Why I am not that enthusiastic about social audio

I am largely not too optimistic about what is being called social audio - Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces, and the upcoming Facebook Audio Rooms.

One of the reasons behind this is that the ongoing "boom" is not something we have not seen before. A thing gets a little attention, Silicon Valley pours money into it, multiple companies copy it, and then it withers away in a few years because people got bored.

The other reason is that it has been my experience that any platform that comes with the promise of "democratising" a medium (audio in this case) is only months away from becoming a wasteland full of pea-brained trolls and malicious hate mongers. This happened to Quora which is now little more than a large pile of garbage being made bigger mostly by insufferable fake IITians and other assorted propagandists. I can therefore totally see a future where Twitter Spaces becomes a breeding ground for hate armies of tomorrow. If Twitter does not make clear from the beginning that the free-for-all culture that caused its main function - tweeting - to become a vehicle for fascists worldwide, will not be allowed to thrive on Spaces, the tool will bring us a new version of the same old doom soon.

Clubhouse is right now invite-only. But I am reasonably certain that the moment it becomes available to the general public, it too will be overrun by White Supremacists and racists and incels.

For some time now, I have not been a huge fan of the sentiment that was one of the internet's original promises - giving EVERYONE a voice. I think free expression needs fair environments in order to thrive. If individuals and brands and organisations do not make conscious attempts to discourage death mobs, then this so-called social audio revolution will end in the same kind of tears that have drowned us so many times before.

Is it all bad on the social audio front?

My problem is not with the tech aspect of social audio. It works fine in that department. My concerns are more about our oblivious attitudes towards the social repercussions of new technologies.

Having said that, I am reminded of what microblogging did to blogging back in the 2010s. Blogging was easy. Microblogging was easier. Blogging required you to know only basic HTML. Microblogging didn't even require that. Some people used to blog seriously about serious matters using serious prose. Others blogged about everyday inanities and cats and babies.

When microblogging in the form of Twitter came along, the inanities left the blogosphere. Twitter became home to the casual crowd. The serious ones stayed on their blogs and eventually grew their blogs into full-fledged websites and companies. The coming of microblogging effectively acted as a filter that separated potential media companies from people who just wanted to have fun.

Social audio may do this to podcasts. Podcasts have a reputation of being little more than one of those "me and my buddies chilling and talking about whatever we like". But there is much in them that does not get ready recognition - audiodrama, news analysis shows, improv audio fiction, music. Perhaps social audio can filter out the casual stuff and make it possible for other podcasts to get a better share of the limelight.

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