Tuning In

Diasporic Contact Zones at the BBC World Service

Tuning In. Researching diasporas at the BBC World Service.

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Generation 2012

Generation 2012

In detailing the development of working practices at the BBC World Service, research has revealed the evolutionary and generational power of diasporic sensibilities in shaping attitudes and life in Bush House. This finding has been reflected in the establishment of Generation 2012, an ongoing collaboration between Tuning In and the BBC World Service in which young Londoners explore their own cultural and diasporic identity through the prism of international broadcasting and media training in the run up to the 2012 Olympic Games.

Now into its second year, Generation 2012, has visited the London Olympic site and undertaken intensive training with the World Service at Bush House and the BBC College of Journalism. The parallel exploration of diasporic identity, transnational media production and the cosmopolitan diversity of the coming Olympics (including issues of cultural legacy), has proven a rich source of both academic and personal reflection. Such has been the success of this project that four members of Generation 2012 regularly report for the BBC World Service daily current affairs programme Outlook on how the Olympics are changing the lives of people living in its shadow.

Research aims

  1. To explore the notions of cosmopolitan identity, place and belonging among London’s diasporic youth in areas affected by the construction of the Olympics
  2. To provide media training and an understanding of international media practices in order for participants to gain the practical and intellectual skills necessary to report on the dramatic changes taking place in their communities

Research questions

  1. Do participants have a static sense of home and locality, or have their migratory histories imbued them with a more fluid sensibility towards identity?
  2. In what ways will the Olympics change London and what longer term impact will this have on the areas in which participants live?
  3. How instrumental is the international media in communicating notions of transnational and cosmopolitan identity?

Project contact: 

Dr Alban Webb, The Open University, a.j.webb@open.ac.uk

    Project members: 

  • Dr Alban Webb is a Research Fellow in Sociology at the Open University, working as part of the ESRC Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change (CRESC). His previous research as a historian has focused on Cold War Britain, examining the UK’s nuclear deterrence strategy, intelligence services and civil defence planning. His book on the BBC World Service, London Calling: BBC External Services and the Cold War, will be published in 2011. His latest research, on the roles of public and cultural diplomacy in the context of international relations (most recently as part of the AHRC-funded Tuning In: Diasporic Contact Zones at the BBC World Service project) forms the basis of his ongoing examination of the changing Cultures of Diplomacy at work in British overseas communication strategies.

    Marie Gillespie is Professor of Sociology at the Open University and the Principal Investigator on Tuning In. She is Director of media research ESRC Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change (CRESC). Her research interests focus on the political, socio-cultural and economic implications of migrant transnationalism, especially in relation to the South Asian diaspora. Recent Open University teaching texts include an edited volume Media Audiences (2005) and Analysing Media Texts (2006). Recent research projects include: an audience ethnography of media coverage of the attacks of 9/11/2001; a study on transnational news cultures and the politics of security (Mediating Security). Her publications include a monograph entitled Television, Ethnicity and Cultural Change (Routledge, 1995).

    Sophie West graduated with a History Degree (BA hons) from the University of Sheffield in 2008. She has been working as Senior Research Assistant for the Tuning In project since July 2008. She is based in the BBCWS Marketing, Communications and Audiences department where she also freelances for the BBC.

Generation 2012 featured on BBC World Service website