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How Will The Metaverse Be Designed?

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Sometime around late 2018 I felt I had to do something about how poorly this blog was indexed. Even I had trouble finding things and had, on occasion, resorted to a google search of my own blog. That feeling had been particularly strong this year, especially since the thumbnail EasyIndex software I’d been using was no longer being supported. So I found a new plugin called PostsTablePro and installed it. Click on the new INDEX link in the above menu of two items, to see the new way of searching posts. There’s no need for the categories and topics links anymore, and anything searched will be listed chronologically which is good. If you get lost, the Reset link will take you back. I didn’t want to change too many things at the same time but for the thumbnails to display in their correct proportions, the index needed a full-width page. This is why I had to search for another theme. I’m not convinced this one is the right one but I’ll first see how much I can customize it. The single column layout still seems a bit too wide. I’d also like to get rid of that word Blog on the home page, and figure out how to add Search and Subscribe buttons, etc. I’m not sure how useful being able to search by tags is. Perhaps the blog needs a term index like a book. Maybe I should check out the Acadmic Blogger plugin. Bear with me.

So then, how will the metaverse be designed? My first thought in response to this question posed by ArchDaily as if anyone cared was “Who cares?” But around January last year people – by which I mean content-provider people – were asking this question. So much can change in a year! We never had time to even think about or even discuss the implications for architecture of the metaverse. AI is what it’s all about now. Before it even existed, the metaverse has gone the way of parametric design despite Schumacher’s weighty tomes, has gone the way of algorithmic design and manufacture. Before that, about three years ago we were all excited about Mars, especially when coupled with the contemporaneous fuss about 3D which of course gave 3D printed Mars buildings made from ice or the Martian regolith. Before that, if I remember rightly, we had laser cut metal that lasted for exactly three seconds back in 2009. If we go back a century, prefabrication was the next big thing and that never lived up to its promises. Anyway, it looks like the metaverse has gone off the boil now we’re all excited about AI.

But at least “How will the metaverse be designed?” is a grammatically correct question and not just an Archdaily statement with a question mark added. Is a metaverse better and bigger than a universe? Many people seem to think so, not least of all Mark Zukerberg (who puts the averse into metaverse), Patrik Schumacher (grrr), Krista Kim (?), and of course ArchDaily for providing them ith the oxygen so that, in the way of architecture, they can talk this thing up until it actually becomes a thing. Notwithstanding, the question of whether a metaverse is preferable to a universe is, I think, a necessary one. It’s a bit difficult when we don’t have much to go on apart from all the people on the other side promising us all how wonderful it’s going to be. Mark Zuckerberg and Patrik Schumacher seem to be the main cheerleaders and this alone prompts an orange alert.

It’s true there’s much about the real world that sucks and, since going to Mars and having a happy life there isn’t really on the cards for a while, escape to anywhere seems like a good idea. But it’s not really about anyone going anywhere, whether it’s a real place such as Mars, or a virtual place such as a metaverse. Both fantasies function to create a market for something we were managing to live quite happily without.

In the past, we read novels. More recently, we stream video content. I see the metaverse as an interactive and not an entirely bad move if you can forgive the data collection, product placement and targeted advertising. In a way it’s genius. We can just use our real money to have our virtual selves buy virtual products such as a virtual piece of land near the virtual piece of land owned by someone famous in real life, while that still matters. For other people, there’s always NFTs. Remember this pioneering one by Krista Kim?

I seem to remember it was designed for Mars but Mars already seems a long time ago. Life seems pretty ordinarily aspirational in this NFT-verse. In some bizarre way, it reminds me of John Lautner’s Arango House in Acapulco and, frankly, I’d rather imagine myself in that if we’re talking about imaginary possession and not investment value. Actually, I already own John Lautner’s Arango House in my imagination and, I can tell you, it’s been very pleasant imagining myself there. I don’t want to suppress anyone’s market, but I don’t need an NFT to do that. Without even owning its NFT, I’ve already imagined myself in Krista Kim’s pioneering NFT and I can say I expect a bit more of architecture and suggest we shouldn’t really confuse it with investment products or, inasmuch as the two are different. But each to their own.

My position is that the metaverse has already been designed. How it’s going to look and feel is arbitrary since whatever does the job for which the metaverse has been designed to do will suffice. We will probably be offered the false freedom to choose between various “skins” on the same interface so as to have the illusion of control. I might prefer my metaverse in 1930’s Japanese Art Deco but that’s as irrelevant as my step-and-repeat desktop wallpaper.

Seamless tropical jungle floral pattern with beautiful orchids and strelitzias. Vector illustration.

In a way, the metaverse or, rather, the idea of the metaverse is already as dated as everything that went before it. The question of how the metaverse will be designed is designed to make us think the metaverse needs designing so design can continue to add value redundant to the function of something, even if that something isn’t real. This is a development, if not progress.

• • • 

After my April 16 post Overthinking It, I knew that manhole covers such as this one just had to exist somewhere so it was no surprise to find a whole garden of them. It’s as continuous as a manhole cover can get.

And after my previous post, The Winter Garden, a friend told me that the reason many Chinese new high-rise residential unit owners enclose their balconies yet continue to use the newly created space in exactly the same way is because when those people come to sell their units, the area of the balcony will be sold at only half the rate of the enclosed area. This is sufficient to account for the number of balcony conversions but it doesn’t explain why they all have to be done immediately after occupancy. Perhaps the development management sets a conversion window limit to avoid perpetual construction?

This next post is about how I re-indexed this blog in 2018.

And that was a consequence of this post that got me thinking about how important information retrieval is. You get out what you put into it – as we are currently discovering with AI prompts.

Comments

  • Dear Graham, It would be become easiier to read if you could minimize the width of the paragraph a little bit, or you could increase the font size. Now it is difficult to find the start of the next line.

    • Thanks very much for letting me know. I had an idea that might be the case. I’ll see what I can do. (The post width is connected to the new index.) I’m sure there’s some fix for it. Please give me a couple of weeks. Thanks again though. Graham.

  • says:

    Dear Graham: Even though my name was mentioned in a question on your previous post (Pattern), you didn’t comment on my work directly. Nevertheless, I do want to give you this reference for today’s post in case you are interested: “AI, the Beauty of Places, and the Metaverse: Beyond Geometrical Fundamentalism”. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s44223-023-00026-z
    In this way, your two posts are linked. Best wishes, Nikos.

    • Thank you for the link Nikos. I am definitely interested and will investigate. That’s a fascinating title! Thanks, Graham.