This is the era of always-on computing: our devices (from our smartphones and watches to our tablets and computers) keep us perpetually online. This smart and insightful video essay produced by the Media and Design Studio at Northwestern University takes a long look at how we both crave that constant connection, and how we cope with the adverse effects of it.


Our smartphone culture has given rise to many new forms of (networked) communication and expression. James J. Hodge, writer and presenter of this video, examines four of those in particular: the ubiquitous selfie, animated GIFs, supercuts, and ASMR videos. He argues that these genres all transcend the virtual. GIFS, selfies and supercuts are more than mere visuals, ASMR videos more than auditory stimulants: each and all of these also relate to touch. Not only in that they keep us in touch with physical reality, but also in the way they require tactile interaction with our devices, and how they offer haptic ways of dealing with the sensory overload that is the internet.


Hodge’s pertinent writing and the not showy but illuminating visuals of director and editor C.A. Davis, result in a video that is never technophobic. Instead, it convincingly demonstrates ways in which these technologies and genres can be self-healing, or can give rise to new and emancipatory opportunities.