During the past two years, we’ve watched globalization and lockdowns lead to a deep convergence of physical and digital. The much-anticipated metaverse — to be delivered, by some estimates, within the next decade, — is the next logical step down this road.
Nevertheless, there’s more to its creation than developing and distributing proper software and accessible hardware. As millions of users join the brewing multinational pot of metaverse, it will likely mirror some of the sociocultural conflicts we’ve been facing for years, if not centuries.
So how do we make interactions in the metaverse more civil? Is it possible to minimize tensions in the brand new digital world, and if yes — then how?
The power of diversity
Before I even start on technology, it’s important to acknowledge diversity as one of the main sources of empathy, understanding and connection. You see, we’re living in a world where people and cultures are brought close together and divided at the same time. On one hand, you can be born in one country, study in another, and work in a third. On the other, our close circles haven’t just become smaller; according to research by Brene Brown, they’ve become less diverse.
It’s understandable: exposure to diversity almost always means leaving our comfort zone, and not everyone has the means or will to take the journey. The metaverse has the power to bring on a fundamental shift here. Set in a space where the borders between virtual, augmented, and the real world get blurred, it can boost our exposure to diversity — and help create quality connections between peoples and communities of the world.
The next question is, how can that be achieved? Through the responsible development of the metaverse and implementation of DEI: diversity, equity, and inclusiveness.
Bringing DEI to metaverse
Implementing, not enforcing
First, setting ground rules is a must. Those should extend to all users, regardless of their beliefs or background, and help create a space of mutual respect. Another good idea is to provide them with easy access to safety tools (e.g. safety bubbles introduced by META to control avatars’ personal space).
However, I firmly believe it’s more about implementing than enforcing: it’s vital to aim to build a culture that supports DEI values from the ground up. It starts with bringing in international developer teams with different sets of skills, experiences, abilities, and perspectives; welcoming their differences and being open to new ideas. (This approach will also help avoid bringing systemic bias over to the metaverse.)
All starts in the comfort zone
The next step is creating a zone of comfort for users, and then softly pushing them to explore the space around it. We’re now seeing it happen to DAOs, as they become home to communities for underrepresented minorities: hispanic female entrepreneurs, or LGBTQ artists, to name a few.
There’s no way we should stop there, but, instead, create contexts for communication, spaces for learning, and new forms of entertainment, which would encourage people to get out of their comfort zones and mingle. The more opportunities for new connections there are, the better, so they could connect with others over various interests or experiences.
What about the language and technological barriers? Well, the first one can be brought down by developing quality direct translation solutions that would ease communication.
At the same time, adding support for multiple devices (including smartphones) and adding entry points will help make sure that people who cannot afford expensive headsets and top computer gear don’t get left out of the game. And lastly, educating masses on how the metaverse works and the opportunities it creates will boost inclusivity and equality, too.
Of course, this technology is still at a nascent stage. However, given the global interest in metaverse development and technological input by Big Tech, I believe that we will see it take form before the end of the decade. And before it happens, we should keep imagining what inclusivity must look like in this new world we’re building, keep in mind that everyone should have equal access, and set examples of smart DEI implementation.
I believe that this great experience of civil interaction within the metaverse will inevitably seep into the real world, and bring the long-awaited positive shift in the quality of our relationships
Maria Tankushina, Content Director