- The metaverse is the next step in the internet’s evolution
- We must ensure that there is a safe, inclusive space for a wide range of people involved with the metaverse’s creation from the start
- This includes representation in development, broad access, and ensuring safety
Our internet is once again entering a seismic shift. To properly characterize this monumental moment in tech history, Will Page coined the term Tarzan Economics. Simply put, the framework refers to how the internet and technology can transform the way consumers and brands interface, forcing companies to jump from one vine (their old business model) to a new vine (the emerging model).
In this environment of Web3, which encompasses the evolution of the metaverse, NFTs, and blockchain – we are amid one of the biggest vine swings in the history of the internet.
For many brands, the swing into Web3 starts with the metaverse, giving brands both an opportunity to establish their presence in a new medium and a responsibility to craft it as an inclusive and safe place for generations to come. We can create the 3D world we want by improving upon the shortcomings of the one we live in.
Inclusivity in the metaverse
Diversity and inclusion have always been top-of-mind issues for internet users. For example, it was found that 49% of transgender and nonbinary people do not feel welcomed and safe on social media, with 84% of LGBTQ+ adults agreeing that there are not enough protections on social media to prevent discrimination, harassment, and/or disinformation.
The metaverse appears to be taking a different course of action. According to a global study by Momentum Worldwide, 80% of people feel more included in the metaverse than in real life. The study found that consumers are now looking to the metaverse to fill three core aspects of life—inspiration, individuality, and inclusion.
For many brands, inclusion and representation have been a priority, matching the importance that DEI needs to play in the metaverse. According to the Summit Leadership Partners 2021 CEO study surveying 200 CEOs, 95% of participants said DEI is a focus for their companies over the next one to two years.
With an alignment between brands and metaverse users on their commitments to diversity, it is more important than ever that both parties have the tools and assets needed to create an inclusive space.
As we build this new world, it is important we learn from the shortcomings of our real world, and provide the right tools, content, standards, policies, and procedures to help make the Web3 experience as best and equitable as possible.
Practically, this means brands should offer grants and support to artists from underrepresented backgrounds. This is to ensure variety and diversity in the models and assets that will build our virtual presence and future, as well as ensure that diverse creators are represented through their work.
Safety in the metaverse
Safety in the metaverse is another prominent issue for users. According to a recent report by Morning Consult, 55% of adults said they have major concerns about how their data could be tracked and misused in the metaverse, while 44% said the second-biggest worry was cyberbullying and online abuse.
Parental controls should be employed to help parents understand the way teens are using the metaverse, including to whom they are exposed. They should also be able to view their children’s purchases and be provided with access to information about how their privacy is protected.
Many of these factors are available on today’s internet, but metaverse-specific safety features should continue to be created. Meta has introduced personal boundaries for avatars, which provide personal space, despite it being in a virtual setting.
While these are all great steps forward, the battle to provide continual safety to those using the metaverse must be fought together. Tech companies will withstand most of it, but they should be joined by other groups, including academia, lawmakers, and society itself, all of whom must find a way for people to peacefully coexist online.
What the metaverse means for users and brands
The metaverse in its most simplistic form is a 3D version of the internet and computing at large. It is a digital ecosystem that parallels the real world. It gives internet users an opportunity to not only be on the internet but be fully immersed in it.
This experience moves the internet from a “lean in” model to a “be in” model. Internet users are beginning to replace browsing through web pages or swiping through apps for a complete digital immersion experienced through users’ avatars, powered by the advancements of augmented Reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).
For users, the metaverse will make the internet a more tangible experience, particularly as the technology we use to access it becomes more advanced. For brands, the metaverse represents an opportunity to increase profits and enter what is predicted to become an $8 trillion market opportunity.
Technology and strategy are catching up with the vision
While the metaverse was the buzzword of the 2022 Consumer Electronics Show, it is by no means a new concept. Second Life, for example, launched almost 20 years ago in 2003 and gave us our first glimpse of a virtual avatar world – but it was a reality short-lived due to elevated expectations from the technology available.
Today, with new advances in technology, the expectations of a metaverse have become more realistic and brands are seeing the long-term possibility of these digital strategies.
Gucci, for instance, started its Gucci Town experience in Roblox, and Warner Music Group created a virtual venue and music experience in The Sandbox. Even companies like JP Morgan opened a lounge in Decentraland to capitalize on what it says is a “limitless” opportunity in the virtual world.
As more brands enter this space, it is clear they will need to be considerate of the people who will experience and use the metaverse, and therefore build DEI into their strategy from the very start.
Creating an inclusive future begins now
Brands have an influential role to play in shaping the nascent metaverse. Already, companies like Nike and Sony have recognized the commercial potential it possesses. As early adopters with vast resources, they are in a position of responsibility to build their metaverse platforms to promote acceptable behavior, inclusivity, and safety from the get-go.
When the internet first became a part of our lives, nobody was sure how it would evolve. It went from a handy place to post movie reviews to now hosting billion-dollar businesses. But with the metaverse, we are more aware of what is to come. We must use this knowledge to prepare and grow a space that is fair, inclusive, and safe for all.
Inclusion is not simply about getting an invite to the dance, it is about being invited to join the planning committee.
As VP of Brand at Shutterstock, Skip Wilson is responsible for leading the company’s global brand and creative strategy and producing results-driven, world-class activations to further build brand affinity and awareness.
He is a proven brand builder with expertise in leading and producing marketing experiences that improve performance, increase value, and drive global brand awareness, and used to serve as the Head of Global Brand & Corporate Marketing at Peloton, with prior experience at Sony, Ralph Lauren and MTV. He has a dual degree in Music and Communications from Vanderbilt University, and an MBA from Tulane University.
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