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Ring Universe Project

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 2 months ago

Ringu Transmission Project.


Team Members: Kim Knight



Project Description


The Ringu transmission project grows out of the work I am doing on my dissertation, Media Epidemics: Viral Structures in Literature and New Media. My first chapter, “Mutating Media: Transmission of the Ringu Virus” analyzes the Ringu multimedia franchise at two different scales.  The first is the meta-level, in which I trace the transmission of the various media iterations through time and across cultural locations.   I argue that the franchise spreads via a viral seep, moving slowly through a decentralized network, until the release of the American film.  At this time, the transmission model switches to a more aggressive, temporally compressed pattern, originating from one central node, suggesting fundamental differences between various scalar strategies of the viral. Unlike computer viruses, which operate according to a logic of invisibility, the media virus shifts the logic of dissemination to one of hyper-visibility.  The imperative to visibility can be traced to the economic dimensions in which the media virus is situated.  Thus models of virality are heavily dependent upon the media ecology in which the virus is located.


In addition to the meta-level, I examine the Ringu virus on the level of representation, focusing specifically on the cursed video as the means of transmission.  The VHS tape is not, as it is commonly read, indicative of social fears about technology.  Rather, the tape is a transversal object situated within a media ecology of gender, technological apparatus, reproductive practices, media discourse, and habits of spectatorship. 


 The Ringu Transmission project is part of the meta-level analysis of this chapter.  In order to visualize the spread of the Ringu virus across time, I have created an interactive timeline using SIMILE's Exhibit tool.  For comparative purposes, I've created similar timelines for the films Dark Water (also based upon fiction by Koji Suzuki and adapted into an American film), Titanic (the highest grossing film of all time), and Citizen Kane (The #1 film on AFI's 100 Years...100 Films list, 2007).


Ringu Transmission Project


Additional digital components of this chapter will include an animated "epidemiological" map of the geographic movement of the Ringu virus and a collage of representations of the screen in the various media iterations.


Synopses of Texts

The Ring multimedia franchise consists of novels, films, a video game and even several manga.  Regardless of the media format, the iterations of the text all contain one common element: a cursed video tape that propagates through viral distribution methods.  The viewer of the videotape must, within 7 days, show it to someone else in order to avoid a gruesome death.  Generally the means of lifting the curse is somehow obscured from the protagonist and the plot centers on the search for the charm.  In Ringu by Koji Suzuki (Trans. Robert B. Rohmer and Glynne Walley), the 1991 novel that started it all, , the contents of the video are descriptively detailed:


"The tape had been rewound.  It was an ordinary 120 minute tape, the sort you could get anywhere, and, as the manager had pointed out, the anti-erasure tabs had been broken off[...]


Random sounds and distorted images flickered on the screen, but once he had selected the right channel, the picture steadied.  Then the screen went black as ink.  This was the video's first scene.  There was no sound[...]


In the middle of the black screen he thought he saw a pinpoint of light begin to flicker.  It gradually expanded, jumping around to the left and right, before finally coming to rest on the left-hand side.  Then it branched out, becoming a frayed bundle of lights, crawling around like worms, which finally formed themselves into words.  Not the kind of captions one normally saw on film, though.  These were poorly-written, as if scrawled by a white brush on jet-black paper.  Somehow, though, he managed to make out what they said: WATCH UNTIL THE END.  A command.  These words disappeared, and the next floated up into view.  YOU WILL BE EATEN BY THE LOST...The last words didn't make much sense, but being eaten didn't sound too pleasant.  It seemed there must have been an "or else" implied there.  Don't turn off the video halfway throug, or else something awful will happen: it was a threat.


YOU WILL BE EATEN BY THE LOST...     The words grew larger and chased all the black from the screen.  It was a flat change, from black to milk-white.  It was a patchy, unnatural color, and it began to resemble a series of concepts painted on a canvas, one over another.  The unconscious, squirming, worrying, finding an exit, spuring out -- or maybe it was the throb of life.  Thought had energy, bestially satiating itself on darkness.  Strangely, he felt no desire to push stop.  Not because he was unafraid of whatever wanted to eat him, but because this intense outpouring of energy felt good.


