… OR as I call it: How to make friends in the metaverse?
With Facebook launching their version of the metaverse just a few days ago, I couldn’t have asked vm-people for a better timing for the Immersive X conference in early November 2021 and for having me curating the community track and hosting a panel on How to make friends in the metaverse. But even without the sneak peak into Mark Zuckerbergs vision, the way the pandemic has impacted every part of our lives, including the way we maintain connections with others — may feel more important than ever. Since physical connections have not been possible at all for a while and still limited now, we started looking for ways to engage, to connect, to work and to find spaces where we feel at home digitally.
Whether we have a pandemic or not, this is going to happen. And we’re just in its infancy. I feel like we have a responsibility – and I certainly do have an urge! – to architect healthy spaces to connect online. However for the digital metaverse to work, it has to play better than the real world, for users to want to go into it. And before we can start architecting or even talking about it we should be clear about what we are talking: Community? Metaverse? Connection? Buzzword-Bingo galore
Community? Metaverse? Connection? What’s in it?
A community is per definition a social unit with a collective identity formed by norms, culture, shared values, customs and rituals. Communities may share a sense of place situated in a given geographical area or in virtual space or platforms. The sense of community, important to their identity, is built by practice, durable relations between the members.
Co-creation? Let me define co-creation as the collaborative development of new value such as a concept, a solution, a products together with experts and/or stakeholders. Stakeholders can be customers, colleagues or suppliers. Co-creation is a form of collaborative innovation: ideas are shared and improved together. Co-creation, in the context of a business, most often refers to a product or service design process in which input from consumers plays a central role from beginning to end.
And connection builds the foundation of both of them. In virtual spaces relationships and experiences can become increasingly immersive.As Brené Brown puts it: We feel connected, when we feel seen, heard and valued. When feeling connected we feel like we can trust. Trust being the base of our relationships – and thus our communities.
The term “Metaverse” is typically used to describe the concept of a future iteration of the internet, in which persistent, shared, virtual spaces are linked into a perceived virtual universe. The term is made up of the prefix “meta” and the stem “verse” and I use it NOT as an equivalent to Facebook, Facebook might be a part of it.
It is undoubtedly a challenging field of learning
We all know that throwing people into one room, whether it is a virtual room or a real one doesn’t bond us – what bonds us and why we better learn as much as possible about it, I went talking with Colleen Curtis, Head of Community at Miro, and Manouchehr Shamsrizi, Founder of gamelab and retrobrain. We figured, it is nontheless “a wonderful opportunity to expand the already existing concepts of belonging, of engagement and communities”. And how it is becoming increasingly important to connect, build and host platforms for shared value creation. This applies both within a company and outside the organization for the most we are active in this process the more we learn and the more we can actually influence its outcomes.
From Colleen Curtis, Head of Community @Miroe learned about the power of community, visualization and playfulness when it comes to co-creation. In her role at Miro she gets to work with and co-create a community of people coming together to collaborate and visualize the future of how ideas are born, how stories can be told, how teams can connect and build their own (meta-)verses and thrive – and how individuals find new ways to connect, to access joy and success in their work.
My personal learning? The more people create things / values/ ideas / project / products /art together the more they feel connected. And the more a company understands the dynamic of a community and knows that relationships and trust is something that needs a certain mindset and framing far from “making the best use of a community”, “gaining followers” and trying to influence & trigger a group of people thought of as an audience the more shift is possible for everyone involved.
When it comes to trust and the power of immersion, what can we learn from gaming?
How can we get familiar with the idea of the metaverse? What qualities does the digital space provide for connection, for community, for learning together and how do we meet them? When we talk trust, we have to talk fear. I had the pleasure to talk that Manouchehr Shamsrizi, Founder of Retro-Brain, a startup that is developing therapeutic-preventive video games for healthy seniors and seniors affected by dementia, Parkinson’s disease and stroke, joined us for our session at the campfire as well.
Manouchehr Shamsrizi is “among the most publicly prominent voices of Germany’s younger generation” (Washington Post) and is “involved wherever the improvement of political conditions still has a lot of room for development” (re:publica). He conducts research at Humboldt University, whose gamelab.berlin he co-founded, and also as a fellow of the German Council on Foreign Relations. Furthermore, he teaches on the social impact of future technologies at Leuphana University Lüneburg and about the “metaphysics of metal” at the Wacken Metal AcademyQualities. And while this list of engagements gives us an idea how many different stakeholders to engage with, he emphasized the need to empower the creative community to take action and connect.
When we talked about the role of immersion, he mentioned a project on How young people can be included in the creative process by using their tool to express themsevels: Minecraft. He showed us, how explicit and inspiring they went building their utopias and dystopias and thus sharing their perspective as well as what we might not be aware of, and qualities we might have to build together. It is undoubtedly a challenging field of learning but to stay away and leave it to those with financial and political power is not the way to lose the fear or to make it less threatening. Where, on what kind of platform, we will meet next? We don’t know yet, but we will stay connected, that we were sure at the end!
Thank you so much, dear Colleen and dear Manou! Thank you, vm-people and not the least, Lance Weiler, for your inspiring keynote! I could not find it online yet, but for those interested, Lance gave a talk at the Distributed conference a few days earlier, hosted by Miro on how he understands storytelling and what happened to the group of people “formerly known as audience”.