The Ringtone Dialectic
Economy and Cultural Form
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: The MIT Press
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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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Many thanks to Danielle Kuntz, research assistant and copy editor — the project would not have come to completion without her tremendous help; she also did much of the primary research for chapters 8 and 9. Thanks to Brian Schmidt, research assistant and copy editor, who was very helpful Thanks to the readers of the manuscript for their perceptive com-...
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The task of this book is, to cite Blake, to see a world in a grain of sand. Its eccentric, even perverse ambition is to examine the ringtone — the custom-izable, often musicalized ringer signal on mobile phones, typically several seconds long and fi rst popularized in the late 1990s — as a means of unders-tanding a spatial and temporal totality, a world-system and a global con-...
I The Rise and Fall of the Ringtone Economy
1 This Business of Ringtones
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...“ Let me be the fi rst to say that the iPhone is [a] huge problem for the ringtone industry. In many ways it makes the ringtone industry completely obsolete. . . . In 3 – 5 years just about all of the newest phones will have easy syncing with your music library and the paid ringtone market will shrivel up and die. ” 1 This statement, made by the businessman blogger Blackbeard ...
II Ramifications of the Ringtone’s Identity Crisis
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II Ramifi cations of the Ringtone ’ s Identity Crisis: The Social In an excellent treatment dating from 2005, Sasha Frere-Jones underscored the ephemeral and transitional nature of the polyphonic ringtone: Next time you hear your favorite song playing in full verisimilitude from someone ’ s pants, give a moment ’ s thought to the lowly, twinkling polyphonic. Transitional ...
2 Ringtones and the Deskilling of Mobile-Musical Labor
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On January 19, 2009, the cartoonist Garry Trudeau inaugurated a week-long foray into the world of ringtones. In a series of Doonesbury strips depicting a radio interview between a central character, the NPR DJ Mark Slackmeyer, and a minor character, the genre-switching rock star Jimmy Thudpucker, now working as a self-described “ ringtone artist, ” Trudeau ...
3 Left Behind
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In mid October 2002, a Welsh man and woman in their thirties who lived near the town of Aberdare waited at the Green Street Methodist Church with their respective families in tow. It was 3 p.m., and the organist had failed to turn up for the couple ’ s wedding service. The groom ’ s close friend, a 35-year-old roofer by the name of Darren Medd, had just purchased ...
4 The Ringtone and Its Aesthetic Subgenres in Contemporary Classical Music and Media Performance/Installation Art
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Two privileged sites for witnessing the diminishing relevance of the ring-tone in the 2000s are those of present-day classical music and the global art market — spheres that include many interrelated, semi-autonomous, and complex subdivisions, such as those between the modern orchestra and “ new music ” (itself fractured along aesthetic lines) or those among ...
III The Ringtone’s Dialectical Reversals
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In the magisterial fi nal chapter of Marxism and Form , Fredric Jameson offers an insightful summation of the workings of dialectical thought, one aspect The basic story which the dialectic has to tell is no doubt that of the dialectical reversal , that paradoxical turning around of a phenomenon into its opposite of which the transformation of quantity into quality is only one of the better known ...
5 The Annoying Thing: Crazy Frog and the Strange Career of a Sample
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In late December 2010, Rupert Murdoch ’ s media conglomerate, the News Corporation, ended its involvement in mobile entertainment and sold off the Fox Mobile Group (FMG) to the Jesta Group for an amount not dis-closed to the public. The new owner of FMG would command the brands Jamba, Jamster, Mobizzo, and Bitbop. The president of the Jesta Group, ...
6 The Voice of the Politician and the Geographic Dispersion of the Political Ringtone
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...the Indian state of Gujarat. A ringtone featuring a clip from a speech by the popular right-wing chief minister of the state, Narendra Modi, had been produced by an anonymous professor of information technology at Bhavnagar University and was quickly gaining in popularity. The speech sample originated in Modi ’ s reply to a question by the former chief minis-...
7 A Spectrum of Forms
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I basically use my ears, and my creativity and do it over and over again. What does it mean to compose a ringtone? The question is not trivial, for there are few universals associated with mobile phone ringtones them-selves now that they are digital sound fi les (usually MP3s) often of any length. (They are, nonetheless, conventionally around 15 – 30 seconds long ...
IV Revivals and the (Universal) Particularization of the Ringtone
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The dialectical processes of decline (part II) and reversal (part III) in the sociocultural transformation of the ringtone cannot account for every cultural or national register in which the ringtone appears. Indeed, in some contexts the shifting formats of the ringtone provided a recharging or reviving effect, in which the new modalities of the ringtone fostered ...
8 Personalization and Spectatorship
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If you have attended a Hollywood blockbuster horror fi lm or thriller in the last decade, you probably have witnessed a scene involving a cell phone failing to function at a critical moment during the narrative —often with a character ominously saying “ There ’ s no signal. ” The video blogger Rich Juzwiak (of the blog FourFour) noticed this cinematic trend ...
9 What’s in a Name? Race and the Ringtone’s Revival in (Un-)Popular Music
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On January 12, 2010, Berin Szoka, a blogger for the Technology Liberation Front — a libertarian media commentary site advocating against Internet regulation — posted a satirical report titled “ We Must End the (Reverse) Digital Divide! ” The occasion for the post was the recent release of statistics by the Pew Research Center ’ s Internet & American Life Project showing ...
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With the decline and the particularization of the ringtone industry ’ s cul-tural products, we glimpse the last turn of the dialectic in its fi nal degrees of rotation. There is, of course, a fundamental incompleteness to the story of the ringtone, whose afterlives in the wake of being downgraded from leading to trailing edge will be numerous and, in part, unforeseeable. ...
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Page Count: 416
Publication Year: 2013