Leonardo LASER Talks: Intersecting Realities: Exploring the Metaverse through the Lens of Art and Science


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The Metaverse is “a post-reality universe, a perpetual and persistent multiuser environment merging physical reality with digital virtuality. It is based on the convergence of technologies that enable multisensory interactions with virtual environments, digital objects and people such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).” [Mystakidis 2022].

The term ‘Metaverse’ was coined and used in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 novel “Snow Crash”, and Ernest Cline's 2011 “Ready Player One”. The situation changed when Facebook rebranded as part of Meta Platforms Inc. in October 2021. Whereas the novelists' vision of the Metaverse is generally a dystopian one, the current protagonists and promotors bring forward a more positive view, as for example the procuration of new meanings of live or contribution to improve society [Ball 2022].

One could imagine the Metaverse becomes something other than an extension of today’s mass market culture, connecting physical and virtual worlds to create new spaces? What if the Metaverse contributed indeed to increase our resilience in the current Anthropocene, to rethink our relations to other humans, other beings, and matter, also transcending the limitations of a physical space. [Friess, Ruche 2023]?

The Metaverse, virtual worlds, and Web 4.0 have emerged as transformative trends shaping the future of our digital societies, by using technologies like augmented and virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and blockchain.

Nevertheless, there are some related challenges to it - namely artists are concerned about the protection of their intellectual property within the metaverse, as it becomes increasingly difficult to prevent unauthorized use, reproduction, or distribution of their works, and surveillance. Some artists also worry that the immersive nature of virtual environments could lead to a loss of genuine human interaction, making artistic experiences less meaningful.

From a societal and ethical perspective, it will be important to ensure equal access to the metaverse, and not to forget issues such as the potential for addiction, manipulation, and energy consumption.

Artists and scientists together could generate a synergistic view and energy on the Metaverse, that leads to the creation of an immersive, accessible, and empowering digital environment. By combining the creativity of both, we can envision a digital realm that transcends the ordinary and elevates human experiences. It is crucial to remain vigilant in ensuring that the metaverse does not become overly commercialized or controlled by a select few, which could stifle our imagination and limit the diversity of opinions.