Calling all metaverse enthusiasts — my friend Marvin and I would love to hear your thoughts on the intersections of the metaverse, the surveillance economy, and digital borders on his recent post.

Some questions from the post that we pulled together: 💭 What are the repercussions of long-term immersive experiences?💭 How did the internet affect our relationship with each other (eg. family, dating, and marriage), with food, our bodies, and nature?💭 What does literature on ubiquitous computing, hyperreality, and simulacra tell us?Some metaverse-specific questions are foreseeable too:💭 How will the metaverse extend the #SurveillanceEconomy or suppress #CivilLiberties and what is our #RightToBeForgotten?💭 How will opaque and inaccessible worlds (such as ones locked through passcodes) exacerbate inequality? How will it affect children or adults who do not have access to expensive equipment or sufficient internet bandwidth?💭 How will configurable cartoon figures or realistic figures distort our relationship with our bodies? Who will define the aesthetics, culture, desire, and power within these worlds?Other metaverse-specific questions will require different scenario planning frameworks to understand:💭 What does nationality, tax, #DigitalBorders, and #DigitalSovereignty look like? What happens when you lose a digital store and your livelihood on the metaverse? How will disputes be resolved?💭 What might a hostile takeover look like between state and or non-state actors? Who governs and who has the right to govern? What is the process for power transition?💭 How will we manage our relationship with NPCs (Non-player characters)? What rights should NPCs have? What are the mental health repercussions of uninhibited interactions towards humanoids?💭 In a world where magic can really exist, how will it impact the value of our theories and knowledge?

RebeccaStevenson's profile thumbnail
Kind of begs the question, "Isn't this just another way for Zuck to siphon money out of people?"
JuliaXu's profile thumbnail
If the version of the "Metaverse" that people are thinking of is Facebook's Meta designing new centralized experiences they own and control that everyone will participate in, then yes.When Facebook made their announcement of their name change, a lot of people who have been working and building in web3/metaverse were not happy about them coming and giving themselves that name because of the inevitable confusion it would cause. There's a lot of people that strongly believe a core tenet of the metaverse is that it must be open and decentralized (users owning their own data & digital assets and freely taking those with them across virtual spaces, etc.) and see Facebook's moves as an antithesis to that vision.That said, a lot of really valid concerns brought up in OP's post about what it means for children who are growing up in an increasingly digital world to spend most of their time engaging via screens and not IRL (in real life), what the benefits vs disadvantages of presenting as an avatar dissociated from your physical body are, etc.
ashlynlackey's profile thumbnail
An old (2010) but interesting study re: children growing up in an increasingly digital world: https://news.umich.edu/empathy-college-students-don-t-have-as-much-as-they-used-to/
MorganLucas's profile thumbnail
What rights would you imagine an NPC having? Would they be different rights than an NPC in a video game not on (in?) the Metaverse?
ashlynlackey's profile thumbnail
@MorganLucas I don't know. I hadn't thought of this until Marvin brought it up. Some of the deeper dive questions I had:1. In a (virtual) world where everyone is talking to a screen, will the lines between avatars (meaning user-controlled characters) and NPCs be blurred? 2. If NPCs aren't given some set of rights, will that change how they are treated? Will that behavior permeate to all interactions? 3. (this line of questioning is a stretch) In our physical day to day lives, there are all sorts of people that parallel NPCs - if we are defining NPCs as a character whose actions are determined by a script or a set of rules. If a NPC is character that reminds us of and enforces rules or presents information in a timely manner, one could argue that train conductors, police officers or news anchors could parallel NPCs. One may argue that in the metaverse, their functions can be automated. They are all bound by a set of rules or parallel actions that an NPC might take (eg - collecting tickets, block off roads, sharing news)... and there are laws or organizations that protect or regulate them (eg - laws against assaulting train conductors or police officers, society of professional journalist code of ethics). This is not to say that this is a one to one comparison but more or less food for a thought.