Diana Lengua (She/They) is a Ph.D. student at the University of Essex. Her research focuses on the analysis of the concept of immersion within the new technological landscape. She holds an MA in Philosophy from the University of Milan and an MA in Culture Industry from Goldsmith University of London. Currently, she is working on Human-Computer Interaction, embodied internet, and situated experiences in virtual spaces. In 2019 she co-founded CONTRA/DIZIONI, a three-year conference program on contemporary feminist-queer philosophical perspectives at the University of Milan.
Website and Links: https://www.instagram.com/zombiexena/
Rapidly progressing towards a realm in which our perceptual actions assume the form of substantial datasets of technological significance, we are intricately connected to the virtual in an incrementally synesthetic manner, a convergence of auditory, tactile, and visual stimuli. This experience, while evoking sensations of a sexual nature, does not wholly fulfill the sensual realm. In the case of Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR), the binaural beats generated by influencers become a spatial consumption, constituting the perceived space —the third simulated sound— an amalgamation of perceptions. It emerges as the result of a computation derived from the perceiver's impression, an iterative simulation. Where the introduction of biometric laws within the domain of social networks will supersede what we once believed to be our past psychographic scandal, embracing the spectre of misophonia appears as a political solution to the colonisation and exploitation of our perception.
It was during research on sensory prosthetics at MIT that Robert Wiener began prototyping the hearing glove as a device for turning speech into vibrations, comprehensible to deaf people, based on the assumption of the possibility to exploit unoccupied channels of the nervous system and therefore develop a new way of perceiving. In "Some problems in sensory prosynthesis" Wiesner, J., N. Wiener, and L. Levine proclaimed the importance of investigating the presence of any unused channels in the human nervous system capable of supplying the whole or any part of what is lost of the sensory. Hearing gloves were an attempt not to resimulate hearing but to shift the function of hearing to other senses and to export cognitive functions to external technology by imagining an autonomous form of perception capable of producing new kinds of experience. Cybernetics has attempted to tackle the subject of perception by considering it as the potential for normative colonisation of the remaining untapped brain channels.
We have not strayed so far from the idea of exponential technological progress that disciplined research into prosthetic objects capable of giving rise to new ways of perceiving, as we contemplate Apple's latest keynote (Here. Anno Domini 2023). Amidst the landscape of unfulfilled broken metaverse ambitions, enigmatic start-up acquisitions, and an ongoing cycle of mundane -but always the same- virtual reality headset designs, there is a space that I would call the emergence of a series of new perceptual acts. A technique of the percipient that expands from synesthetic and paraesthesic engagement with the digital to the use of electromyography, Neural Radiance Fields (NeRF) up to the establishment of computational and neural spaces autonomous from human agency. New perceptual acts are intended here as an outflow from intentional cognitive activity in a spectrum that falls from what has been defined by Katherine Hayles as cognitive nonconscious. This expansion of perceptual modalities can become the norm that underlies the development of immersive technologies, shaping how we interact and engage with digital environments. The development of computational and neural spaces autonomous from human agency introduces the possibility to speak about different perceptual acts. So, while these technologies offer novel and engaging experiences, they also raise questions about privacy, autonomy, and the commodification of human experiences. Increasing immersive media transparency leads us to consider nonconscious perception as the possible interaction with the digital, a collapse of sensory exchange in which simulation will continue to exist only as stimulation.
How to think about technologically advanced synesthesia in light of the emergence of various cognitively nonconscious perceptual structures, and how can these underlie interactions with virtual technologies? How can we, at the same time, synaesthetically and paraesthetically resist the exploitation of new techniques of perception?
Through the speculative exploration of the Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, a perceptual act originated, established, and defined precisely in its specific virtual and technological mode, I will expose the strategy of sensitive interaction that uses audiovisual recording equipment to generate for viewers a physiological impression comparable to touch. A practice of digital stimulation that appeared on Youtube when the internet began to be populated with videos featuring 'influencers' adept at stimulating our haptic abilities, capable of arousing the same sensations that touch stimulates over almost infinite temporal and spatial distances. Interesting to note how ASMR is later defined by the scientific production of knowledge as a potential antidote to contemporary and digitally enhanced perceptual stress, describing it in terms of: deep relaxation, positive sensory arousal, euphoria, health, and mental well-being, More Than a Feeling, like taking sleeping pills. These terms from the disparate qualitative definitions will provide the basis for speculative research into the possible perceptual activities between humans and nonhumans, particularly in areas we commonly define as virtual and immersive.
Finally, the text (or me) is seeking to articulate a PARA-Misophonic resistance. Misophonia is a disorder of decreased tolerance to specific sounds or their associated stimuli or cues, a specific condition that interrupts mediated enjoyment and can be seen as the possibility of rejecting full perceptual consonance with virtual contents. Suppose the readjustment and colonisation of "brain free channels" and the refusal of sensory adherence is a political strategy.
This research is intended to serve as a trigger point for PARA-misophonic resistance as we scroll through the TikTok feed, seeking solace and sleep in ASMR videos on our little backlit screen at three in the morning, indulging in a mindless retreat into synesthesia.