Clubhouse – worth the hype?


Authors: Theresa Harrer, Ana-Maria Jelicic, Priska Verschuur, Andrea Cosic, Sarah Riedenbauer, Helga Luxbacher, Eva Wetzlmair, Andrea Kamnik, Daniela Lindner, Jasmin Wurmitzer, Raphaela Weiß, Sandra Lisa Lattacher

Disclaimer: The following article contains subjective opinions regarding the social media app “Clubhouse”. The article describes the results following an exploratory web search regarding accessibility and apps designed for everyone. Related references are listed at the end of the article. The article was created in March 2021 – some components of the Clubhouse app have been revised in the meanwhile.

Clubhouse – that’s the new application in the world of social networks which is set up like an interactive podcast. The audio-based application came up for the first time at the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The extended beta version became available in April 2020. Clubhouse has gone “viral” in a very short time because celebrities and influencers have advertised it heavily. Suddenly user were able to listen to their favorite musicians, presenters, entrepreneurs – just to name a few. Not only has the idea of the app itself spread like wildfire, but also polarizing opinions about it.

Back to the basics – what exactly is Clubhouse?

According to several web sources, it is a new type of social network based on audio information in which people all over the world come together to speak and listen in real time.

Clubhouse is a digital place where people openly exchange ideas and thoughts. The app structure consists of so-called club rooms, which you can enter and leave again at any time.

Basically, it is easy to use, you just listen from your smart phone, which means you can listen to the content flexibly in any situation.

But – wait … in almost every situation: The Clubhouse setting is very classy and exclusive, and indeed, some groups are heavily excluded.

We did a barrier check:

  • Platform restrictions: The Clubhouse app currently works for mobile Apple devices only (iPhone, iPad, iPod). In addition, access is limited, as someone can only join the app if they receive an invitation from an already registered user. During registration, however, each user is allowed to send two invitations to someone else.

    Barrier: With regard to inclusion and accessibility, exclusion begins with registration.

    Note: The platform restriction is due, among other things, to organizational difficulties. Most apps come up for the iPhone first and then, after a significant period of time, for Android phones. Even though more people use Android than iPhones. But developing apps for the iPhone is more profitable than for Android devices. This is partly because iOS is more willing to sponsor app developers and partly because Apple’s own programming language makes it much easier and faster to develop apps. With Android, a lot of resources are required because the language is more complex, it takes longer and the app development is therefore more expensive. For example, Twitter was available several weeks earlier on an iOS basis than the Android version. A Clubhouse Android beta version is currently tested in the USA.

  • Audio: 

    The app is audio-based and works for speech, vocals, and music – it’s audio-only. Users listen to content or speak themselves. It is not possible to post messages or pictures in the Clubhouse.
    Barrier: Deaf people as well as dumb people are excluded from this app. They can neither speak nor, as it is the case with the former, listen in. For blind users or users with visual difficulties, the focus on audio data is a reduced barrier that they may still encounter on other social media platforms.

  • Real-Time:

    The app works in real time. This means that contributions cannot be listened to at a later stage.
    Barrier: This could be a barrier for people with learning disabilities, as they may need to repeat what they have heard in order to better follow the content.

Further criticism:

  • FoMO: “The Fear of Missing Out” – The phenomenon “fear of missing out” when you are not constantly online on social media channels can generally be classified as dangerous, especially for young people. According to studies FoMO might lead to anxiety, depression and addiction.
  • Fake news: on this platform, content in terms of “fake news” can simply be communicated to the outside world without an actual background check. In this context, exclusive access is questionable, as the access can be denied to true experts, who in turn could provide valuable input.
  • Data protection and storage of data: Conversations are only available to users in real time. Nevertheless, the conversations are recorded and temporarily stored in order to investigate any violations of guidelines. In addition, further data protection deficiencies were identified, including a missing legal notice, missing data protection information and the general terms and conditions are not available in German. Clubhouse also accesses the contacts on the smart phone in order to be able to send the invitations.

The basic idea of ​​Clubhouse is certainly a good one – no other app has experienced such a hype in such a short time. And the advantages has been summarized by the co-founders Paul Davison and Rohan Seth as follows:

„With no camera on, you don’t have to worry about eye contact, what you’re wearing, or where you are. You can talk on Clubhouse while you’re folding laundry, breastfeeding, commuting, working on your couch in the basement, or going for a run.“

In order to find their position on the market in the long term, the above-mentioned dangers, data protection gaps and barriers must be reconsidered. We are curious about further developments and new releases of the app. In a few months we will look back on our post to check again to which extent the raised questions have been reconsidered and implemented.

Related references, on which the article is based on:

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