Buffering, namely the need to preload data before streaming a video or audio file, epitomizes the oft-ignored ruptures and disruptions of digital engagement. Whereas buffering is often read as “noise” or as a technical nuisance awaiting a solution, a closer look can challenge our notion of mediation, immersion, and control. By contextualizing the study of buffering within a rich history of spectatorial and sonic noise, this article explores the unique “perpetual anxiety” it invokes and exposes, as well as the tension between pleasure and pain embodied in recognizing the imperfections of a supposedly seamless techno-utopia.


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