Something red burst onto the monochrome screen.  At the same time he heard the ground rumble, from an indefinable direction.  The sound seemed to come from everywhere, such that he began to imagine that the whole cabin was shaking.  It didn't feel like the sound wsa coming from those little speakers.  The sluggish red fluid exploded and flew about, sometime occupying the whole screen  From black to white, now read...It was nothing but a violent succession of colors, he hadn't seen any natural scenery yet.  Just concepts in the abstract, ethched vividly onto his brain by the brilliantly shifting colors.  It was tiring, actually.  And then, as if it had read the viewer's mind, the red retreated from the screen, and a mountain vista stretched out on-screen.  At once glance, he could tell itw was a volcano, with a gentle peak.  The volcano was sending up white puffs of smoke against a clear blue sky.  The camera seemed to be situated somewhere at the foot of the mountain, hwere the fournd was covered with rugged blackish-brownish lava.


Again the screen was sathed in darkness.  The clear blue sky was instantaneously painted black, and then, a few seconds later, a scarlet liquid spurted out from the center of the screen, flowing downward.  A second explosion.  The spray thrown up by it burned red, and as a result he could begin to make out, fainly, the outline of the mountain.  The images were now concrete where they had previously been abstract.  This was clearly a volcanic eruption, a natural phenomenon, a scene that could be explained.  The molten lava flowing from the mouth of the volcano threaded its way down through ravines and headed this way.  Where was the camera positioned?  Unless it was an aerial shot, it looked like the camera was about to be swallowed up.  The rumblings of the earth increased until the whole screen seemed about to be engulfed in molten rock, and then the scene abruptly changed.  There was no continuity from one scene to the next, only sudden shifts.


Thick, black letters floated into view against a white background.  Their edges were blurred, but he somehow managed to make out the character for "mountain."  It was surrounded by black splatters, as if it had been written sloppily by a brush dripping with ink.  The character was motionless, the screen was calm. 


Another sudden shift.  A pair of dice, tumbling around in the rounded bottom of a lead bowl.  The background was white, the bottom of the bowl was black, and the one on the dice was red.  The same three colors he's seen so often already.  The dice rolled around soundlessly, finally coming to rest: a one and a five.  The single red dot and the five black ones arranged on the white faces of the dice...What did it mean?


In the next scene people appeared for the first time.  An old woman, face lined with wrinkles, sat perched on a pair of tatami mats on a wooden floor.  Her hands rested on her knees and her left shoulder was thrust slightly forward.  She was speaking, slowly, looking straight ahead.  Her eyes were different sizes -- when she blinked, it looked like she was winking instead. 


She was speaking in an unfamiliar dialect, and he could only catch every other word or so:


...your health...since...spend all your time...bound to get you. Understand?  Be careful of...you're going to...you listen to granny now because...there's no need to...


The old expressinless woman made her statement, then vanished.  There were a lot of words he didn't understand.  But he had the imprssion he'd just been lectured to.  She was telling him to be careful of something, warning him.  Who was this old lady talking to--and about?


The face of a newborn baby filled the screen.  From somewhere he could hear a baby's first cry.  This time, too, he was sure it didn't come from the television speakers.  It came from very near, beneath his face.  Itw as very like a real voice.  On-screen, he could now see hands holding the baby. The left hand was under its head, and the right was behind its back, holding it carefully.  They were beautiful hands.  Totally absorbed by the image, Asakawa found himself holding his own hands in the same position.  He heard the birth cry directly below his own chin.  Startled, he pulled back his hands.  He had felt something.  Something warm and wet -- like amniotic fluid or blood -- and the weight of flesh.  Asakawa jerked his hands apart, as if casting something aside, and brough his palms close to his face.  A smell lingered.  The faint smell of blood -- had it come from the womb, or...?  His hands felt wet.  But in reality, they weren't even damp.  he restored his gaze to the screen.  It still showed the baby's face.  In spite of the crying, its face was swathed in a peaceful expression, and the shaking of its body had spread to its groin, even wiggling its little thing.


