ASMR as a New Intimacy Practice / ASMR als neue Intimitätspraxis

Projektleiterin: Dr. Joanna Łapińska
Co-Projektleiterin: Univ.-Prof. Dr. Lisa Gotto
Laufzeit: 01.10.2021 - 31.03.2024
Fördergeber: FWF (Lise Meitner)

The most popular videos on this topic have over 60 million views on YouTube. The term ranks fourth in the classification of the most searched phrases on this platform. The aesthetics of this phenomenon was used in the marketing activities of the largest global brands such as KFC, Pepsi, Zippo and IKEA. Evidently, we are talking about ASMR, which has been successfully conquering the digital world for several years.

ASMR, or “Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response”, is a physical phenomenon of a very specific sensation of tingling beginning within the skull and then gently moving into the neck area and down towards spine. It can also affect the entire body, passing through it like a pleasant shiver. Until recently ASMR was treated as a sleeping aid and discussed only in a few forums by a narrow group of amateurs. Currently, the published videos, in which the artists try to evoke a tingling sensation in the viewers, rhythmically tapping various objects, stroking rough surfaces, combing hair with a brush or playing a scene of a visit to a doctor, are breaking popularity records.

Today, cultural meanings of ASMR require more attention from researchers. Existing studies focus mainly on the therapeutic use of ASMR or its psychological implications. ASMR understood as a cultural phenomenon or a new genre of media art is rarely explored. The aim of the project is to investigate what exactly is the cultural phenomenon known as ASMR and what the growing interest in this practice may show in the context of contemporary changes in human intimacy practices. It seems that ASMR in its intention contributes to building new practices of intimacy, in which both the artist-creator of ASMR and the viewer of the performance, as well as the technical equipment (cameras, microphones) take an active part.

In order to answer these questions in detail, it is necessary to look at the ASMR phenomenon from various perspectives and place it in various contexts. As part of the project, a multi-faceted analysis of a wide body of media messages and ASMR artistic practices published on YouTube will be carried out. For example, the project will ask about the historical contexts of ASMR to see what previous artistic activities inspired the creation of ASMR and why. It will also seek to answer other questions. Can ASMR be considered a new music genre or a new genre of post-cinema? How does ASMR address gender roles? What kinds of affects circulate in the space between the artists and the viewers? Why is ASMR particularly fond of science fiction aesthetics? Has sleep been thanks to ASMR irretrievably transformed from the last bastion of intimacy and privacy into a manageable commodity? And finally, what is inherently “new” about this new practice of intimacy?