If nothing else, Metaverse is already creating work for futurists to pontify how consumers will behave when we spend every waking hour strapped to VR headsets.
For those looking for an insight into how we want to dress in cyberspace, look no further than Screen Wear, an article by Vice Media’s creative agency, Virtue Worldwide. He has previously reported on other defining topics at present such as Animal Crossing, the “digital renaissance” and the “collective awakening” of Gen Z.
Screenwear itself is a massive 96-page analysis of the industry that promises to “go beyond statistics and inner culture” and into “culture 3.0”.
What it ends up doing is revealing the persistent ambiguity of what the meta-verse actually means – despite the huge amounts of money poured into the projects – and the historical memory loss it takes to make it seem new.
Before we get to the report itself, you should take a look at the NFT collection that was launched next to it. My personal favorite is the Buckaclava, a bucket / balaclava hat that represents “total creative freedom without physical limitations”, while being an easy – if not flattering – combination to create in the real world.
The analysis itself is based on a survey of 3,000 respondents as well as interviews with experts, including artists and NFT creators (some of whom may be speculating that they have a vested interest in developing the industry).
We first encountered a small bump with his “short history of the future” (which is really just a list of digital “things” and science fiction).
Famous, nothing else relevant to the intersection of online culture and the intersection of fashion launched between 1992 and 2009. Nothing at all. Not a sausage boy.
The decision to include Bitcoin and Ethereum in the category of a “future” story also looks more cumbersome as the major cryptocurrency crash in 2022 continues (at least Terra was not included in the list).
But you might say that the story is old hat. Virtue’s research on answers to the word “metaverse” looks more promising (ignore the 200% figure: respondents could choose more items).
But while the report says 83% of people had a “positive perception”, the largest category was “curious” (according to 50% of all respondents). Polysemia is a difficult business – I may be curious to know if my dog has emptied the trash; I’m not positive about that.
The fact that less than half said they were unequivocally enthusiastic or inspired by the word “metavers,” and that at least one-fifth of respondents expressed dissatisfaction, is perhaps more telling.
My own lasting metaverse experience was a press conference before the Australian Open started in Decentraland, a digital world that Virtue’s history began before Trump’s presidency.
Unfortunately, seven years of work could not address the connection issues, which meant that the Q&A of the future would take place on Google Hangouts without videos. I will say that it piqued my curiosity for now.
At this point, you may be wondering how Virtue defines metaverse, a notoriously vague term. The answer appears (sort of) a few slides later:
The real metavers seem to be what we wanted all the time. Sent a selfie with rabbit ears? You had a metavers experience. Did you waste hours on Runescape as a child? You had a metavers experience. You threw your life savings into dogecoin? It’s true you’ve had a metavers experience (and you’re probably mad).
Virtue did give more than one definition by contact:
In general, we like to think of the meta-verse as a common fantasy – an altruistic illusion, if you will – that is greater than the sum of its parts (crypto, XR, games) and is basically about bringing the suspense back to a Internet that has left most people has been tired in the last few years.
So it’s cleaned up.
Now that we know that the meta-verse is apparently a meaningless term for “the online things we love”, we can move on to how the report deals with digital identity, which he said was the biggest selling point. virtual mode.
On the surface, it looks like more solid ground. People have been using virtual worlds to explore gender, race, and sexuality for decades, and have often overturned platform design constraints. See Julian Dibbell’s 1993 article Cyberspace Rape or Bonnie Nardi My Life as a Night Elf Priest for Good or Evil.
But to sell the “new” era of metavers, this story must be discarded in favor of breathless speculation.
“Can you be a body that is not yours? Can you belong to an ethnic group that is not yours?” Asks an expert and asks questions to which the answer has been “YES” since the end of the 20th century.
And then we slip into the “digital self” discourse, which suggests a division between virtual and physical identities, rather than a single, complex whole. This “digital dualism” fallacy was described by Snap sociologist Nathan Jurgenson way back in 2011 (Tim Bradshaw interviewed him in 2019 here).
Therein lies the great waste of too much “metavers of talk,” which would rather focus on selling a utopian future than wondering whether the new verses will be better than what we have now.
If you want to tell brands that kids are going to spend half their lives in Bored Punk Kitty Land, old-fashioned cyberpunk thinking is not enough.