The term “metaverse” was coined in a 1993 science fiction novel. Since then, it’s grown from a dystopian literary concept to a reality that corporations want to sell you. Strap on some VR goggles and escape your tired analog life! Except that the systemic issues we already have seem to be creeping into the metaverse, too.
As the lines between virtuality and physicality continue to blur, companies like Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta are setting their sights on virtual worlds. It’s a new frontier, full of potential – and full of our valuable data. Metaverses like Second Life or World of Warcraft can be positive and even game-changing experiences on the individual level, but when it comes to the navigating a virtual society with a capitalist backdrop…things get a bit dicey.
On this episode, guest host and producer Ren Bangert explores the metaverse. First, we hear a love story from the glory days of Second Life, told to us by Sandrine Han – a scholar of virtual worlds and a long-time Second Lifer. Then, writer and game developer Ian Bogost takes us on a deep dive into the corporatization of the metaverse. We’ll hear how the metaverse has grown from a dystopian warning from science fiction to a sinister data-mining reality – and how even the shiniest of tech utopias are still functioning under the same old capitalism.
——————-FURTHER READING, LISTENING AND WATCHING——————
- Check out Ian Bogost’s article “The Metaverse is Bad” in The Atlantic. Ian’s got lots of excellent reading content listed on his website – perfect for a deep dive into game theory.
- For a further imagining of democracy in a metaverse, check out Eliane Boey’s short story “The Forgotten”. You can read it in Clarkesworld Magazine, or listen to an audio version on the Clarkesworld podcast.
- Watch the Wall Street Journal’s Joanna Stern get trapped in the metaverse for 24 hours. It’s a an emotional rollercoaster.
——————-EVEN MORE READING——————
- Han, H. C. (2013). Visual learning in the virtual world: The hidden curriculum of imagery in Second Life. Immersive Environments, Augmented Realities and Virtual Worlds: Assessing Future Trends in Education. http://www.igi-global.com/chapter/visual-learning-virtual-world/74048
- Stephenson, N. (1993). Snow Crash. New York: Bantam Books.
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This week, Darts and Letters is hosted by Ren Bangert. Our usual host and editor is Gordon Katic. The lead producer is Jay Cockburn. Our managing producer is Marc Apollonio. Our theme song and music was created by Mike Barber, our graphic design was created by Dakota Koop, and we have marketing support from Ian Sowden.
This is a production of Cited Media. This episode received support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, which provided us a research grant to look the politics of video games. It is housed at UBC with advice from Lennart E. Nacke at the University of Waterloo.
Darts and Letters is produced in Toronto, which is on the traditional land of Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat Peoples.