'Safe and sound'
What technologically-mediated ASMR is capable of through sound
Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, colloquially known as ASMR, is the name of a physiological sensory reaction today most commonly found on YouTube as a video phenomenon in which auditory and visual triggers are created in order to cause a relaxing, tingling sensation in the audience. Relatively little research has examined ASMR. This article combines media and sound studies in providing a theoretical framework for understanding what technologically-mediated ASMR is – and is capable of – through sound in particular. To do so, I suggest ‘para-haptic interaction’ as a theoretical elaboration of the term ‘para-social relation’ as coined by Horton and Wohl in 1956, adding to it the concepts of ‘social audio-grooming’ and ‘telepresence’ in order to argue that ASMR can be felt as ‘haptic’ in more than one sense – physically as well as imagined through sonically binaural qualities and narratives (role-plays) supported by sound, vibrations and image. Throughout the article, the theoretical and analytic arguments will be supported by an illustrative sample of ASMR videos on YouTube.
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