical and contemporary media representations. Research in this area is informed by media audience studies, media historiography, textual analysis and media ethnographies.

Media Industries in Aotearoa New Zealand

How are NZ’s media industries adapting to international trends such as media conglomeration, platformisation, and the arrival of direct-to-consumer services? Research in this area includes the analysis of today’s ‘multiplatform’ media, the rise of subscription-funded media, the impacts of foreign-owned online portals on NZ’s ‘legacy media’, and the effects of digital intermediaries and social media on news production and journalism. Studying media industries in a small national market also involves examining the roles of public media agencies, along with strategies for funding local production and achieving desired ‘public media’ outcomes.

Media in Everyday Life

The role media play in shaping our sense of self, our relationships with others and the world around us is an important one. The media can be a tool we use to manage our emotional lives, to give meaning and value to different contexts, to alleviate boredom, to make experiences more intense, and to determine our social connections. In this way our identities, both personal and social, are inflected through our media use in very mundane but also very powerful ways. This also includes the complicated ways that technologies are enmeshed in our daily routines.

Political Economy of Media & Communication

This broad field divides into the three research areas below:

- Political Economy of Media Industries

The significant role the media play in our political, economic and cultural lives inevitably raises questions about the institutional arrangements for media industries. Research into the political economy of media industries recognises that the forms of content made available and the capacity of media to serve civic-democratic and cultural functions are directly influenced by factors such as ownership patterns, market regulation, revenue streams/business models, value chains, and technological changes in production or distribution.

- Digital Labour

In a digital economy, an increasing number of online activities, including citizen journalism and our interactions on social media, also act as a form of labour that generates value—for individual users and for the corporations that provide online services. Digital labour is the term given to this research field which examines how this labour is appropriated by media institutions.

- Communication and Finance

The analysis of information and capital flows in the financial sector, the symbolic nature of financial asset values and the role of media in financial crises.

Race, Ethnicity & Media

This research area examines the media portrayal of racialised/ethnic groups in both historical and contemporary contexts. Issues addressed include minority language media, multiculturalism, settler colonialism, whiteness, decolonising media and communication activities and the emerging field of kaupapa Māori media and communication. Indicative research projects include how Māori Television has contributed to political and cultural revitalisation for Māori, and the rise of White Extremism online.

Visual Culture

Today’s world is dominated by images. Mobile cameras and social media platforms have changed the way we live and communicate. Images, however, have always been crucial to human society and how we share our experiences and construct our world. Researching the social, political, psychological and historical power of images, together with the communication strategies that use the power of images, therefore, is crucial to understanding media and communication specifically, and media, politics and society generally.