One-shot Audio: The next frontier in creating connection online?
Kissing an actor
One of the earliest experiments in immersive theatre, around a decade ago, involved a show at the Edinburgh fringe quite unlike any other. There were 12 audience members, and 12 actors. The ‘show’ begins and each person gets paired with an actor. Each pair breaks off to find their own space, and has a short amount of time — maybe 20 minutes — to establish as deep a connection as possible through whatever means necessary. Sometimes this even involved kissing, or sharing a deep secret; whatever could create intimacy and connection the fastest. Then everyone would regroup and share what happened. Unconventional by the standards of traditional theatre yes, but it gets at a fascinating question — what is the fastest way to create connection between two strangers?
Through the Clubhouse looking glass
What Clubhouse has done that is so impressive is to break new ground in how we relate to and connect with strangers online. There is something miraculous about stumbling into a room and feeling — as close as it can be without physical proximity — that you are almost there next to these people, these random heads of the internet. The room has maybe a couple of hundred people in the audience (not private strictly speaking, but intimate) and you are listening to something that is being created and consumed entirely live. You are not some studio backing track to a recording that will go out to the masses, you as an audience member are creating the energy that drives and feeds the conversation there and then.
Its an exciting sort of magic when it works — unscripted, raw, intimate, authentic, real; a tonic in some ways to the overly crafted presentation on mature social platforms like Instagram or Twitter. Honestly I don’t know of another mechanism that creates such a sense of connection with strangers so quickly, you feel like you almost know these people afterwards.
In part this is what happens with new Social formats, they are by nature raw at first, until people learn how to master the medium in a ‘performative’ sense, and then the bar to participation gets higher and higher and the rawness gets gradually eroded. But there is something more fundamental that Clubhouse have put their finger on here: Live, synchronous, un-recorded audio creates a sense of intimacy and connection that is on another level compared to all other forms of broadcast media.
What does it mean that the content is live? It’s in part synchronous — people are speaking and listening at the same time — but it also implicitly means that the content is unscripted. What gets said gets said, you can’t take words back, and your thoughts cannot be premeditated because you are responding to a conversation in realtime. Both contribute to the sense of intimacy and connection.
What’s interesting is to mash these dimensions up. What would an audio product look like that was both unscripted but asynchronous?
Imagine a dating app that worked like this:
- You match with someone and start chatting with them
- Chatting is not text but audio only (think WhatsApp voice notes)
- You receive an audio-message from your match.
- You hit play and listen. When the message finishes it automatically gets turned straight over to you to record your reply.
- You get a 3 second countdown then you’re live. It’s recorded once in that moment and that’s it. You cannot pause or re-record your message
- Whatever you say gets sent back automatically.
- This is “One-shot Audio”
This would feel very weird at first, but in the end it would let people just speak naturally, spontaneously and authentically as themselves — it would be raw and real and you. It ‘bottles’ the most authentic version of yourself possible and makes it consumable by others on their own time.
That’s what you could call a ‘conversational’ model for One-shot i.e. it is a back and forth dialogue between two people. It makes most sense in the context of dating because the miracle of the unscripted format is to create a sense of connection quickly.
But what is more intriguing is a broadcast format — in this case the prompt is not a message from somebody, but a written prompt that you have a couple of seconds to read before the recoding starts.
The wild extreme to take this to would be a product that allowed you to get a sense of connection with complete strangers, anywhere in the world just for the sake of feeling and experiencing connection (more timely now than ever with Covid).
Intimacy with humanity
Imagine a product that worked like this:
- Each day there is a random question, which goes out to everyone. Something like ‘if you could fly anywhere tomorrow where would you go and why?’, or ‘my earliest memory is…’, or ‘who would win in a fight between an eagle and a panda’? and so, on. Slightly playful, but sometimes deep.
- You see the question / prompt and have 3 seconds then the recording starts. It records for a max of say 60 seconds, or when you cut
- You have the option to delete if you want (and then you’ve bailed on that day) but by default the recording will get posted
- Your profile is anonymous, there is no picture, no name. Perhaps there are just hints of the person, such as: France, 38, Female.
- Now when you’ve done your recording you can go explore — this would be like a endless screen full of little audio clips, from anyone, anywhere in the world. But always on the same topic.
This is weird yes, but it has fascinating qualities: everyone in this universe is participating in the same thing that day — other people’s responses in a sense then are like a mirror of yours — and it is entirely unscripted, raw and real. It is anonymous because what does it matter who the person is? The magic here is feeling a connection with humanity itself, not a particular individual. What would that be like?