The same week this cyclist sued, Rapha announced a Circle of Death Ride, one of many virtual challenges marketed to Strava users
While agreed that participants in Strava have assumed the risks of bicycling, the app should do more to discourage the behavior that led to this death and without such mealy-mouthed language defending themselves. Leaderboarding and self-affirming segments are really no different than pulling a handle on a slot machine repeatedly for the big payout. At it’s core, Strava is gaming its users to participate in what I’ve called an athletic prosthetic culture, where competing is digitized.
As Outside told us in a recent article, about social facilitation
So-called social facilitation, the theory went, demonstrated something we now consider obvious: humans try harder when matched against others. Later work would demonstrate that the mere presence of others could inspire us to work harder.
For similar reasons there are no dislike buttons on Facebook and they operate under the principles of homophilly, or the “love of the same.” What that does is train users to commodify themselves and friends. With Strava it’s your workout files and with Facebook likes, links, and photos. Put simply, let’s all ride hard like PROS do, but virtually!
Last year Northumbria University released their study about pushing the limits of performance, beyond a body’s metabolic reserve. The mental trick those researchers are looking for exists already on Strava with KOM and in segments. Cyclists are pushing themselves against an imaginary opponent and to the limit.
They want that winning high and the same one a slot machine may give a gambler if they keep pushing that spin-the-wheels button.
The difference with gambling though, is you’re not doing that in traffic, on open roads, with no sanctioning body or legally-binding responsibility to a community of cyclists.