A Roundtable With NEAR Metaheads
Open Web Sandbox Party Recap: January
This January Sandboxers and NEARians reunited for the first 2022 edition of the Open Web Sandbox Monthly Party. During this hour long live event, we discussed the emergence of the web3 metaverse, its social and philosophical implications, and some of the pragmatic benefits it will bring, especially in the new and fast growing NEAR Hub. Here we will provide a short recap of the presentations held by our guest speakers.
What is the metaverse and its opportunities?
In general, the term metaverse has gained popularity both in the web2 and web3 space. It has turned into a bit of a buzz word, of course with the rebranding of Meta being (they hoped) the beginning of its mainstream popularity. But what is it that we are talking about when we say ‘metaverse’?
Essentially, the metaverse increases the way in which we interact with a digital reality — and the other humans that are a part of it — by creating a three dimensional world inside our digital devices. This is still a pretty conceptual description and can be specified toward clarity in various ways, as shown by our panelists.
Clarian, co-founder of Tamago, a decentralised music streaming platform being built on NEAR, begins by highlighting the new market that this technology will allow, and the yet unknown directions this could take.
“The metaverse is potentially…an emerging market of opportunities for different technologies to ensure a more virtual type of medium of exchange taking place on different platforms. Creating a more virtual-centric way to increase optimization, utility, or create interesting worlds for games.”
Similarly, Sasha, co-founder of the Human Guild, considers its geo-economic impact:
“I think the metaverse is just part of this bigger trend of economy getting completely decoupled from geography. People from anywhere can go meet up and collaborate and build stuff.”
But it is also important to keep in mind the roots of the web3 movements: the fragmentation of market capitalisation through the decentralisation of technology and decision making.
“It’s definitely not something that one person can just own, it’s something that i think many tech companies can use moving forward to create more beneficial experiences for people in the future.”
Vandal, founder of DAO Records, a virtual record label that mints audio NFTs and hosts virtual music events on NEAR, also added to this point.
“One component that really kind of defines the metaverse in my mind is the implementation of blockchain or decentralized technology…web3 is really the defining factor in my mind behind the the meaning of the metaverse”
What is important is not only what the metaverse is from a users perspective, but what it is built on from a structural perspective. Web3 metaverse platforms offer more forward thinking structures for the various components that they are built on. If this is something we care about, from a data privacy point of view, then we should care about what platforms the metaverse is built on.
“The difference between the metaverse, normal video games and other types of virtual experiences is that first of all it’s persistent, and secondly it is focused on social immersion like the ability to basically have conversations within these worlds.”
One of the directions the web3 metaverse has taken off in the NEAR ecosystem is in the music industry.
What about the opportunities for the music industry?
Vandal began the discussion of the metaverse and the music industry with a reality check: the pandemic of the last two years and its impact on the live music industry.
“Due to the the pandemic and the inability to do events in the real world — which is what i’ve been doing for the past 20 plus years or so — we kind of manoeuvred into the metaverse using Cryptovoxels, incorporating music and NFTs, and just like a virtual location for anybody anywhere to come and join in these musical experiences.”
The closing of borders and venues has been a great threat to the live music industry, not only by eliminating the public’s exposure to it, but also by hindering the communal union of like minded individuals. But now, the metaverse is posing as a virtual solution to the continual uncertainty of variants, lockdowns, and travel restrictions.
“It’s a great tool to connect people similar in my mind to what MySpace was before Facebook, where you could connect people with similar interests.”
Vandal hopes that the metaverse can fulfil this role and grow a global community of music enthusiasts to keep the live music culture alive no matter the circumstances. While the metaverse opportunities for the music industry are coming into fruition, there are also other less obvious but greatly beneficial uses cases for the technology.
What is the added value of the metaverse in your specific industry?
Pandu explains that the metaverse allows better services for biological data, for example:
“Consulting your personal genetic consultant; on-chain payments; and the ability to easily transport your electronic medical records with you whilst not compromising the security of the data.”
