Skip to Content
Contact details +64 (04) 801 5799 ext. 63565
Dr Elspeth Tilley is a graduate of the University of Queensland, with bachelors, honours and doctoral degrees in drama and literature from the UQ English programme. She also has extensive training and experience in applied theatre including the La Boite improvisation, youth theatre and writing for theatre courses, the Gold Coast Institute of Technology acting courses 1 and 2, and the Queensland Film Academy screen actor training programme. During her studies she worked professionally as both an actor for stage and screen, and a journalist and public relations consultant, which led to her first academic job in communication. After more than a decade teaching, researching and publishing in communication, particularly public relations ethics and communication for social change, Dr Tilley returned to teaching theatre and creative activism at Massey University Wellington. She publishes on performance and postcolonialism, enjoys directing regular student theatre both scripted and devised, and specialises in developing pedagogy, research and applied projects that combine her two areas of expertise - the arts and communication - to find the synergies and opportunities for creative communication to address key problems in our world.
Dr Tilley's teaching experience includes classes in communication theory, research methods, creative communication, creative processes, modern drama, theatre in production, international communication, media relations, creativity in the community, and public relations. She has published in top communication journals on communication ethics, and in top theatre journals on aspects of performance theory and theatre as a communication tool for social change.
Research-methods-wise, Dr Tilley specialises in qualitative and critical discourse analysis, particularly in cross-cultural and postcolonial contexts. She has quantitative and qualitative research experience and has published, and supervised researchers, in both methodologies. She has been a member of the Massey University Adult Literacy and Communication research group since 2004, and has led the design and delivery of qualitative data analysis in projects on adult literacy, apprentices’ literacy, and immunisation communication. Since 2013 she has been collaborating with the Joint Centre for Disaster Research, bringing a qualitative and social sciences orientation to developing understanding of important contemporary New Zealand disaster communication challenges such as safety warnings and community preparedness.
In 2002 Dr Tilley founded PRism, a free-access, online, peer-refereed public relations and communication research journal (see http://www.prismjournal.org/homepage.html). Please feel free to get in touch with her if you’d like to contribute to PRism or talk about research supervision.
Dr Tilley has researched, worked and taught in both communication (media and public communication) and cultural studies (literature, theatre and performance). She sees these two fields as integrally linked and loves to be involved with projects that transcend disciplinary boundaries to create new insights and innovative social change. These have included the 'It's My Life' youth smokefree project and Climate Change Theatre Action.
Dr Tilley's research spans two related fields, cultural studies and communication studies, but is united by a core methodological approach: critical discourse analysis (CDA). CDA enables investigation of language, power, values and meaning at both broad cultural levels (e.g. Dr Tilley's work critiquing culturally institutionalised racism) and within narrower personal/professional foci (e.g. her work on workplace issues of ethics, gender, adult literacy, and identity, particularly in the public relations field). At the heart of Dr Tilley's work is an interest in research for social justice, which she works towards by critically interrogating the language of power (and power of language) wherever it occurs.
Dr Tilley frequently collaborates with colleagues in and beyond New Zealand, including Māori and Pasifika researchers. She has experience working in cross-cultural teams using both Kaupapa Māori and Talanga research modes, designing research projects, working with community researchers, and delivering qualitative research training.
21st Century Citizenship, Health and Well-being
Field of research codes
Communication and Media Studies (200100): Cultural Studies (200200):
Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies (190404):
Languages, Communication And Culture (200000): Literary Studies (200500):
Performing Arts and Creative Writing (190400):
Postcolonial Studies (200211):
Studies In Creative Arts And Writing (190000)
theatre, communication, creativity, communication activism, creative activism, ethics, crisis communication, discourse studies, critical whiteness, critical race studies
Project Title: Ruapehu Safety Communication Project - Leleiga Taito - Bursary payment
Date Range: 2015 - 2015
Funding Body: Institute of Geological & Nuclear Sciences Ltd
Project Title: Pathway to Smokefree New Zealand 2025
Date Range: 2013 - 2014
Funding Body: Ministry of Health
Project Title: Health literacy and communicating immunisation information to decision-makers
Date Range: 2008 - 2010
Funding Body: Health Research Council of New Zealand
Project Title: Literacy & Employment
Date Range: 2004 - 2007
Funding Body: Foundation for Research, Science & Technology
Associate Professor Tilley teaches in the Bachelor of Communication, Massey's innovative cross-college communication degree, as well as at postgraduate (BC Honours, Master of Communication, Master of Arts, and PhD) levels. She has taught into both paradigms of the Bachelor of Communication (business and humanities) and so brings a unique understanding of the overall value of combining creativity and critical thinking with communication planning and strategy to develop well-rounded, flexible communication graduates. She is particularly interested in supervising transdisciplinary research approaches that start from a solid understanding of a social issue or challenge, then build flexible and novel research responses from a range of appropriate disciplines, including creative disciplines.
Current Doctoral Supervision
Completed Doctoral Supervision