There has been much talk lately about this mythical land called the Metaverse, It has become a buzzword that you can slap on our product and its value will instantly increase. I have been even thinking of renaming my blog Ammonite's Metaverse. But unlike many other buzz words, I believe this one is here to stay and we will see some form of it invading our lives whether we like it or not. The way that humans have taken to the smartphone and the always-on digital world shows how addicted we are to not being where we are. Instead, the grass is always greener in the Online and this new Metaverse will be the operating system to access it.
Have you ever been at a dinner and looked up from your plate only to see that most of the other guests have their little glass slates in their hands? Stroking the screens as they peer through the looking glass into another universe. Well, Vr has the possibility of bringing our whole mind and body into this alternative reality.
From text to tech
I first encountered the metaverse in a Ray Bradbury short story called 'The Velt'. Published in 1950, It was a cautionary tale about people's over-reliance on technology and the escapism that it provides becoming a prison in the end. The word 'Metaverse' that we are hearing about now is from Neal Stephensons book 'Snow Crash' where he coined the term in a hip and cooler way. I have yet to read this one although I've heard it is pretty good as far as dystopian novels go.
Being careful what we wish for
Don't take this post as a bah humbug about these new technologies. I love the stuff and have spent much of my life trying to keep up with all that is going on. Since my first computer (a Sinclair ZX-81) I have been trying to create my own virtual worlds and I am very intrigued by the VR experience. It is just that this time I think this technological advance could be very different, especially when coupled with the sinister manipulation of big corporations and their business model of the user being the product. I feel this could cause a rift in society with many using it as a refuge from their real-world problems and not realising that they are being controlled.
My biggest concern is not the technology but the ones that hope to govern it. It is obvious that Facebook wants to be the one that has the first-mover advantage in this new world. Changing their name to Meta is nothing more than putting lipstick on a pig. Mark Zuckerburg wants to be the one who controls and steers the narrative, for the benefit of his shareholders and to the detriment of his product. His way of manipulating how people interact will put humanity in great danger. We think Social media is bad at the moment? Well VR under Marks control could be a thousand times worse.
WEB 3.0 VR
As a form of escape VR sounds cool, although I would not like to see it become a permanent address for the poor souls that can't handle this real one and are so easily controlled by corporate algorithms like we have seen these last few years.
I believe the only way this kind of technology can be tamed is by a strong open-sourced community that incentivises the good it can bring and for the betterment of all. Facebook has undoubtedly done great things for the industry with their headsets and software but I am always fearful of their sinister plans to bring the same sort of discourse they have on their platforms to a world that can feel very much as real as this one.
Way back when
Even in 2015, one year after Facebook bought the crowd-funded Oculus I was pondering these ideas. Where was Zukerburg going with this? He had missed out on the mobile phone market so maybe this was him trying to get in on the ground floor of what surely would become its zucksesser.
For my second piece at the Westen Supermare sand sculpture festival, I was asked to make a piece about computer games and also make it some sort of photo opportunity. Meaning, that the audience could actually get in the picture along with the sculpture.
I love computer games and was very happy to be sent on this mission. The sculpture speaks for itself so I don't think I need to describe it in text.
Compacted sand can look very strong but that is an illusion. if someone was to sit on the sculpture it would actually collapse so I built a wooden box into the couch where the audience could pose themselves. I then plastered over this using sand mixed with a little PVA glue to make it match the rest. The character was quite chunky which was helpful in stopping the audience from destroying delicate details.
I was worried about his right elbow being a fragile area so had to reduce any undercuts. The back of the couch swirling into a vortex was to add a bit of movement to an otherwise static piece and to draw the eye into the Virtual reality.
It was a fun piece to make and it took around 3 days to make a reality.
I am hoping at some point to get a headset and explore VR and the Metaverse for myself, to see if I can create some sculpture work in there. I have tried it a small amount over the years but it was always so expensive and I am a poor struggling artist. The hardware that Oculus and Facebook have created are amazing value for money. Of course, there is a big reason for that. Facebook is happy to take a loss on the headsets if they can syphon your digital oil.
My hope is that by the time I can make the leap there will be more open hardware and that I won't be paying for my entrance with my personal data.
Thanks for reading. I use PeakD to document my work as an ephemeral Sculptor of sand, snow and ice, amongst other things. This will hopefully give it a new life on the Hive Blockchain. Below you will find some of my recent posts.
Board games - sand sculpture
Freezin™ - My run-in with Disney - ice sculpture
The Royal baby - sand sculpture
I hope you'll join me again soon
If you would like to support me
I am also starting to create NFTs of my sculptures and welcome you to my gallery where you can own a bit of ephemeral sculpture history