Uppsala University on Clubhouse

8 april 2021

Uppsala University now also has an account on the new social media app Clubhouse. Under the club name ‘Uppsala University’, all affiliated with the university are welcome to start their own virtual conversation rooms. “I haven’t seen any other social media platform where you can get as much input, expand your horizons, and broaden your network in such a short time,” says Maria Strømme, professor of nanotechnology.

The ‘clubhouse’ that many people are talking about is an app that was launched in 2020 and today has more than ten million users worldwide. In Sweden, the app has really taken off in recent months. So far, however, you need an Apple product and an invitation to be able to log in, but Clubhouse is working to open up the app to more users.

On the Clubhouse app, one can find Uppsala
University Club with Maria Strømme as one
of the members.

Once inside Clubhouse, visitors are greeted by a flow of virtual conversation rooms on a variety of topics and in many languages. Anyone can go in and listen and participate in live conversations. According to Maria Strømme, this audio-based platform is ingenious because it’s so incredibly simple.

“You don’t have a live camera, you don’t have text chat; it’s a bit like the old telephone chat line ‘Heta Linjen’ that we had in Sweden in the 1980s. But what has struck me is that there are conversations in so many virtual rooms at an incredibly high scientific level, holding really interesting debates. Prominent professors in the USA are available for questions about COVID-19 and its vaccines. In other rooms, space initiatives in the Middle East are being discussed with the foremost experts from industry and people from NASA. I have also been in Swedish virtual rooms where the conversation has been about sustainability and what investments are being made in smart cities. Having access to all of these super-current topics where you can ask questions is a huge opportunity.”

The trick: Follow many but with care

To sort through what is on offer, you can search for interesting topics, clubs and individuals in a menu. Another ‘must’ according to Maria Strømme is to put topic keywords in your profile based on your interests, education, professional experience, etc. Then others will find you and can invite you as a member to matching clubs and to interesting virtual rooms. The trick is to listen around, identify and follow enough active people and clubs. To get relevant virtual room suggestions, Maria Strømme recommends that you follow at least 300. And spend time on your profile.

“The important thing is that you write something straight away in your profile, even just three sentences. Otherwise you risk being perceived as a troll. If there is nothing there, you will never be invited onto a stage where moderators give different participants the opportunity to speak. But you can add more information as you go. For me it took two weeks to put my profile together.”

It was an Uppsala colleague Sara Mangsbo who invited Maria Strømme to Clubhouse. Together, they have hosted virtual rooms with conversations where members of the public have been able to ask researchers questions, often about vaccines and nanotechnology.

“It has been a lot of fun because we feel that we are doing a third stream activity, and because we also get questions that stimulate us to read up and follow the debate very thoroughly,” says Maria Strømme.

University clubs are starting to get registered

When the opportunity to register club names opened up, and she saw clubs being formed by top universities in the USA and the UK such as MIT, Stanford and Cambridge, she quickly secured the club name ‘Uppsala University’. The hope is to bring together current students, alumni, employees and others related to Uppsala University in the club. The idea is also that club members should be able to enter and moderate a virtual room on topics that are within the scope of what Uppsala University does. 

“I see this as a way for us at Uppsala University to market ourselves to the wider world. It is absolutely conceivable that this could lead to future collaborations. There are also not many Swedish universities represented there yet. But what I’m mainly looking for at Clubhouse is new angles and input. I get ideas and thoughts about inventions and new science when I’m there in a different way than I get via my usual channels or by reading articles or participating in webinars.”

More Clubhouse tips from Maria Strømme:

  • Add additional contact options such as a Twitter or Instagram account to your profile because you cannot contact other people in writing in Clubhouse.
     
  • In addition to words, you can now search for emojis, which many people also use in their profiles.
     
  • Before you host a virtual room yourself, visit some others. Observe how moderators work to update the room for newly arrived listeners and to rotate participants on the stage. Schedule your virtual room with a distinctive theme, expressed in a brief headline. Also send direct messages (DMs) on Instagram to your followers when the virtual room starts up.