Dr. Diego Garro is a Senior Lecturer at Keele University in the United Kingdom. He has a BSc in Electronic Engineering, an MSc in Digital Music Technology, an MA in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education and a PhD in Composition.
In 2015, I interviewed Dr. Garro about his translated summary of Alejandro Navarro Expósito’s Spanish-language dissertation, “Neuropsychological and neurophysiological characterization of ASMR”.
Dr. Garro has continued his interest in ASMR by writing a paper titled, “ASMR – from internet subculture to audiovisual therapy” and presenting it at the 2017 Electronic Visualization and the Arts conference in London.
In my interview with Dr. Garro he shares how he became interested in studying ASMR, the goals of his paper, reactions to his conference presentation, and tips for others doing ASMR presentations.
Below are my questions in bold, his replies in italics, and links to learn more about him, his paper, and his additional video projects.
How did you become interested in studying ASMR?
I was captivated by the discussions on the sensory aspect of ASMR, which I experienced myself since childhood. But soon enough I started looking at the creative aspect of it; I thought ASMRtists were doing a terrific job and the type of communication established within the community was truly fascinating.
I approached ASMR from the point of view of a digital media artist. Composers in the field of Sonic Arts, such as myself, are obsessed with the way you can take an audience through a journey through time using and articulating emotions with sounds or music or both. As a composer I was very much interested in the way ASMRtists seem to be able to slow down time (!!), and millions of people seem to want just that.
You recently wrote a paper titled, “ASMR – from internet subculture to audiovisual therapy”, how would your summarize your single major goal with this paper?
The goal with this paper was to introduce a few aspects of ASMR which I have researched into and intend to research further.
How would you summarize your specific goals for the paper?
I’ll mention just two.
The therapeutic aspect of ASMR is extremely interesting. I am not even sure content creators themselves are fully aware of the revolution they started; ASMR is a vehicle to psychological, counseling, empowering, all of that on a massive scale, and truly popular, in the sense that it is made by people, for other people. To me this is an amazing collective display of compassion and altruism, the desire of reaching together some sort of wellbeing.
The analysis of the microphone as a ‘fetish’ in the ASMR community is something I like to study, because I am primarily a sound artist and I use the microphone as a magnifying glass into a world of fascinating, microscopic sounds… like ASMR!
Which aspects of the paper do you think a reader will find the most interesting?
It depends what the reader is looking for. There is a reflection on the diluted experience of time through ASMR, and in there I looked at works by MassageASMR and Ephemeral Rift.
There is also a brief overview of the current state of research on ASMR, the neurology, the psychology, the sociology, the anthropology… readers can look at that summary, check out the references and study more if they so wish.
What single aspect or achievement of the paper are you most proud of?
I think it is important to have a paper like that published in a peer-reviewed academic journal. It pops up on searches carried out by students and researchers worldwide and I think it is important that ASMR is looked at from different angles because it is a complex phenomenon involving the various aspects I discuss in the paper, and many more.
What resources helped you write your paper, and did you have any challenges during the writing process?
I used a number of academic journals to find out what aspects of ASMR other researchers have studied so far. I also used your ASMR University website as a reference source for the history timeline and even to playback your reading of the famous ‘Whisper 1 – Hello!’ during the conference in London.
But I used first and foremost YouTube as a primary source of the material I was analysing. The biggest challenge is to pitch articles and presentations in such a way that they clearly come across as rigorous pieces of research, rather than fanzine articles or blogs. There is nothing wrong with fanzines and blogs, obviously, but … I am a scholar who is paid to carry out academic research so that is what I do!
Another challenge is to prevent the misconception ASMR = sexual stimulation; the danger of uninformed (or ill-informed) people making that parallel is always there…
You also presented this paper at the Electronic Visualization and the Arts conference in London. What methods and tools did you use to convey the message in your paper to a live audience?
I used the presentation techniques I adopt in my teaching of audio and video arts at University (I think after 17 years in this job I got pretty good at it!). I used a multi-media presentation with projections and stereophonic audio. My presentations always include little in terms of words (I deliver the words with my speech!) and include a lot in terms of images, videos and sound.
What kind of reactions and feedback to you received about your presentation?
I always poll my audiences at the beginning of a class. Predictably, only very few are familiar with ASMR. Most people don’t know anything about it. A few think they know but they don’t (they only know the sexy reading of it relayed by some mainstream media features).
Therefore, the reaction I get varies between genuine interest and bemusement. The difficulty is that it becomes very clear, very quickly during a presentation, that intimacy (in the sense of closeness and openness) is an important dimension of ASMR culture, and some audiences (especially erudite ones) find somewhat uncomfortable addressing it in a public forum.
What advice or tips would you give to others giving an ASMR presentation to a live audience?
Prepare! Poll your audience and find out how many people are familiar with it. Choose examples (there are millions on YouTube!) carefully depending on the points you are trying to make.
Explain that if 15 million people tune in to watch and listen to a person whispering into a microphone you cannot dismiss it as trivial and ephemeral; there is something important going on in there.
Be prepared to be challenged on the ASMR = sex thing and do not be too militant and defensive about it, as there is undeniably a minority of ASMRtists and ASMRers who are ambivalent (to say the least) about the sexuality aspect.
Do you have any additional ASMR papers, presentations, or projects on your horizon?
I am interested in branching out with other papers and presentations on ASMR to audiences in the Medical Humanities academic circles. I think they may be sensitive to the topic and the particular way I approach it.
Furthermore, I have just started an experimental project as content creator in which I will try to incorporate ASMR content in a… slightly unusual fashion. I do not wish to give away too much about it at this stage; you will have to wait and see!
Read Dr. Garro’s paper and learn more about him and his projects:
- Paper: http://ewic.bcs.org/upload/pdf/ewic_eva17_ia_paper2.pdf
- Profile : http://www.keele.ac.uk/music/people/diegogarro/
- Video channel:
- Vobis ASMR project:
Click the links below to learn more about ASMR research:
- Tips: How to be an ASMR researcher.
- Insight: Interviews with ASMR researchers.
- Browse: ASMR research and publications.
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