Sumanth Gopinath, the Assistant Professor of Music Theory in the University of Minnesota School of Music, has written an extensive essay on ringtones, their place in the global culture and what they are symptomatic of. The abstract:
This essay attempts to provide a description of the global ringtone industry, to determine and assess the numerous cultural consequences of the ringtone’s appearance and development, and to situate the ringtone within the context of contemporary capitalism. At its broadest, my assertion is that the development of the ringtone is a powerful lens through which we might clearly view some of the dynamics of present day (or “late”) capitalist cultural production, including the development of new rentier economies within oligopolistic sectors of production and consumption, and a long-term shift in global productive dominance from North America to the Pacific Rim. The ringtone is also a remarkable cultural phenomenon that is demonstrating a high degree of popularity and is undergoing rapid transformation; therefore, its short, continuing lifetime already needs to be assessed historically.
Some highlights from the article include:
–With the industry’s rising profitability, marketers have glommed onto the notion of personalization itself, almost treating the concept as a dogma within the world of wireless accessories â