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Mumbai Bombings

This project examines the “Have Your Say” forums of the BBC Urdu and BBC Hindi sites during the time of the violent attacks on Mumbai in November 2008. The research brings together content analysis of the forums by native speaking researches, Webometrics analysis of the online environment surrounding these forums, and interviews with BBC forum moderators and online editors.

Research aims

  1. To what extent can 'Have your Say Forums' be understood as 'contact zones' for digitally connected users, located both inside and outside their countries of identification (in this case Pakistan and India)?
  2. If these forums facilitate a 'global conversation', which is its declared policy aim?

The findings show that these particular forums are, in relation to the Mumbai attacks, sites of transnational affective bonding in terms of shared national identities, rather than sites of encounter and intellectual engagement with 'others'. Although diverse opinions are expressed, users appear to value the forums as offering them 'bonding' rather than 'bridging' forms of transnational social capital (Putnam 1995). The BBC's editorial framing and pre-moderation of debates contributes to this characteristic of the forums, in particular in the Hindi case. The process of selection, translation (hence editing), and the delay in publishing limits the potential for dialogue between users, but enhances the forum's function as a message board or 'public screen' (Cottle 2006, p. 51) onto which diasporic nationalist imaginings are projected.

Project contact: 

Matilda Andersson, The Open University,

    Project members: 

  • 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; Mediating Security, a study on transnational news cultures and the politics of security. Her publications include a monograph entitled Television, Ethnicity and Cultural Change (Routledge, 1995).

    David Herbert is Lecturer in Sociology of Religion at the University of Groningen, and he worked at the Open University from 1996-2009. His main research interests are in religion and social integration, and religion and media. His most recent research project was on cross-community programmes in Northern Ireland (2005-8), and before Tuning In he also worked with Professor Gillespie on Shifting Securities, investigating the role of media consumption on perceptions of security.

    Matilda Andersson is a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Sociology at the Open University, UK. She is a former member of staff at the BBC World Service where she worked as a Senior Research Analyst specialising in users/uses of digital media. Her main academic interest lies in new audience configurations, digital diasporas, transnational social networking, cultural and public diplomacy.