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Customer Service. In The Spotlight. Shop Our Brands. It is the performance of gender [ Gallagher , however, leaned more heavily on the side of affective critique, and was most interested in how ASMR is a unique amalgam of human and nonhuman bodies, and, as such, creates experiences that are altogether new and uncategorizable by our former standards.

Gallagher therefore aligns himself with anti-representationalist approaches to media studies that focus on what media do to our bodies rather than what they mean. Indeed, many new media studies scholars are now focusing on the emerging field of affect studies in order to practice non-representationalist critique. Internet researchers now acknowledge the enormous interactivity between humans and machines, and the forms of affectivity that can emerge. Hillis, et al. In the same way that what appears on your Facebook timeline is the result of a combination of algorithmic intervention and human action [ 10 ], Gallagher has argued that considering algorithmic and human behaviors is integral to understanding the popularity of ASMR, since the sudden emergence of this phenomenon in the public eye was as much if not more so the result of data trawling and algorithmic sorting on the part of Google and YouTube, as it was the result of people communicating about it and sharing links.

Central to the rapid spread of the ASMR phenomenon is its powerful impact on viewer-listeners. Both Gallagher and Andersen have highlighted how the sense of intimacy created by these videos is in part due to the fact that they are situated as private spaces within a teeming crowd of Internet users. These readings adopt an affective approach to media studies that is interested in the ways in which digital technology makes human bodies feel, act, and move through interaction with other human bodies and media networks.

Look at the Bunny: Totem, Taboo, Technology by Dominic Pettman

Such a shift is grounded in specific materialities of particular bodies, as opposed to an abstract universalizing concept of the body. Such a perspective also informs the work of Sobchack, whose approach to film studies is grounded in materialism and phenomenology. In addition to addressing the role of affect in ASMR, I am also concerned with the closely related lens of performance studies. Looking at performance and considering the role of performativity in ASMR is key to developing a robust and multi-faceted understanding of digital media.

Gender is citational, to follow her seminal argument, in that each iteration of gender is citing, or pointing to, a notion of what that gender is. Media representations become important vehicles for circulating these citations of gender, and given their elaborate constructions of gender and pleasure, ASMR videos may be analyzed as powerful sites for studying iterative, feminine performativity. An individual ASMR video may be better understood as a performance, or a deliberate and attentive instance of performativity. In other words, performance acts as a freeze-frame within the iterative loop of performativity, foregrounding its contractedness, and, therefore, enabling a new way of seeing, and perhaps hopefully!

One such way of encountering and making sense of the world differently could be through the sense of touch. As ASMR demonstrates, to touch — especially to touch another human body — is deeply connected with the construction of subjectivity. The many societal rules that regulate who may touch, who may be touched, and how, when, and where to touch, belie the affects of anxiety that permeate this way of encountering the world, to say nothing of the affects of pleasure that characterize sexual contact.

This is true, too, in ASMR videos, which seem to subvert social rules and regulations about how and whom to touch by allowing for modes of embodied intimacy that circumvent the strictures of time and place. I suggest that ASMR itself is a performative genre uniquely able to explore affective modes of knowing that can unsettle dominant discourses of sexuality.

To analyze ASMR videos through a performance studies lens is thus to view these videos as performances — as discrete events that affect change in the world — and thus, as also having the potential to participate in a citational sequence of performativity. For instance, these videos perform gender in particular ways, but they also perform other things, such as intimacy. To approach ASMR videos as performances of intimacy is to analyze the ways in which intimacy as a concept is constructed and sustained through a series of everyday performances, and how that construct may be subverted by videos that perform intimacy differently.

I therefore argue that ASMR videos are intimate media, where intimacy emerges between ASMRtist and viewer-listener as well as between humans and machines. To this end, I have focused my analysis on the videos of one particular performer, Olivia Kissper, because her videos and her public statements on ASMR have indicated her interests in questions of intimacy, embodiment, and touch in digital spaces. My goal in this paper is to show how the ASMR performances of Olivia Kissper can help to elucidate the broader questions of embodiment, liveness, and presence that are central to conversations in performance studies and affect studies and which also, necessarily, pertain to digital media and Internet technology.

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In the preceding sections, I described what ASMR videos do , and outlined a set of analytic approaches drawn from performance studies and affect theory that can facilitate an analysis of this phenomenon. Therefore, I would like to return to the observation that the vocal majority of ASMRtists and their viewer-listeners perceive of this experience as an intensely pleasurable, physiological response that is nonetheless outside the dominant regime of sexuality. By working to reposition ASMR outside of the category of sexual fetish, the community attempts to destigmatize a practice that may otherwise be shunned as deviant or unhealthy sexual behavior.

