What is the Metaverse?
There is no concrete definition of the Metaverse, as each person may describe it in a different way. But a general definition places it as a real-time conversation between people within an online environment. Casey Newton provides a further definition based on a discussion with Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Meta (Facebook), he describes it “as the next iteration of the internet in which it supports online 3D virtual environments through a multitude of platforms such as computer, VR or AR.” Within the current climate in regards to Metaverses there are limited versions such as VRChat or Club Penguin which have incorporated many aspects of social interaction in a virtual environment.
Unlike the limited version of a metaverse, the idea for a fully fledged Metaverse is the ability to provide greater dimensionality compared to limited interactions like Zoom. This is due to the Metaverse providing people the opportunity to build their own spaces and avatars. As such, there is huge potential and possibility in what the Metaverse can offer including, but not limited to:
- A potential marketplace where businesses can create/sell products and services
- A place for social gaming where people can play/build virtual reality games and play to earn in game or real currency
- A venue for virtual events like concerts and conferences
With this possibility there are real world implications, with Governments and companies trying to keep ahead of the curve and capitalise during the early stages of the Metaverse. One such government is South Korea, which has spent around £125 million in investment into a Metaverse Ecosystem alongside Microsoft, providing integration of VR support into Teams enabling use of a VR in an online meeting capacity.
What about Ethos?
Ethos has worked completely online for the past 20 years. Everyone that works for and with us is able to interact with our work platform and systems from the comfort of their homes anywhere in the world, provided they have internet access. Due to the online nature of our organisation the development of new technologies and systems such as the Metaverse is something of great interest to us, as it leaves a lot of opportunities for improvement and further development of our platform, as well as making life easier for those we work with.
Due to the development of new technologies and our implementation of them, we find ourselves interacting with Metaverse features on a daily basis. Currently, we use Slack and ClickUp for online messaging and assigning work internally (read more on our partnership with ClickUp here). We use Google Workspace for a range of things; including emails, creating shared documents and data storage. OBS Studio is used for recording our meetings, Clearbooks for our finances, and Discord/Zoom are used for social events!
How the Metaverse benefits Ethos as a consumer
Through being completely online Ethos has been able to provide our employees and partners with increased flexibility in their ways of working. This has led to a relaxed working environment in which users of our work system are able to bring their work, colleagues and other partners with them wherever they are in the world. Working in this way also enables work relationships to be continuously kept and developed, leading to increased cooperation and productivity. This has also allowed for the running of online social events through various online meeting softwares such as Discord and Zoom, which was especially useful during Covid-19 lockdowns as it provided people the opportunity to still get social interaction whilst being stuck at home.
In the context of the Metaverse, Ethos utilises low-to-medium tier features in various forms from meetings to messaging. Ethos utilises low-level Metaverse applications through Slack, which provides easy messaging to anyone within Ethos, and the use of Google docs enabling real time collaboration. Similar to social events, our internal daily meetings occur through Google Meet, which we would class as low/medium tier use of Metaverse features, as cameras aren’t used, so only profile pictures show on calls. However, these meetings still provide an extra level of immersiveness compared to text chat. Immersiveness could be increased, however, through the help of companies such as UX Connections, who are able to help create personalised avatars for our users to reflect their behaviour and status (Here’s a link to an article written by UX Connections on how the Metaverse benefits a creator).
A further benefit of the Metaverse for Ethos is the ability to host networking events/conferences online. One of our Ethos projects; Sardines, connects people and shares knowledge without traditional boundaries through specialising in digital and hybrid events to make communities and events more accessible, inclusive and greener. We’ve also worked with our partners on delivering these values. Earlier this month we engaged with the Arts and Culture Network to give a TAD talk at their speed networking event. The ability to host these events online allows us to interact with people worldwide and removes the need for travel and visas, saving on the costs and environmental impact of travel. We’ve also been able to successfully employ and guide young people into the world of work through our Young Leaders project. Through this project we have been able to deliver online workshops to young people across the country through working with our partners on the amplifi platform, part of the National Youth Agency. These workshops have allowed for increased inclusivity and accessibility of resources for young people, removing barriers to work. These workshops through the use of an online meeting platform enable us to meet and present to various young people around the country in helping them to find what drives them and where they fit in the world of work. Without the ability to present online it would be hard for some people to attend, further limiting their opportunities.
With the given examples of how Ethos employs a low level Metaverse, it brings into question how higher level Metaverse could be deployed and used within Ethos to help improve the personable experience with respect to how the Metaverse is advertised.
With these benefits in mind, there is a lot of consideration that goes into how to fully utilise these benefits. As such please make sure to read the article by UX Connections which details how the producer takes into account these and creates the most useful product.
Metaverse Privacy and Ethical considerations for Ethos
Within the workings of Ethos there is a true sense of openness, as each person within the organisation has the opportunity to see any documents within the Ethos workspace. This enables people to have sharing control and access to any Google Docs, but this brings questions of GDPR compliance and security. As it allows anyone to find information about partners, however this is effectively alleviated with the use of 2 step authentication. There are further security concerns for integrating a higher tier Metaverse within Ethos due to Meta (formerly Facebook) and how they are leading the charge for pushing the Metaverse. These concerns are primarily related to how Meta has faced many serious allegations regarding user privacy violations in the past. As such from a consumer point of view there would need to be improvements to alleviate these concerns.
These concerns are discussed further in the UX connections article.
A further concern with high-tier use of a Metaverse are the problems associated with algorithmically tailored worlds for each person. This will only allow people things they wish to see which can be more detrimental than social media, as it further reinforces the growing concern of echo chambers in society. With the Metaverse being even more immersive it has the potential to cause further problems as people are being further disillusioned with the real world.
In the context of Ethos, this can cause people to only be exposed and join projects exposed to them through work mentors or talking to others which in essence creates an echo chamber effect as people are not aware of all work happening.
A final point to make is with technology so integrated and used by the current generation of young people, with a more integrated use of the Metaverse, young people may find it hard to have a good work-life balance and separate each. As such this further consideration would have to be dealt with to ensure a healthy balance.
The article was written in conjunction with UX Connections.