What do creators and viewers owe each other? Microcelebrity, reciprocity, and transactional tingles in the ASMR YouTube community
Keywords:ASMR, YouTube, Microcelebrity, Crowdfunding, Patreon, Transactional tingles, Art Patronage, Reciprocity, Attention Economy
ASMR has skyrocketed to international popularity in recent years, and a thriving community and cultural exists around the phenomenon on YouTube. However, misunderstandings about the practice persist, and little is known about this community in terms of its texts and practices. This research draws on a multiyear digital ethnography into the ASMR culture and community on YouTube, where I analyze how microcelebrity, the attention economy, platform-specific dynamics, and content creation merge. Drawing on extant research that identifies reciprocity as a key cultural dynamic on YouTube, I argue reciprocity in the ASMR YouTube community, as well as the relationship between creator and viewer, can best be understood as transactional tingles: relaxation in exchange for likes, clicks, and views within the attention economy. Transactional tingles is also a contemporary blending of more traditional art patronage and dealer-critic systems, which offers insights into the role viewers and platforms play in content creation, digital labor, and precarity.
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