I decided it’s time to make a move. I mean, how could I be an early adopter if I don’t have the guts to dive in deep? Equipped with my cool brand new iPhone 12 mini, my fingers shook when I pressed the raising hand emoji button. In my head I’m already planning my arguments, fragments of claims and ideas I want to share on the subject, but frankly, it’s a subject I don’t really master in. I mean, politics, is something everybody is not quite a master, right? So I was doing room hoping for a couple of days, going in and out of discussions on a variety of hypothetical and relevant topics to daily life: how drones will make obsolete the role Walt delivery guys, how to make eggplant in the oven, and why grasshopper diet is the hip diet for 2021. Right now, everything sounds like white noise to me. I remembered myself when I was a 5 year old, standing next to my late grandmother’s apron and folding the dough of the carp, listening to an endless sequence of political commentators on the radio. Lots of babbling important words, yet I understood nothing that was said. This is how I feel about clubhouse, for now.

In this post I will share insights that came to mind following the (passive, it should be noted) use of the app “clubhouse” lately. I Hope to be proactive and open a room soon, when I feel confident enough that I really have something to say.

 As with any social network it seems that at first there is some diversity and inclusion that evaporates  over time, as the algorithm refines and gathers us into a particular bubble shaped by our particular taste, thus giving us more of the same. For now, it’s still possible to meet people from other worlds, on different levels, hierarchy, professions and languages, but that may change as time goes on. 

Sometimes social networks can get a niche domain, maybe Clubhouse will evolve to be a network of – a certain genre of people, who knows. Just as Twitter is considered a network of publicists, Twitch is the space of gamers, and for those who remember MySpace, a social network of musicians. Trends of social networks, they come and go, you know. 

By the way, the only social network I am consistent in using, is Strava. You will find a link to my profile in this websites’ footer. There is something convenient about using Strava because the process is almost automatic – I turn on my garmin watch before training, after training I upload some pix, and that’s it. This simplicity may be also the secret of Instagram and Twitter. You can settle for one picture and close the deal. You can tweet 2-3 words and bounce up the markets (hey, Elon Musk!). Common to Twitter and Instagram, and different from Clubhouse, as of this moment, is the sensory focus required of us users.
What is the main sense we are required to use in order to get the “content”? (I hate that word, but that’s for another post) … Most of the time, our eyes are focused on the screen, reading texts or pictures. In Clubhouse, the screen has a minimalist design, and there is nothing really interesting to it. The focus is on the ears. This social network asks us to listen. Leave the screen, Join the conversation. Talk, and mostly, listen.

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So why does listening via Clubhouse replace chatting/ commenting as the current trend? 

In multi-tasking, listening to content is often seen as a productive act, as opposed to staring at a screen on visuals and texts. What did you do while being stuck in traffic, waiting in line, running on the treadmill, waiting in the car for you kids to come back from afternoon class? You were listening to a podcast, an audiobook, a motivational lecture on Ted. You did not waste time, but optimally utilized all your senses, you spent the time proactive and productive.

In contrast, scrolling through the visual feed of social networks is often considered as a waste of time. Don’t you get caught scrolling Instagram / Facebook while at work.

A global pandemic leaves people at home, and that could imply – fewer traffic waiting,less office hours and more self accountability for time management. The obvious conclusion is that there is an increase in focusing on one task rather than multi-tasking. Does Clubhouse have this potential to encourage us to focus for a moment – to stop, and focus? 

Moreover, written text is a “one dimensional”  medium that flattens the message. when reading a text everyone “sounds” the same, you only hear the tone voice of the reader, you imagine the tone and that could reflect to the meaning of the message. how ever, in audio – a phone call, a podcast, a clubhouse call, a recording, all of these -you hear the speaker’s feelings – the smile, the excitement, the pressure, the enthusiasm, you get to taste a bit of the culture through the language and those “filler words” , the stuttering, the silences and the thought gap. Audio is richer than the written text, and therefore also allows for more complex messages.

So I’ll ask here, and would love to get to a debate with you this: Who really holds the power?

In fact, this question has been asked since the early days of television and radio, scholars and researchers have been discussing it, and have yet to come to one definite conclusion. 

Is the power in the hands of those who design the application, those who create the platform, those who program the algorithm? They determine the features that the platform offers, design the interface, assign buttons in a desired structure, that can promote users to engagement, and “educate” them on how to use the technology. The social media algorithm (on FB or any other “feed”) that reveals certain content and hides content, has infinite parameters that we are unaware of, can’t understand how the cherry picking and editing is being made, and the debate currently taking place on this algorithm is already at a constitutional regulatory level.

On the other hand, one of the leading theories in the field of technology and communication research is SCOT – Social Construction Of Technology. According to this approach, in order to understand what technology is adopted or rejected by users, one needs to understand social construction. If so, it can be said that users have considerable choice and the ability to manipulate the use of technology. Users are the ones who decide whether to adopt a platform / technology, how to use it, when, what content to upload to it, who to share with, and in what way. Users are not as passive as one might think, rather they get the tools to create whatever they want. In one of the Clubhouse rooms I heard about a particularly creative guy who built a mobile app using WIX, which is a  no code web design platform for users with limited technology orientation. Thus we can conclude that any social network or technology gives us “users” Lego bricks, which we can create and build with whatever we want. 

What users will do with Clubhouse? I can only imagine. Maybe tomorrow a karaoke session will start, role-playing games, various challenges, who knows? It could be in-depth conversations about superfood and female empowerment, debates on climate change, joint meditation rooms or porn and groaning synthesized with hardcore techno beats. Look me up I’m @bidish at Clubhouse.

Just one more thing, which I have not yet had the opportunity to explore in depth. After listening to a lot of talking, whether it’s a podcast or a Ted talk or a radio or debate in Clubhouse, I put a David Bowie song on Spotify. I noticed, and please tell me I’m not the only one with this, that after a long talk session, the music gets deeper, has more depths and weight, the sounds become more powerful to the ear. Try it too, tell me how it feels.

Bidi Sh.
The Running Nomad

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