Does ASMR translate to public spaces?

A new exhibition at London’s Design Museum brings the internet phenomenon into a physical setting. We look at how effective it is, how the pandemic changes the proposition and what brands stand to gain

In 2010, Jennifer L. Allen finally coined a term for the sensation that people have long experienced but rarely been able to sum up: Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. It takes many forms, from spine-tingling enjoyment to a state of deep calm, and can be triggered by any of our senses.

Excerpts from Allen’s personal archive are displayed at ASMR: Weird Sensation Feels Good, a new exhibition at London’s Design Museum that peels the lid off the internet sensation under the glaring lights of a museum space. The exhibition name comes from the title of forum post, Weird Sensation Feels Good, that Allen discovered back in 2009, before anyone had really formulated this experience into a concrete definition or framework. The person who wrote the post described a particular sensation in response to various stimuli, like having a story read to them, or the feeling of someone drawing on the palm of their hand.

“However, if the cultural movement and the creative field is little over a decade old, the thing itself is ancient,” says guest curator James Taylor-Foster, who works at Swedish institution ArkDes as its curator of architecture and design. “The thing itself is almost primeval. It speaks to softness, it speaks to intimacy, it speaks to slowness and gentleness, and these are, I think, all core things we’re looking for in our own individual ways, one way or another. So the way I like to position it is ASMR is this very human thing, which over the last decade has been transformed, almost out of nowhere, as a child of the internet into a movement that now [is] a site of imagination, a creative field, that’s still growing.”

 

DESIGN PRODUCER

LONDON/HYBRID

DESIGNER

LONDON