In this way, the metaverse offers a human touch in the growing custom of digital clinical interactions, whilst maintaining confidentiality and privacy as a central property.
On the other hand, Clarian points out a similar point to Vandal’s about the hit the live music industry has taken. Clarian’s app Tamago aims to bring a Soundcloud/Spotify music experience, where content and data is stored on web3 technologies using IPFS, rather than the centralised data centres that web2 companies use. Within this he hopes to reach a point where the metaverse can make ‘streaming art’ (e.g. youtube live videos) a much more rich experience, where the audience can feel more connected to their favourite artists from any location of the world.
Microchipgnu, from 3XR, a virtual gallery space provider where people can showcase their NFTs or collaborate with other artists, explains how virtual spaces such as the ones they create play a key role in the development of the metaverse.
“[The role of the metaverse] is to have an open space [for creatives], unlike Facebook, which tries to present itself as such, but actually taxes the users.”
The exposition of medical data, music, and art cover just some of the use cases of the metaverse. The rest are for us to figure out, using these great projects as inspiration. But apart from these specific use cases, what will the metaverse do to society more generally?
What about the social impact this technology will have?
In Sasha’s view, the metaverse could have beneficial cross-context application, such as information sharing across platforms, which will benefit individuals in a variety of potential social scenarios.
“Social profiles — that could be social graphs … interest graphs…those pieces of information about individual users — they’ll be living in different contexts between different open web applications. For example if you did help somebody in the context of a hackathon and you earn some kind of reputation there. You can redeem it in the context of online invite-only events in the metaverse. So you’ll have the transition of your individual information across different contexts — that’s not how the internet works today unfortunately.”
But as Vandal rightfully points out, this sensitive social and political territory:
“You could see a situation where regulators and those who control your access to the internet could base their decisions upon such information. Where our decentralised utopian vision could become our own prison if it’s controlled by centralised entities who want to take advantage of people — and i think that that is something we should be aware of.’’
This is why we must aim to create a metaverse that is as minimally controlled by single points of decision-making bodies as possible.
The future of the metaverse becomes even more unknown and exciting if we consider, as Sasha points out, that out of thousands of years of social, cultural and technological development, the world is only now witnessing the first internet native generations — a transition that is both fascinating but still normatively uncertain. What direction will the collective unconscious of an internet native generation look like, or rather, what direction should we aim to steer it toward?
“Collective unconscious…if we see a red light we know not to cross on a very basic level. Don’t cross the street because there’s a red light chance —it shows a symbolic chance of risk of being hurt or killed”
What will be the red light of an internet native generation? Where will they stop? It is an exciting time for many reasons, and the development of the metaverse is an important part of that excitement. Communication and custody of information and data is central to this discussion, and such communication between cultures, societies and generations must be mediated by a set of technologies that are appropriate for this. Web3 and the metaverse being developed within in it should be developed to be well equipped for this.
“As creators we must be very aware of the fact that the online dimension unites people of very different cultural backgrounds, education, and pop culture… this contributes to a great [but challenging] diversity…we [as creators] must lead our fellow humans toward an easy, clean, and uniting communication.”
Our guests helped us understand what the metaverse is, what it is being used for in the NEAR ecosystem, but also what it could be used for in society more generally. It is the beginning of a challenging but exciting period, one that will blur the lines between digital and physical reality. The way that we will chose to see it, and the words we will pick to describe it, are things yet to be determined. Conversations such as these are important for that development. We are certain that the NEAR ecosystem and blockchain more generally will value these spaces and their discussion.
All the participants at the OWS party walked away with an exclusive NFT in their pocket made by one of the creators of Bob Boom. The beautiful NFT airdropped to the participants’ Mintbase store works as a proof of participation as well as a nice souvenir from this amazing party edition.
Written by one of our writers: Jacopo Nuti.