[Coverstory] A Brand-New Network with a Splendid Veil

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We have deep roots in the digital environment; toddling and typing were our first significant lifetime tasks. After completing these jobs, we learned how to jump and create our ID. This is why the generation born after 1980 is called ‘digital natives.’ Digital natives grew up surrounded by countless digital equipment, and they are acknowledged explorers of the digital world. The Internet also advanced with the digital natives, and SNS emerged. SNS, short for Social Networking Service, pioneered a new way to communicate and share information. The first SNS ‘SixDegrees.com’ existed for only four years from 1997, but it presented a concept of SNS based on the six degrees of separation. A Hungarian author Frigyes Karinthy introduced ‘six degrees of separation’ in his short story Chain-links; he expected the development of civilization will shorten the non-physical distance between people. He insisted, as a result, that to connect randomly chosen two individuals among 1.5 billion people to each other requires only five people. Although the mathematic experiment for the idea failed, it prophesied the endless possibility of modern SNS. After the appearance of SixDegrees.com, Friendster, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and TikTok was launched one by one. Each service shows each distinct characteristic; Twitter optimizes communication through short sentences, and YouTube innovated the market of contents from text to video. Even after the brilliant and hectic evolution, the technology never stops evloving; the latest SNS ‘Clubhouse’ was launched in April 2020.

Are you keeping your Clubhouse-life-balance these days? As a previous buzzword, ‘Work-life-balance’ means to achieve equilibrium between professional work and personal life, people who keep Clubhouse-life-balance try to find a harmony between Clubhouse and routine. Until now, we’ve got several promising SNS platforms but never perceived them as a vital portion of daily life. What drives us to be enthusiastic on a mere SNS? Clubhouse is a voice-based SNS platform that is currently in vogue. There are three roles in this new world: Moderator, Speaker, and Listener. The moderator as a president opens a room with a specific theme and permits other users to speak. By tapping a ‘raising hand’ button, you can speak on anything related to the topic with the approval of the moderator. If you want to stay quiet or the moderator doesn’t let you chat, be a listener. The dialogues during the club are never recorded and chatting in the text isn’t available. When you want to clap with empathy or favor for the speaker, just tap the mute button over and over again. This is how the world of Clubhouse goes around.

Our voice is limited and is a personal means in communication; we can easily detect who is who and helplessly be fascinated through verbal conversation. In the era of privacy and efficiency, direct sound is too complicated to be used in SNS. Nonetheless, Clubhouse inversely re-thought the feature of basic speech and changed the complexity into immense charms. Through their voice, users can whimsically talk and think while they are genuinely interacting. Last February, the CEO of Shinsegae Group Chung Yong-jin narrated about a new baseball team that Shinsegae took over; he revealed details of the team’s name, color, and plan for a ballpark. The CEO’s straightforward tongue and lengthy letters in the news are absolutely different. Through the immediate talks, people develop special attachment and trust in the information, as if they and Mr. Chung shared closely guarded secrets. However, it isn’t a secret; he, as a head of the big company, carefully considered the importance of the information. Where they gathered was a public SNS chat group, not a private meeting room. The closeness that Clubhouse tends to provide can push people to recklessly believe speakers and information. By abusing this hole, one user committed stock fraud to young novices. It was too hard for them to accuse him as the service doesn’t offer a recording function and he was too eloquent. Linguistic violence can also be derived; in front of insults or hate speech, victims can’t do anything but only report based on text. Aside from these spiteful cases, users thoughtlessly read copyright stories. In a survey asking for Clubhouse usage experience to 152 Sungshin students (64 people said they use it, and the others don’t), 7.8% of respondents who use it pointed to the impossibility to record out as the biggest weakness. Clubhouse should cultivate an environment to shield users from others who misuse the merit of phonetic entertainment. At the same time, sparkling contents have been created; mellow singers and amateur gagsters hold a small show to boast their talents. To raise the endless possibility of Clubhouse, we need appropriate regulation and preparation.

