The Metaverse, NFT or Web3 are on everyone’s lips. It’s nothing new that the Metaverse and Web3 innovations are transforming the virtual world. It’s also important to understand Metaverse combinatorial innovation as it requires multiple technologies and trends to function.
Contributing tech capabilities include augmented reality (AR), flexible work styles, head-mounted displays (HMDs), an AR cloud, the Internet of Things (IoT), 5G, artificial intelligence (AI) and spatial technologies.
The Women in IT Summit UK 2022 provided the perfect platform to debate the issue, and who better than moderator Hera Hussain, founder and CEO of Chayn.
During the session entitled: The Year of the Metaverse – Can True Inclusion be Achieved? Hussain was joined on stage by Gabriela de Oliveira, Head of Policy, Research and Campaigns at Glitch; Paff Evara, Cofounder, Take Up Space; Pauline Hohl, Co-founder, Unik Labs and Dex Hunter-Torricke, VP of Global Comms & Public Engagement, The Oversight Board.
Together they explored how to build a more inclusive Metaverse space. Especially as you don’t have to be a tech geek to be interested in a shake-up of the internet that will have a huge societal impact. “Everyone is part of the topic: leaders, brands, everyone,” Hussain explained.
Gartner expects that by 2026, 25% of people will spend at least one hour a day in the Metaverse for work, shopping, education, social media or entertainment.
From the outset, Hussain asked the panellist, “How can we make the Metaverse more inclusive? How can we regulate to create a more inclusive space? How can we create better standards and better ways of being online?”
Hohl, a co-founder of Unik Labs, a startup that has created a Metaverse for fashion and lifestyle, shared her experience of using feedback from diverse online users to help build her brand. “Someone on the autism spectrum can let us know what the best setting is in terms of sounds and movements in the space we create,” said Hohl. This precious information allows them to create the best version of the product.
Regulate these spaces
Beyond everyone’s commitments to inclusion, Oliveira at Glitch further explained how important it is to regulate these spaces, especially with online harassment and abuse towards women and people of colour on the rise. “How can we move to Web 3.0 if we can’t keep women safe on Web 2.0?” she asked.
Oliveira pointed out that the roadmap for the regulation is not clear. “Women and girls are not mentioned once in the bill, even though we all know that women are seven times more likely to be abused online than men. So there are a lot of gaps in this kind of regulation.”
Much of the debate focused on the lack of transparency and diversity on the part of dominant platforms like Facebook, Google and Amazon. Hunter-Torricke, who works at the Oversight Board as an independent interlocutor on Facebook’s and Instagram’s most difficult content moderation decisions, addressed the topic honestly.
For him, the most relevant question is how to remove the power from a small group of technology executives, who, until now, have been in control of all decisions. “If we build fantastic new tools, have all these new programmes and have great policies for the Metaverse, we will still have the same problem: a small number of male executives, who do not represent society.”
Decide out of tech companies
The main issue at hand is the governance of society, feels Hunter-Torricke. “How can we expose the decisions made within companies to greater transparency? And hopefully, take the decisions out of these tech companies and put in place concepts like independent oversight and accountability?” he asked. He mentioned that if no one is careful, the next generation and metadata services will be shaped by Silicon Valley!
Another way to create a more inclusive space is to ensure that everyone, including the decision-maker, really understands the issues. “We need to educate business leaders and our bosses on how the Metaverse will potentially be much more disruptive. I don’t think they’re getting the magnitude of the issue,” he added.
How to break these barriers
Paff Evara, a co-founder of Take Up Space, a community that helps underrepresented leaders take more space, spoke about self-empowerment. People need to think about how to break down these barriers and allow themselves the freedom of expression and authenticity. “We need to take space in these new frontiers, and we need to make sure we integrate it, educate it and make it accessible to everyone. We are very focused on NFT and how it can be unlocked for generational wealth opportunities.”
Overall, it is important to understand that the Metaverse is evolving and will become very important in the years to come. To avoid repeating past mistakes, everyone must take responsibility. Decision-makers must provide more structure and transparency to create a safe environment for everyone.
On the other hand, users, especially underrepresented people, need to be aware and educate themselves to participate and seize the full potential of the Metaverse.
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