An anthropologist on talking about the metaverse

The metaverse is at a virtual crossroads. Norms and standards set in the next few years are likely to structure the metaverse for decades. But, writes anthropology professor Tom Boellstorff in The Conversation (reprinted in Fast Company), without common conceptual ground, people cannot even debate these norms and standards.

Decades of research in cognitive science has shown that most categories are “radial,” with a central prototype. […]

The metaverse is a human creation, and the most important step to defining it is to realize it’s a radial category. Virtual worlds are prototypical for the metaverse. Other elements of the laundry list radiate outward and won’t appear in all cases. And what’s involved will be socially specific. It will look different in Alaska than it will in Addis Ababa, or when at work versus at a family gathering.