In the Clubhouse, people decorate their profiles with interesting information, elaborating career experiences, MBTI type, and interests. Above all, professional records are notably crucial, so numerous experts are brilliantly active in the Clubhouse. It’s a huge chance for their admirers who aspire to be like them; imagine you are a young prospective-lyricist, and a professional songwriter Kim Ina advises to you based on her personal experience. Including her, a novelist Kim Geumhee, movie translator Hwang Seokhee, and musician Peggy Gou utilize this mobile application as a fresh meeting place. More than 70% of the respondents from the same survey mentioned they use Clubhouse to obtain information and meet the well-known. Clubhouse’s other attraction is accessibility. Everyone is welcomed, and anyone can open or participate in a club. The openness generates bilateral discourses with a much lower hurdle. Different from conventional events with important figures, you can ask long-cherished questions, and they will hear your voices in unthinkably close range. If not for Clubhouse, it would have been impossible for Park Yeongseon who is running to become the mayor of Seoul to answer a question about the anti-discrimination law. As she can’t pick a prearranged questioner or avoid it like a general conference, she candidly said “I think there should be no discrimination related to human basic rights in any circumstances.” An eminent actor Zendaya moderated a room to respond to varied questions about her new Netflix movie Malcolm & Marie and successfully promoted it. The brand-new SNS certainly changes the way to gather and reach people.

However, this accessibility has a catch in it; without an invitation or nomination from your friends who have your phone number and iPhone, you can’t and won’t enter the new digital space. Consequently, invitations and secondhand iPhones suddenly turn up at sales at high costs. As not only the SNS itself but also words privately talked in the Clubhouse become burning issues, individuals bear economic expenses just to sign up to a single SNS platform. Being a passenger of Clubhouse itself pretends to symbolize that you are a trend-setter who has classy friends. In fact, 82% of the respondents for the same survey asking Clubhouse usage answered that it alienates people who don’t use it. Furthermore, the registration is not all. To actually acquire quality communication, you need to be diligent or influential. Primarily, the famous with tons of followers can easily lead the room and attract others as a moderator. The reputation and power in the reality are still existent in the virtual social party. Moreover, the system recommends accessible rooms in accordance with your followings or followers and has no search function. Without following people or active usage, you may not be able to approach compelling rooms; colossal tiredness and anxiety that whisper “keep access or you will fall behind.” cling on to us, and we are helplessly trapped in the Clubhouse. Another distressing social hierarchy might disguise itself as a friendly and amusing guest.

A number of puzzles in Clubhouse still wait us: the hearing-impaired use, China’s blocking of the app, and the threats toward offline contents. At the same time, concerts and lectures that we can enjoy regardless of the cost or authority premiered. Trend of contents and SNS encounters dramatic changes from Clubhouse. Twitter and Facebook each presents a voice chat service ‘Spaces’, and ‘Fireside’, which are very similar to Clubhouse. The awareness toward SNS alters, too; both individuals and organizations utilize it to enhance capability and enjoy recreation, rather than to kill time. One anonymous respondent from same survey said that “In the stuffy COVID-19 circumstances, it was great to hear colorful lives through Clubhouse.” While the contactless settles into our lifestyle, Clubhouse successfully satisfies a thirst to meet people and have insight like we used to do in offline before. As we can’t fully recover from COVID-19, what Clubhouse provoke will be extant in the form of audio and experience. Professor Shim Sangmin from the department of Media & Communication of Sungshin Women’s University overlooked the media of mind as a battlefield to SNS. He said “The media of ear, including Clubhouse, rings the soul with the intimacy of voice. But if audio chat fails to improve the quality of contents and aesthetic value, it will be eliminated.” Clubhouse’s survival depends on whether they foster better surroundings to evenly chatter about everything. In particular, propose clear guideline to protect users, prepare a function to ease the fatigue, and continuously guarantee of the entertainment. Even when new period and generation arrives, countless events and services will appear with riddling outcomes as COVID-19 and Clubhouse did. Whatever it is, our tasks won’t be markedly different: carefully adjust and enjoy what we got, protecting the weak and vital.

By Kim Hyeyeong deputy editor in chief

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