An introduction to… the Metaverse
The Metaverse concept is rather complex, a contemporary work in progress being shaped by users and companies exploring the field, still far from being fully determined. We asked Alexander Reppel, reader in Marketing at Royal Holloway University of London to break down the jargon
Ristband’s musical portal to the metaverse, Fortnite, Roblox and Minecraft’s in-game concerts, and MTV VMAs handing out the first ever Best Metaverse Performance award to the Korean pop group Blackpink, the musical side of the metaverse is getting rather crowded, engaging millions of users worldwide.
The cultural sector is also looking to virtual experiences in the metaverse with rising interest, with projects like artists
KAWS and the Serpentine Gallery’s partnership with Fortnite building an extra level of cultural exploration into offerings for the global public. Major auction houses are also exploring the opportunities the metaverse has to offer, building their own spaces and platforms, such as Christie’s 3.0 virtual gallery and Sotheby’s Metaverse, both dedicated to NFT sales.
Within this buzzing and experimental environment, a perfect crossover virtual experience, at the intersection of music, art and technology, was
Radiohead’s Kid A Mnesia virtual exhibition, launched in November 2021 to celebrate the anniversary of the band’s albums Kid A (2000) and Amnesiac (2001). But does it qualify as metaverse-material?
The metaverse concept is rather complex, a contemporary work in progress being shaped by users and companies exploring the field, still far from being fully determined.
Alex Reppel, Reader in Marketing at Royal Holloway University of London, to break down the jargon and help us understand the metaverse hype:
An introduction to… the Metaverse, By Alex Reppel, Department of Marketing, Royal Holloway, University of London
The term ‘metaverse’ is often used to portray the future vision of an internet where we immerse ourselves in a photo-realistic three-dimensional world. Although intriguing, it is neither certain that this vision of a “
post-reality […] environment merging physical reality with digital virtuality” will ever catch on, nor whether it is something audiences want. Instead, what we are seeing so far is a wide array of ideas, often driven by technologists and investors.
Despite uncertainties around what the metaverse is and whether it will ever be realised, those whose life may be impacted should try and understand what the metaverse could be. The possibility that living in a future metaverse may change how we interact with one another should be enough to convince us to take note. Artists and marketers, for example, will have to rethink how they engage with audiences and make a living in a future metaverse.
As a general introduction, I recommend a short primer from the BBC News called “
Apparently, it’s the next big thing. What is the metaverse?” It offers a brief background of the term itself and talks about some of the more recent developments that have led to it becoming such a prominent topic of discussion. Those wanting to dig deeper may find Special Issue by Venture Beat titled “ The metaverse: How close are we?” interesting. Here, a group of authors cover different areas related to the metaverse. What I found particularly useful was the use (slightly) different definition in each section of what the metaverse is or rather could be. This helps to extract the “essence” of what the concept entails. An even more detailed perspective is offered by Matthew Ball in his book “ The Metaverse.” In my opinion, it offers the most comprehensive coverage on the topic so far. (The book is based on a series of essays published over several years.) Then there is this very thoughtful reflection by Piers Kicks titled, “ Into the void: Where crypto meets the metaverse” that examines the role of “crypto” technologies in facilitating a future metaverse. Finally, my favourite podcast on the topic so far (although there are many good ones) is “ Metaverse marketing” with Cathy Hackl. The six 20-30 minute episodes that make up season 1 offer one of the best and most accessible introductions to the topic. I would particularly recommend it to those interested in the metaverse’s creative and commercial potential.
In all this hype, hope, and hyperbole, we must not forget that there are very good reasons to remain sceptical. Despite its’ potential, there is a pretty good chance the metaverse won’t revolutionise life. Instead, all we may end up with is a “
Facebook in 3D.” I leave it to your imagination to judge whether this is what the world needs.
For my own research, I maintain a
reading list of sources I have found useful. Far from comprehensive, it covers sources I have read and had time to put into a bibliography. For anyone interested in the metaverse, I particular recommend the section on what I consider to be meaningful criticisms of either the idea and/or current implementations of the metaverse. They offer valuable lessons on how difficult it is to build something positive without repeating past mistakes.