Last week I wrote a piece for Real Life about the tech industry’s disinterest in fashion and its broader rejection of public space and the idea of a commons. The essay concludes with a critique of the metaverse concept, a more regimented simulacrum of public space where a wider range of interactions are easier to monetize—a virtual environment in which we’ll finally have digital walls where we can hang our NFTs, and where we can rub elbows with Marvel’s embodied IP. Recent metaverse announcements from Facebook and Microsoft felt instantly cynical—megaplatforms taunting their captive users with something we were sure to hate, discourse chum for the mid-August Twitter doldrums when there’s nothing better to talk about, luring us online to make our lame metaverse jokes when we ought to be reading a book at the beach instead. Whether the metaverse is an attention-grabbing troll or a genuine strategic priority remains to be seen, but either way it’s mostly just marketing gloss for something more mundane—“virtual reality with unskippable ads,” as Wendy Liu
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