Published Papers

Localizing YouTube: Language, cultural regions, and digital platforms

Author: Sriram Mohan, Aswin Punathambekar
Publication Date: 2019
Journal: International Journal of Cultural Studies
Abstract: This article analyzes the significance of linguistic and cultural regions for the global expansion and localization of digital platforms. Bringing issues of globalization and cultural difference to bear on the study of platforms, we explore the industrial and cultural logics at work when digital platforms like YouTube navigate new markets. We first map YouTube’s trajectory in India and outline how the company came to recognize and value southern India’s linguistic and cultural diversity as crucial for its national and global expansion. Through close readings of videos produced by a leading channel (Put Chutney), we then outline how ‘region’ emerges as the dominant scale for localization and examine different conceptions of the region that are mobilized to secure an online audience. More broadly, we argue that platform localization is the contingent outcome of the interaction of algorithmic and representational logics that structure the operations of digital platforms.

A Sound Bridge: Listening for the Political in a Digital Age

Author: Aswin Punathambekar, Sriram Mohan
Publication Date: 2017
Journal: International Journal of Communication
Volume: 11
Pages: 4610-4629
Abstract: This article examines how catchy sounds (“Why This Kolaveri” [“Why This Murderous Rage”]) can function as sonic cues for political participation. Exploring the sonic dimensions and aural imaginaries at play in mediated public spheres, we show how #Kolaveri became a sound bridge that enabled potent encounters among journalists, politicians, and citizens embroiled in heated debates about corruption in India. Tracing #Kolaveri’s movement across media platforms, we analyze three dimensions of the sonic cue―its availability, performativity, and resonance―that gave it a catalytic charge. Suggesting that sound technologies and practices constitute vital cultural and material infrastructures on which a bridge between the popular and the political can be built, we argue that cases like #Kolaveri disclose new ways of listening for the political and new modes of participation―the expression of sonic citizenship―in a digital era.

Locating the “Internet Hindu”: Political Speech and Performance in Indian Cyberspace

Author: Sriram Mohan
Publication Date: 2015
Journal: Television & New Media
Volume: 16
Issue: 4
Pages: 339-345
Abstract: The article seeks to offer an understanding of the politics and presence of this increasingly visible, informal online political formation in India, whose members are referred to as the Internet Hindus. Used to describe young, often urban, middle-class/upper-middle-class followers of Hinduism residing in India (and abroad), the term has come to be associated almost entirely with those who aggressively voice their right-wing political views and support for Narendra Modi on social media platforms. The article explores the politics espoused by some of these “Internet Hindus” and frames them vis-à-vis the larger themes foregrounded by the electoral victory of the Hindu nationalist political outfit, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). In doing so, the article attempts to locate “Internet Hindus” in a democracy, which has the third largest Internet user base in the world, and seeks to deconstruct their ethno-nationalistic online posturing, while reflecting on what this may mean for the online collective itself.

 The Memories of a Spark: Reconstructing the 1965 riots in Madurai against the imposition of Hindi

Author: Sriram Mohan
Publication Date: 2014
Journal: SubVersions
Volume: 2
Issue: 1
Pages: 131-151
Abstract: The paper aims to capture the synthesis and popular reconstruction of one of independent India’s earliest instances of large-scale violence over the emotive issue of language, i.e., the January 1965 Madurai riots that occurred on the day before the fifteenth anniversary of India becoming a republic, against the imposition of Hindi as the sole official language of the union of India. The seeds of the anti-Hindi protests in the state of Madras were sown in the 1930s and its revival in the 1960s had widespread social, cultural and political ramifications. This paper seeks to explore how culture, identity, ideology and power relations weighed in on the socio-ethnic unity of the nation state at that time, from the perspective of lived experience (oral histories) and through an analysis of the media representation of the riots and its outcomes.

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