You would have had to be living under a rock not to have heard the term metaverse in the last year or so. Any conversation around the metaverse and the desire to make this an inclusive space cannot happen without examining the rise of social media and the advent of web 3.0. Let’s examine the development of the metaverse and why it sits in a conversation about inclusivity.
What is the metaverse?
Many people may see the metaverse as virtual worlds where we can interact with VR and AR headsets. Up till now, this has reduced the concept to little more than a glorified immersive game experience but the metaverse is much more than that. It consists of 3-D virtual worlds that have been conceived to facilitate social connection so why are people turning to these spaces when they could use conventional or online platforms such as Zoom or any of the social media giants such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter? For many, it boils down to a desire for privacy without data mining and a reaction to abusive online spaces.
Web 2.0 and a lack of privacy
It has become apparent in recent years that bigger platforms such as Twitter or Instagram have very little control over their content. Whilst there is scope to block users, by this point individuals have already been exposed to derogatory or abusive content. Web 2.0 has grown in such a way that it’s too late to put the cat back into the bag. Even with the addition of certain safety features, it is fairly evident these platforms don’t want to facilitate an inclusive online space using excuses such as freedom of speech to cover up their lack of effort to protect users’ privacy. The bottom line is these companies are focused on the profitability of their platforms and utilising algorithms to sell products and services to users.
The prolific use of Web 2.0 has meant that giants such as Facebook and Google have been able to utilise the space to sell advertising through algorithms and data mining. The other negative aspect of the evolution of Web 2.0 has been its inability to deal with online abuse. Web 3.0 whilst still developing, is focused on decentralisation and the protection of the individual’s data. Those working in Web 3.0 are railing against the control and influence of the likes of Amazon and other companies referred to as Big Tech. Its developers and users are focused on data security, privacy and creating an inclusive space.
The metaverse, therefore, provides us with an opportunity to build an online space in the right way from the ground up. It has become something far beyond a virtual reality world utilising underrepresented groups to participate in the development process. The impact of this is seen in the creation of avatars with multiple skin tones, non-binary options, and the ability to include features that show the user’s disability. These virtual environments are psychologically safe spaces that allow conversations to take place where individuals feel seen and heard. There is much promise for the future with events being held such as Women in Web3 and others who are using the metaverse to discuss ideas, connect with other like-minded individuals and build safe, private communities that embrace inclusivity and diversity.