The next scene: a hundred human faces.  Each one displayed hatred and animosity; he couldn't see any distinguishing features other than that.  The myriad faces, looking as if they ahd been painted on a flat surface, gradually receded into the depths of the screen.  And as each face diminished in size, the total number increased, until they had swollen to a reat multitude.  It was a strange multitude, though -- existing only from the neck up -- but shouting something, even as they shrank and multiplied.  He couldn't quite make out what they were saying.  It sounded like the commotion of a great gathering, but the voices were tinged with criticism, abuse.  The voices were clealry not welcoming or cheering.  Finally he made out a word: "Liar!" And another: "Fraud!"  Bynow there were perhaps a thousand faces: they had become nothing but black particles, filling the screen until it looked like the television had been turned off, but he voices continued.  It was more than Asakawa could bear.  All that criticism, directed right at him.  That's how it felt.


When the next scene appeared, it showed a television on a wooden stand.  It was an old-fashioned nineteen-inch set with a round channel selector, and a rabbit-ear antenna sat on its wooden cabinet.  Not a play within a play, but a TV within a TV.  The television within had nothing on its screen yet.  But it seemed to be on: the red light by the channel knob was lit.  Then the screen-within-the-screen wavered.  It stabilized and wavered again, over and over, with increasing frequency.  Then a single character appeared, hazily: sada.  The word faded in and out of focus, distorted, and began to look like another before disappearing altogether, likek chalk on a blackboard wiped with a wet rag.


As he watched, Asakawa began to find it hard to breathe.  He could hear his heart beat, feel the pressure of the blood flowing in his veins.  A smell, a touch, a sour-sweet taste stabbing his tongue.  Strange -- something was stimulating his five senses, some medium beside the sounds and visions that appeared as if he were suddenly recalling them.


Then the face of a man appeared.  Unike the previous images, this man was definitely alive -- he had a pulsating vitality.  As he watched, Asakawa began to feel hatred toward him.  He had no idea why he should hate this man.  He wasn't particularly ugly.  His forehead sloped a bit, but other than that he was actually rather well-formed.  But there was something dangerous in his eyes.  They were the eyes of a beast closing in on its prey.  The man's face was sweaty.  His breathing was ragged, his gaze turned upward, and his body was moving rhythmically.  Behind the man grew scattered trees, the afternoon sunlight shone between their branches.  The man brought his eyes down and looked straight ahead again, and his gaze locked with the viewer's.  Asakawa and the man stared at each other for a while.  The stifling sensation grew, and he suddenly wanted to tear his gaze away.  The man was drooling; his eyes were bloodshot.  His neck muscles began to fill the screen in a close-up, and then disappeared off the left side of the screen.  For a while only the black shade of the trees could be seen.  A scream began to well up from deep down inside.  At the same time, the man's shuoulder cam back into view, then his neck ,and finally his face again.  His shoulders were bare, and the right one carried a deep bloody gash several centimeters long.  Drops of blood seemed to be sucked toward the camera, growing larger and alrger until they hit the lens and clouded over the view.  The screen cut to black once, twice, almost like blinking, and when the light returned everything was red.  There was a murderous look in the man's eyes. His face drew closer, along with his shoulder, the bone peeking out white where the flesh had been gouged out.  Asakawa felt a violent pressure on his chest.  He saw trees again.  The sky was spinning.  The color of the sky fading into sunset, the rustling of dry grass.  He saw dirt, then weeds, and then sky again.  Somewhere he heard a baby crying.  He wasn't sure if it was the little infant from before.  Finally, the edge of the screen turned black, darkness gradually encroaching in a ring on the center.  Dark and light were clearly defined now.  At the center of the screen, a small round mood of light floated in the middle of the darkness.  There was a man's face in the moon.   A fist sized clulmp of somethign fell from the moon, making a dull thud.  Another, and then another.  With each sound, the image jumped and swayed.  The sound of flesh being smashed, and then true darkness.  Even then, a pulse remained.  Blood still circulated, throbbing.  The scene went on and on. A darkness that seemed as if it would never end.  Then, just as at the beginning, words faded into view.  The writing in the first scene had been crude, like that of a child just learning to write, but this was somewhat better.  White letters, drifting into view and then fading read:



Those who have viewed these images are fated to die at this exact hour one week from now. If you do not wish to die, you must follow these instructions exactly...