That is to say, the problem at hand is not whether or not ASMR is sexual, but that pervasive definitions of sex pertain to a very narrow set of actions and gestures among a very narrow set of bodies that are bound to a very narrow set of morals. I argue that the consumption of ASMR videos constitutes a sexual practice, and that the connection between the ASMRtist, viewer-listener, and technological assemblage is a sexual relation, if we approach sex itself as an array of embodied practices defined by pleasure, intimacy, and care.

In what follows, through close readings of a sample of ASMR videos produced by Olivia Kissper, I hope to show how the elements of intimacy, pleasure, and care are deployed through the performances of the ASMRtist. I do not claim to achieve a universal description of what ASMR is for every body or, indeed, any body other than my own , but I hope to share rich descriptions of material objects that contain both representational optic, cerebral and performative haptic, embodied elements.

It is also important to note that despite the fact that these videos are not pornographic in the traditional sense, they are explicitly sensual. This is exemplified by the way in which the ASMRtist attempts to evoke the sensation of contact with the viewer-listener. ASMR is triggered not only by sound, but also by touch, and many ASMRtists strive to create perfect illusions of tactile sensation through the expert manipulation of visual and aural components.

She punctuates her speech with graceful, twirling hand movements, and she shows off her long fingers and perfectly groomed fingernails as she displays a wire head massager and taps on the different materials it is made of in order to display its texture.

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As a rule, ASMR videos deliberately engage with texture: if not of objects, then of the voice and the mouth, sibilance and saliva amplified sensuously through binaural recording. If all goes well, you will feel like Kissper really is touching, stroking, and caressing you, and the experience will trigger the tingles. The demand for this element of intimacy is even growing in porn, according to performer Ela Darling, whose website vrtube.

Mediated intimacy is at play in all ASMR videos in the sense that they are produced for personal use. The best ASMR videos that use binaural recording techniques must be listened to with headphones, which means that each individual among the hundreds of thousands of consumers of these performances experiences an intimate encounter with the ASMRtist. But that intimacy is even more amplified in role-play scenarios. Olivia is dressed casually in a plaid shirt, which is, not incidentally, unbuttoned rather low. She tells you she wants to braid you hair, but before she does that, she wants to.

It is clear that the intimacy you experience with Olivia is in multiple ways, and by definition, mediated — it is clear that the hair she is braiding is not yours, that you cannot actually touch the objects she is offering you, and that she would never recognize you if you met her walking down the street — but mediation does not necessarily imply inauthenticity. Dominic Pettman has suggested that love itself is a technology, and points to the fact that intimacy is often done better through digital simulation:.

I believe it is no coincidence that spa treatments and medical exams are the two most popular genres of ASMR role-play: both appeal to the pleasure of being cared for. Indeed, for Olivia, her videos are not just about producing pleasure for her audience, but also about healing them. You are then led through a complex scenario in which Olivia, as a virtual cyborg healer, examines you through your computer screen, and then leads you through a healing meditation involving trippy visual sequences and binaural beats intended to trigger different, relaxing brain wave states. This video is quite different from the typical ASMR video in that it is less about stimulating particular senses or simulating particular experiences, and much closer to the abstraction of meditation exercises.

But although Olivia advocates for the alternative healing qualities of ASMR, her most popular videos are still about spas and medical offices, not Tai chi, palm reading, or ayahuasca, although she does have videos on all of those topics. But although our doctors and aestheticians may know our bodies more intimately than most people in our lives, they are still considered strangers, and interactions with them must therefore follow strict protocol, particularly regarding sexual encounters. We may not articulate the pleasures we enjoy at the doctor or the salon because sexuality is understood as necessarily genital, and definitively relegated to specific relationships only.

In such mediated intimacies, the mediation becomes facilitation, as the streaming video, sound and image enable rather than interfere with our contact with the performer, regardless of where we happen to be in space and time. Sound plays a central role in facilitating this contact. Pettman mused on ASMR as an interesting case study to probe the question of why there is no particular erotics of sound in contemporary Western society and how sexuality continues to be dominated by the scopic regime.

Pettman thus highlighted the queer potentiality of the sonic pleasures of ASMR while noting the tension with their representational elements in video. This point of tension is of key interest to me, as it shows how ASMR videos — which produce specialized sounds and images — must be analyzed from multiple perspectives, including the symbolic and discursive. I tried to read Hogg before. I was reading it and then I gave up reading books for a while, but I want to finish it. This is the second book in a trilogy about a legendary hero telling the story of how he became a hero.

It seems like pretty straightforward fantasy writing so far. I'm sort of losing interest in it. Prose Home Harriet Blog. Visit Home Events Exhibitions Library. Newsletter Subscribe Give.

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