Feeling like a blob: Slime videos and digital affective economies

15:30, Thursday 6 May 2021 (30 minutes)
Joshua Marquis, Simon Fraser University, Canada

Slime is a substance produced in the combination of liquid glue and boron compounds - typically in the form of a solution of Borax and water, or what slimers call “activator.” Since late 2016, videos depicting the production and manipulation of slime went viral - particularly on digital moving image social media platforms Instagram and YouTube. This paper will contextualize slime videos historically and aesthetically in relation to ASMR videos and “The Oddly Satisfying” two Internet video micro-genres that also circulate on Instagram and YouTube, and focus on the production of particular feelings or sensations within viewer’s bodies. But while some ASMR or oddly satisfying videos focus on specific materials, like kinetic sand or bar soap, no other material within either genre has seen the same level of online popularity as slime, nor have any had the same impact offline as well, suggesting there is something distinct about slime’s particular qualities and capacities that make it especially well suited for digital audiovisual media content and circulation. This paper considers slime videos through sensation and affect in order to suggest that they produce forms of embodied mimesis with the substance beheld, offering a radical mode of disorganizing the body and its sense organs. However, this experience has emerged from and been put to work in an economy that is eager to extract information from sensation, thereby reorganizing the body according to its affective capacities.

Simon Fraser University