Eliza Brooke wrote a great, surprisingly deep report on the YouTube trend of “ambience rooms” for the New York Times. These are subtly animated, atmospheric, hours-long videos with themes like “RAINY DAY COFFEE SHOP AMBIENCE”:
Here’s one of a Sherlock Holmes-era parlor:
And 10 hours of “living room spaceship” traveling through infinity (this one would scare me more than soothe me, I think):
The Times piece explores how the ambience videos are used as a form of escapism, to make a space feel a little different after being stuck at home during quarantine for a full year, but also as a kind of anti-anxiety self-care. They’re like an imagination aid: It’s even easier to pretend you’re somewhere else, or someone else, far from your current worries.
The videos are also an interesting variation on the idea of contentless content: They’re meant to be non-narrative, not exciting or suspenseful, just a consistent, stable mood with minimum variation. “Ambience” in this case can be another word for “vibe,” the collision of a few disparate aesthetic elements into a coherent, identifiable whole, like a misty carriage ride through the woods or nighttime tea by the fire. Choosing one feels like picking your favorite color or outfit: Personal and private, a reflection of your identity. — By Kyle Chayka