Future Psychosocial Implications of the Metaverse


Anthony Judge | Laetus in Praesens - TRANSCEND Media Service

Exploring Possible Non-Technical and Existential Dimensions


21 Feb 2022 – The following indications were evoked by the Pew-Elon Internet and Technology Project Canvassing of Experts undertaken in February 2022 by the Pew Research Center and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center. However the responses here are not constrained by the survey’s particular focus on the Future of the Metaverse and the degree to which it could become a broadly adopted aspect of daily life by the year 2040. The results of the survey are expected to be published in June 2022. This follows the results of an earlier survey by the two bodies whose results are published as Visions of the Internet in 2035. The concerns in what follows are, however, not with the technological emphasis but rather with the psychosocial emphasis — whatever that may be deemed to mean.

IOT (Internet Of Themes vs Internet Of Things)? The metaverse as a network of connected virtual worlds in 3D could be understood as a simple extrapolation of what is already recognized in terms of the Internet Of Things. More intriguing is how it might be envisaged and experienced as an “Internet Of Thoughts”. There is a sense in which, by contrast, any development of the Internet Of Things would be experienced as increasingly invasive and alienating, however much it may enable marketing of products and services, and their interplay with consumerism.

This trend features prominently in promotion of “Metaverse” through Meta by Mark Zuckerberg and related economic considerations (Hannah  Murphy, Facebook patents reveal how it intends to cash in on metaverse, Financial Times, 18 January 2022; Jee Young Lee, A Study on Metaverse Hype for Sustainable Growth, International Journal of Advanced Smart Convergence, 10, 2021, 3).

A contrast might similarly be made with regard to the extrapolation of biotechnology, as notably envisaged by transhumanists. Again, the more intriguing emphasis in that context is on memes rather than on genes — suggesting an “Internet Of Memes”. Rather than an externalized form of connectivity — and any associated disconnect — the question is the nature of one that is internalized to a far higher degree. Such a focus is of particular relevance now that the possibility of memetic warfare is envisaged.

Verse and metapoiesis? The argument can be developed by highlighting the potential future significance of “verse” in relation to “meta”. Clearly verse suggests a powerful association to the aesthetics and memorability of poetry and song, especially  through the connectivity they imply in terms of rhyme, rhythm and symmetry, as discussed separately (Potential for Coherence through Engaging Strategic Poetry Memorable cycles of subdivision enabling viable governance, 2021). How might these elements of musicality of language then come to be recognized in an enhanced manner implied by “meta”? Note the contrast with the meaningfully problematic emphasis on “metadata“.

Subtler inferences are potentially implied and confused by appropriation of “MetaPoetics” as a title used by the Academy of American Poets and as a category of literature (Metapoetics). Further subtlety is potentially implied by “metapoiesis”, with “poiesis” understood as the creative activity in which something is brought into being that did not exist before.

It has been argued that embracing a “meta-poietic” mindset is the best, if not the only, method to authenticate meaning in our secular times (Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Dorrance Kelly, All Things Shining, 2011). For the authors: Meta-poiesis, as one might call it, steers between the twin dangers of the secular age: it resists nihilism by reappropriating the sacred phenomenon of physis, but cultivates the skill to resist physis in its abhorrent, fanatical form. Living well in our secular, nihilistic age, therefore, requires the higher-order skill of recognizing when to rise up as one with the ecstatic crowd and when to turn heel and walk rapidly away.

Transverse? The reframing of the “inter” of IOT, as offered by “meta”, also calls for reflection in terms of the complex of prefixes of which both are a part — multi-, cross-, pluri-, trans-, intra- — as discussed separately (Varieties of Disciplinarity, Interdisciplinarity and Transdisciplinarity, 1988; Alexander Refsum Jensenius, Disciplinarities: intra, cross, multi, inter, trans, 2012). Possibilities were anticipated by Erich Jantsch (Towards interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity in education and innovation, 1972).

By the same token, given the psychosocial emphasis here, use of “meta” implies some form of transcendence of “con-” and “pro-” as they feature in the binary interplay of “converse” and “proverse” (Con-quest Aesthetically Reframed via the Concordian Mandala, 2016; Prefix “Re-cognition” as Prelude to Fixing Sustainability — “Pro” vs “Con” ? 2017). Does such transcendence suggest a form of non-binary discourse — “metaversing” rather than “conversing”? Such considerations of “inter- vs meta-” reframe any focus on IOT, suggesting recognition of a “Metaverse Of Themes” or a “Metaverse Of Memes”, — and a new understanding of metapoiesis. Given the current focus on a Great Reset and the emphasis implied by use of the prefix “re-“, these obviously contrast with any sense of “reverse” in relation to the emergence of metaverse.

Such arguments invite speculative discussion of related matters (Interweaving Thematic Threads and Learning Pathways: Noonautics, Magic carpets and Wizdomes, 2010; Global Civilization through Interweaving Polyamory and Polyanimosity? Loving/Hating the world otherwise through contractual bonding with any significant other, 2018).

Rather than as an image readily imagined in conventional terms, is imagination of the nature of a metaverse better understood as a “hyperobject” — whatever that may now be deemed to indicate? (Timothy Morton, Hyperobjects: philosophy and ecology after the End of the World, University of Minnesota Press, 2013;  Hyperobjects: an excerpt, Academia.edu; Introducing the Idea of ‘Hyperobjects’: a new way of understanding climate change and other phenomena, High Country News, 19 January 2015). Such an object, to the extent that it can be objectified, is held to be of such vast temporal and spatial dimensions in relation to human life that it defeats traditional ideas about what is indicated — associated with references to hyperreality.

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