Clubhouse and the Audio Revolution of Social Networking
I recently changed my profile picture on Facebook to a picture that says ‘I Am Not On Messenger’. I’m not a huge fan of communicating with friends by typing in silence surrounded by ads. In fact, I want to turn my eyes off after a year full of screen time, but also because I am passionate about sound.
It seems that visuals are everything in social networking. Whether it’s a still image or a moving image, not many platforms have encouraged us to listen or use our voices much. And the surge in subtitles means we never really have to unmute those talking heads in our feeds. And it’s hard to share sound. For example, Facebook gives you eight options in a standard post.
There’s no option to just post a sound recording natively in Facebook.
And this is why Clubhouse is the freshest breath of fresh air in social networking for years. Clubhouse’s uniqueness is founded in the value of sound.
No more never-ending eye-candy on screens. Just human voices with their unique, complex, beautiful personalities. This is the first step of Zuckerberg’s awkward, socially inept teenage platform, finally being overtaken by the rich soul of a fully grown human being.
Maybe we don’t need to sit typing in the shadows of silence anymore? Maybe we’re ready to switch ‘unmute’, use our voice and listen to the others?
If you’re a fan of The Beatles, you may know that every interview Lennon gave about listening to Chuck Berry and Rock ‘n Roll, he also talked about how influential the BBC Radio drama The Goon Show was. The Beatles were listening to a lot of spoken word as well as music when they were honing their craft. And their appreciation for those sounds also came from a fear of missing out, since there wasn’t an option to record or catch-up later. It taught them to value not just music, but sound itself. It unlocked their collective imagination.
Like theatre, we value real-time once in a lifetime experiences on a deep human level that’s doesn’t happen so easily with the touch of a screen. The experience lives on within us, not in content that’s been harvested, reproduced and sold back to us. Clubhouse also has this feature. It’s real-time.I really hope that continues and doesn’t develop a ‘catch up’ function.
The 2010's were all about creating content. The 2020’s should be about creating experiences. The richest content is the content that needs no storage space.
The sonic space is often the best tool to incentivise our creativity. We’re all making things. Or we are all trying to make the things we imagine. But we also need something to trigger it into action.
Audio stimulates our own imagination differently to visuals. Naturally, it’s not an either/or situation, but it’s high time that Brother image stood aside to give Sister Sound centre stage.
With Douglas Rushkoff
Tim Arnold in conversation with Douglas Rushkoff, author and documentarian who studies human autonomy in a digital age…
Douglas Rushkoff is the godfather of bringing humanity into the digital realm, and certainly no one else is more optimistic and rational when it comes to understanding our relationship with tech. If you started thinking critically about human behaviour and tech when you saw the film The Social Dilemma, then it’s a prerequisite that you read Douglas’s book Team Human. His game-changing labour of literary love laid all the groundwork for that film.
When I spoke to Douglas on my podcast, he spoke about the power of sound:
“TV and screens separate us from the thing that is being broadcast. It helps us to see someone else’s vision. Which is great. In contrast, ‘sound’ projects the thing that is being broadcast into our own imagination. Into our ‘inner screen’ you might say, and on our own imaginary stage where we place the characters and the action.”
What he says is vital in the way we have been taught to silently communicate with each other on archaic platforms like Facebook for the last 18 years. We’ve been subjected to someone else’s vision, with very little to stimulate our own imagination and creative yearnings.
Our Inner Screen needs recharging.
Texting and messaging on social networking platforms feels convenient. But convenience has never been a useful ally for creativity. There is nothing more beautiful than the perfect imperfect sound of an individual human voice. The vulnerability, the tone, the boldness, the timbre and yes, the music that surfaces from listening to full blown sentences, paragraphs and story. Most of all, no one is editing or filtering themselves in a live conversation.
Speaking in real time is a beautifully messy ‘warts and all’ human showcase.
In Sherry Turkle’s book ‘Alone Together’ she provides extensive evidence that show the decline of our willingness to talk on the phone. I’ve noticed this with good friends who’d rather text or use messenger.
It’s positively Victorian. Be seen and not heard. But we’re not robots. The way our hearts energise our words with sound is more advanced than that.
Clubhouse feels like an opportunity for one of humanity’s most beguiling and beautiful instruments to begin flexing it’s muscles again. It heralds social media’s first steps into adulthood, with real promise to fuse creativity with community by using the celestial human superpower that is sound. I still feel the greatest technology is the one that comes pre-made, deep inside ourselves. Clubhouse has the potential to unleash that.
The devices and apps we keep inventing are tools, not rules.
WE are the technology, and the human voice powers that technology. Facebook is now a robot I have mostly left behind, adrift in it’s sea of shark like algorithms. We just didn’t get along. I’m with the humans. I’m on Clubhouse and you can find me here. I hope to hear your voice soon!
Tim Arnold, London 16th March 2021