Femme, Informal Workers in ASMR
Millions of people are watching YouTube videos where beautiful women caress the camera, crinkle make-up bags, scratch hairbrush bristles, and whisper in soft, breathy voices, among a plethora of other activities. The goal? To elicit a tingly and relaxed feeling in the viewer, otherwise known as the physical sensation “ASMR.” ASMR is a relatively new online community, with videos first gaining mainstream popularity on YouTube around 2013. Several research studies question why viewers consume ASMR content, with viewers reporting the videos primarily function as a relaxation tool and sleep aid. This project delves into the other side of the camera, in an attempt to understand how video producers are situated in an informal, digital labor market. Besides generating tingles, they are generating money — trading on their performances of femininity and parasocial relationships with their audience to monetize their content. Through email interviews with YouTude producers and analysis of ASMR content, this project examines the role of femininity, work, and construction of self in the YouTube ASMR community.