In the fifth session of “Imagining a Better Online World: Exploring the Decentralized Web” – a joint series of events with Internet Archive, METRO Library Council, and Library Futures – “Decentralized Apps, the Metaverse, and the ‘Next Big Thing,’” Internet Archive Director of Partnerships Wendy Hanamura took a deep dive into the metaverse and NFTs through an exploration of virtual worlds with pioneering metaverse developer Jin.
In this engaging session, Hanamura and Jin explored the technologies that would transform the future and the world as we know it within Web 3.0: the immersive spaces and built communities of the metaverse. As indicated by participants, to some, NFT and metaverse means “cyberspace on steroids,” or “Second Life,” while for others it holds a more negative connotation. From the “read-only” Web 1.0 to the forthcoming “read-write-trust verifiable” future of Web 3.0, the evolution of the web is leading to an enhancement of reality to create new and augmented realities.
An NFT, or an entry on a blockchain, can be anything from a document to even a virtual representation of a physical space like the Internet Archive. Jin, for example, is able to create a complete virtual desktop where their entire life and memory lives in 3D, and where they conducted the virtual reality interview with Hanamura. From hacker spaces to raves to the virtual representation of the Internet Archive they built as a central space to conduct their work, Jin’s life is mediated and defined through their virtual world building.
What makes Jin’s world unique is their commitment to building with other people in the open source community in an “interesting, collaborative, co-creation.”
Within these worlds, one of the key provisions is interoperability: the ability to carry these worlds between each other. For Jin, this is still a work in progress, with new modes of interoperability still being built. In addition, privacy is a major concern – Web 3.0 provides a new form of privacy through avatars and other obscuring technology, but Jin cautions that due diligence is still warranted, just like in the real world.
The conversation ended with a discussion of the democratizing aspects of NFT creation and independent artists. As an artist, Jin’s first NFT earned him more money than he ever had previously in his career. One of the most exciting aspects of this kind of creation is the way it removes the middle person from the art market: rather than creating for museums or other art markets, Jin is able to reach their audience directly.
Jin ended the session on a positive note: “In virtual reality, you have a lot more bandwidth for empathy. There’s a lot of nuance that is lost in text-based communication platforms. It’s more asynchronous. The sense of presence, of being there with other people, you experience a lot of genuine and good connections… there’s a lot of genuine appreciation of art. That gives me hope.”