Always on, always on-screen : blockbuster event cinema and the mediation of post-2005 digital cultures and experience : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Media Studies at Massey University, Manawatū, New Zealand

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This research explores the extent to which novel formal practices displayed in the contemporary effects-driven blockbuster can be shown to reflect wider developments in contemporary digital capitalism. It argues that the recent blockbuster features recurrent visual and thematic elements uniquely tied to our current techno-cultural context, and that these elements can be read as a mediation of changing social behaviours in the world beyond the movie screen. The research marks an intervention into two distinct and established bodies of literature: a large body of work on blockbuster cinema and an equally significant body of work on digital capitalism. Despite the significance and urgency of this argument, neither branch of scholarship has fully probed into the blockbuster's mediation of, and sporadic attempts to redress, the cultural and behavioural impacts of what Mark Deuze (2012) calls "a life lived in media." Taking a broadly allegorical approach, as outlined by Fredric Jameson in The Political Unconscious (1981), and employing close textual reading as its primary method of analysis, the research draws out the recent blockbuster's expression of "collective thinking and collective fantasies" unique to the cultural dominant of digitality. Each of the three substantive chapters explores a specific formal quality of the films in question, and locates a correlating cultural development: shifting conceptions of what constitutes public or private information; digitality's displacement of traditional temporalities; the diminishment of basic physiological needs such as sleep, food and procreation in a world increasingly experienced through the online avatar. Through analysis of over two dozen films, spanning from 1996 to 2019, this research tracks what Scott McQuire terms a "passage of negotiation," from early suspicion and fear over digital technology to its comprehensive cultural assimilation, "[having] entered the dominant social habitus to such an extent that it can ground new forms of abstract knowledge and social practice" (2008, x). This work contends that in the changing form of the Hollywood blockbuster, a mode of cultural production rarely analysed against the critical horizon of contemporary informational capitalism, can be charted digitality's recent reconfiguration of nearly all aspects of personal and political life in advanced capitalist nations.