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Isles of NoiseSonic Media in the Caribbean$
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Alejandra Bronfman

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781469628691

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469628691.001.0001

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(p.37) 3 Receivers
Isles of Noise

Alejandra Bronfman

University of North Carolina Press

Picking up in the early 1920s, this chapter tracks the shift of radio technology from military to commercial uses. It follows linkages among the changing material conditions for Caribbean workers, the radio industry’s search for materials like mica and bakelite, and the generation of new markets. Having placed broadcasting in its ecological and political contexts, the chapter uses the trajectories of two amateur radio operators, John Grinan, a New Yorker/Jamaican son of a plantation owner and a member of the team which produced the first transatlantic wireless signals, and Frank Jones, an American plantation manager in Cuba, famous for his self-promoting shortwave transmissions to recover the world of the tinkerers’ romance with an ether jammed with distant sounds. It traces the creation of audiences and publics for the emerging technology, arguing that radio appealed to listeners not because it shrank distances, but because it underscored them, demarcating the Caribbean as exotic and remote. Ironically, it was the deeper technological connections that would propel the mapping of these imagined boundaries between the “tropics” and “the world.”

Keywords:   Mica, Bakelite, John Grinan, Amateur radio, Frank Jones, Transatlantic, Cuba, Jamaica

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