Audience Research Unit

Our People

C Michelle

Dr Carolyn Michelle ~ Director

MSocSc, PhD Waikato

Email: [email protected]

My current research interest is in the area of audience reception theory and research. I am presently leading a transnational comparative project exploring audience engagements with Peter Jackson’s Hobbit film trilogy.

Current projects

The Hobbit Audience Project
This innovative research collaboration has involved 12 scholars from six countries in a longitudinal investigation of cross-cultural receptions of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy (2012-2014). Combining online surveys with Q methodology and the Composite Model of reception (Michelle, 2007), the project has involved almost 7,000 respondents from over 80 countries. Early findings have been disseminated in several journal articles to date, and we are currently writing a book on the project entitled Fans, blockbusterisation, and the transformation of cinematic desire (under contract with Palgrave Macmillan, due out in 2017).

Hobbit Audience Project

The Avatar Audience Project
This new international research collaboration explores the impact of digital visual effects and emerging HFR 3D projection technologies on the nature and quality of viewers’ immersion in cinematic story worlds. Do such technologies encourage deep narrative immersion and reflection or more superficial forms of engagement with visual spectacle, as some critics suggest? If so, what are the implications for audience receptions of a film’s message content? These questions will be explored through a large scale cross-cultural comparative study of audience receptions of the forthcoming sequels to James Cameron’s Avatar (2009), a highly acclaimed and commercially successful example of eco-cinema. Scheduled for release in 2018/19/20, the sequels will heavily rely on CGI and will be filmed in HFR 3D but screened in a range of formats, providing a unique opportunity to study the effects of emerging projection technologies on audience engagements with Avatar’s pro-environment messages. We are currently seeking graduate students to participate in this major project.

Avatar Audience Project


  • Davis, C. H., Michelle, C., Hardy, A., & Hight, C. (2016). Making global audiences for a Hollywood ‘blockbuster’ feature film: Marketability, playability and The Hobbit:  An Unexpected Journey (2012). Journal of Fandom Studies, 4(1), 105-125.
  • Michelle, C., Davis, C. H., Hardy, A. L., & Hight, C. (2015). Pleasure, disaffection, 'conversion' or rejection? The (limited) role of prefiguration in shaping audience engagement and response. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 18 pages. doi:10.1177/1367877915571407
  • Michelle, C., Davis, C. H., Hight, C., & Hardy, A. L. (2015). The Hobbit hyperreality paradox: Polarization among audiences for a 3D high frame rate film. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 1-22. doi:10.1177/1354856515584880
  • Michelle, C., & Davis, C. H. (2014). Beyond the qualitative / quantitative "divide": Reflections on the utility and challenges of Q methodology for media researchers. In F. Darling Wolf (Ed.), The International Encyclopedia of Media Studies: Research Methods in Media Studies (pp. 112-134). Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Davis, C. H., Michelle, C., Hardy, A., & Hight, C. (2014). Framing audience prefigurations of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: The roles of fandom, politics and idealised intertexts. Participations: Journal of Audience & Reception Studies, 11(1), 50-87. Retrieved from
  • Michelle, C., Hardy, A. L., Davis, C. H., & Hight, C. (2014). An unexpected controversy in Middle-earth: audience encounters with the ‘dark side’ of transnational film production. Transnational Cinemas, 1-18. doi:10.1080/20403526.2014.941185
  • Zalipour, A., Michelle, C., & Hardy, A. (2014). Modes of engagement among diasporic audiences of Asian New Zealand film. The Communication Review, 17(4), 311-335. doi:10.1080/10714421.2014.960735
  • Michelle, C., Davis, C. H., & Vladica, F. (2012). Understanding variation in audience engagement and response: An application of the composite model to receptions of Avatar (2009). The Communication Review, 15(2), 106-143. doi:10.1080/10714421.2012.674467
  • Davis, C. H., & Michelle, C. (2011). Q Methodology in audience research: Bridging the qualitative/quantitative 'divide'? Participations: Journal of Audience & Reception Studies, 8(2), 559-593. Retrieved from***details%20of%20where%20journal%20is%20produced
  • Hardy, A., Hight, C., & Michelle, C. (2011). Reservoir Hill and audiences for online interactive drama. Participations: Journal of Audience & Reception Studies, 8(2), 616-643. Retrieved from