Asakawa gulped and stared wide-eyed at the television.  But then the scene changed yet again.  A complete and utter change.  A commercial came on, a perfectly ordinary common television commercial.  A romantic old neighborhood on a summer's evening, an actress in a light coton robe sitting on her verandah, fireworks lighting up the night sky.  A commercial for mosquito-repelling coils.  After about thirty seconds the commercial ended, and just as another scene was about to start, the screen returned to its previous state.  Darkness, with the last afterglow of faded words.  Then the sound of static as the tape ended."  (75 - 82)


Many of the elements of the video are related to unique story elements of the novel, which are not adapted into the filmic versions of the story.  Although some differences between the print and film versions can be accounted for by differing plot elements, there remain major variations between the versions of the video that cannot be explained so easily. 


Version of the video from the 1998 Japanese film, Ringu:

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Version of the video from the 1999 Korean film, The Ring Virus.

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Version of the video from the 2002 American film, The Ring:

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Parody of the video from the 2003 American Film, Scary Movie 3:

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Film & Video

Eisenstein, Sergei.  "The Dramaturgy of Film Form."  The Eistenstein Reader.  Ed. Richard Taylor.  London: The British Film Institute, 1998.

Jameson, Frederic.  "Video: Surrealism Without the Unconscious."  Postmodernism: The Cultural Logic of Late Capital.  Durham: Duke UP, 1991.

Mitry, Jean.  "The Inferences of Montage."  Semiotics and the Analysis of Film.  Trans. Christopher King.  Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2000.

Zielinski, Siegfried.  Audiovisions: Cinema and Television as Entr'actes in History.  Trans. Gloria Custance.  Amsterdam: Amsterdam UP, 1999.


Media Systems

Fuller, Matthew.  Media Ecologies: Materialist Energies in Art and Technoculture. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2005.

Parikka, Jussi.  Digital Contagions: A Media Archaeology of Computer Viruses.  New York: Peter Lang, 2007

Sterling, Bruce.  Shaping Things.  Cambridge: MIT Press.

White, Michele.  "The Body, the Screen, and Representation: An Introduction to Theories of Internet Spectatorship."  The Body and the Screen.  Cambridge: MIT Press, 2006


Secondary Criticism that Addresses Components of the Ring Multimedia Franchise

Meikle, Dennis.  The Ring Companion.  London: Titan Books, 2005.

Tseng, Jui-hua.  "The Ring that Screws: On the Metastasis of Terror and Evil in the Age of Globalization."  Tamkang Review.  37.2  (2006): 189 - 206.


Text Analysis and Visualization

Paul, Christiane.  "The Database as System and Cultrual Form: Anatomies of Cultural Narratives."   Database Aesthetics: Art in the Age of Information Overflow.  Ed.  Victoria Vesna. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2007.


Adaptation, Translation, and Parody

Berman, Antoine.  "Translation and the Trials of the Foreign."  Trans. Lawrence Venuti.  The Translation Studies Reader.  Ed. Lawrence Venuti.  London: Routledge, 2000.  284 - 297.

Benjamin, Walter.  "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction." Illuminations.

Even-Zohar.  "The Position of Translated Literature Within the Literary Polysystem."  The Translation Studies Reader.  Ed. Lawrence Venuti.  London: Routledge, 2000. 192 - 197.

Harries, Dan.  Film Parody.  London : BFI Pub., 2000

McHale, Brian.  Constructing Postmodernism.  New York: Routledge, 1992.

Naremore, James, ed.  Film Adaptation.  New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 2000.

Rose, Margaret A.  Parody: Ancient, Modern, and Post-modern.  Cambridge : Cambridge UP, 1993

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty.  "The Politics of Translation."  The Translation Studies Reader.  Ed. Lawrence Venuti.  London: Routledge, 2000.  397 - 416.


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