‘Like hand-writ­ten let­ters, voice notes con­vey in­ti­macy’

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - TIMES NA­TION -

While it’s What­sApp that has made voice notes pop­u­lar glob­ally, it was pi­o­neered by the Chi­nese mes­sag­ing app WeChat

Nis­hant Shah, dean of Re­search at ArtEZ Univer­sity of the Arts, The Nether­lands, likens them to “dis­trib­uted phone calls”. Rachel Rojy, 24, uses voice notes only with close friends. “The other per­son doesn’t need to be avail­able, and I still get to ex­press my­self ex­actly how I want to in that mo­ment,” she says.

Me­hak Sawh­ney, who does re­search on voice-based me­dia tech­nol­ogy at Sarai-CSDS, com­pares voice notes to hand­writ­ten let­ters as they are “in­ti­mate and al­low for the per­sonal to play out”. “It al­lows us to pay at­ten­tion to the minu­tiae of hu­man voice — vol­ume, mod­u­la­tion, pauses, laugh­ter, other ex­pres­sive sounds.”

While it’s What­sApp that has made voice notes pop­u­lar glob­ally, it’s China’s WeChat that was a pi­o­neer. It caught on be­cause typ­ing Chi­nese char­ac­ters was quite a pain. Back home too it’s find­ing favour with older peo­ple who find typ­ing la­bo­ri­ous. Also, it’s a help when phone key­boards fail nonEnglish speak­ers. For in­stance, do­mes­tic work­ers are us­ing them to tell their em­ploy­ers that they’re go­ing to be late or ask what dal they want for din­ner. Chai­tanya Raj Singh, a 24-yearold so­cial en­tre­pre­neur, says, “When you work out­side ma­jor met­ros, voice notes make it much eas­ier to com­mu­ni­cate with peo­ple who don’t have such a good grasp of English.”

Pan­dit Avadhk­ishor Pandey, a mu­sic teacher in Udaipur who of­fers classes on YouTube, started us­ing voice notes a cou­ple of years ago to an­swer his stu­dents’ ques­tions. “I had about 20 lists of 200 peo­ple each who would lis­ten to my voice notes, where I talked about ev­ery­thing, from morn­ing riyaz, to what a taal is,” he says. Now, one lakh peo­ple across the world tune in to his voice mes­sages.

Delhi-based the­atre artist Tan­vika Par­likar en­joys the flex­i­bil­ity of voice notes. “You can be both to the point and me­an­der all over the place. Calls make me anx­ious, you don’t get time to think about how you want to re­spond,” she says.

She says voice notes and mil­len­ni­als are a match made in heaven. “We tend to dab­ble with ideas we don’t com­pletely un­der­stand — a new phi­los­o­phy we’re try­ing to live by, un­fin­ished thoughts that we want our close ones to hear. They also cap­ture our speech pat­terns as a gen­er­a­tion, with our ‘umm’, ‘like’ and ‘sort of ’.”

You can also lis­ten back. Chakravarthy says, “Voice notes seem per­fect for our gen­er­a­tion, partly be­cause we’re used to im­me­di­ate com­mu­ni­ca­tion, but also be­cause of our de­sire to com­mem­o­rate and re­visit our­selves from the past.”

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