Mobile phone ringtones for activism and awareness raising


Photo courtesy BBC World Service Trust
Photo courtesy BBC World Service Trust

A post on Lirneasia’s site points an interesting story on the use of a ring tone in India to break down the social taboo of using condoms. Created by the BBC World Service Trust, I can’t say I like the ring tone but perhaps it appeals to an Indian audience. 

You can listen to it and download it to your phone from this website (which is entirely Flash based and slow to load). 

At a broader level, this example highlights the use of ringtones for social and political activism. Though there’s not a single example from Sri Lanka yet, ringtones (and mobiles in general) have been used in political and social activism around the world. As Ethan Zuckerman flags,

When Arroyo found herself embroiled in a corruption scandal involving tape recordings of phone calls to voting commissioner Virgilio Garcillano, one of the tools activists used to spread information was a ringtone. The ringtone featured a snippet of dialog between Arroyo and Garcillano and rapidly became one of the world’s most downloaded ringtones and spawning over a dozen remixed versions.”

An article published on the Boston Globe in April concurs and highlights the use of ringtones in the US,

A Mexican wolf’s eerie howl does double duty as a ringtone and a reminder of habitat destruction. Barack Obama’s campaign offers text message updates, wallpaper, and ringtones with sound bites like “What I do oppose is a dumb war” over a hip-hop beat. A local community support group has turned volunteers with an hour or two between tasks into a network of translators.

As the Mosquito ringtone also demonstrates, it’s interesting (and inevitable) how social, cultural and political differentiation find increasing expression through and in mobile devices. Sadly, many civil society organisations in Sri Lanka haven’t yet fully woken up to the potential of using these innovative new ways to build and strengthen communities of practice on shared goals and ideals, such a democratic governance, peace through peaceful means, sustainable development, human rights and the opposition to all forms of violence.

4 thoughts on “Mobile phone ringtones for activism and awareness raising

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