It was only a short while after Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876 that people started to wonder if the whole “talking to each other” thing was really such a good idea. “It is my heart-warmed and world-embracing Christmas hope and aspiration that all of us, the high, the low, the rich, the poor, the admired, the despised, the loved, the hated, the civilized, the savage … may eventually be gathered together in a heaven of everlasting rest and peace and bliss,” Mark Twain wrote in an 1890, “except the inventor of the telephone.”

Nearly 150 years later, speaking to people who aren’t in the same room as you continues to be a deeply annoying expectation of modern life. Blessedly, we’ve made great strides to remedy this over the years: Text messaging enables us to basically never use our phones as actual phones, and many of us carry out the majority of our workplace conversations through Slack emojis. We can pick the “chat” button when we’re trying to reach customer service. We can even IM our doctors.

Which is why it is absolutely infuriating that the hottest thing in tech right now is inventing new ways to talk orally to each other.

I don’t mean Zoom or Skype or Google Hangouts, all of which are video services that have served as janky replacements for speaking to each other in person throughout the pandemic. I really have nothing against Zoom at all, aside from the fact that it makes it difficult to make meaningful eye-contact with your friends when someone on the call says something wild, without everyone else immediately catching on. No, my bone to pick is with Clubhouse — the newish audio-based social media app that essentially functions like a massive conference call of strangers — and its assorted and increasingly abundant imitators, including Slack, LinkedIn, Fireside, Spotify, and potentially Facebook.

Tech companies and Elon Musk are constantly inventing things that already exist, including, but not limited to, buses, bus stops, subways, food, roommates, and vending machines. Clubhouse more or less “invented” old-fashion party lines by allowing users to consensually eavesdrop on conversations between famous people, celebrities, and other minor personalities, and occasionally also contribute by virtually “raising their hand” to speak. John Durham Peters, an expert on the history of communication, told the great Silicon Valley observer Anna Wiener

Source:: The Week – Tech


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Clubhouse, Spotify, and the invention of talking

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