MetaverScope by Barbara Roncalli
MetaverScope is a data-driven project that analyzes the contemporary landscape that is developing around metaverse technology in order to map its complex underlying digital infrastructure and expose the relationships among the various stakeholders involved in creating value in virtual environments, the technologies they employ and the resulting imagery, making these dynamics easily readable by end users. Thus, the final goal identified is to define the primary actors that make up the system and the power relationships among the various players, in order to return a concrete account of the dynamics that characterize the metaverse at a specific stage of its evolution.
In order to achieve this goal, the following research questions were defined, which made it possible to identify a starting point for the analysis: "What are the main virtual worlds that dominate the metaverse landscape and what are the characterizing traits that determine its success in the industry?", "What are the main actors and stakeholders that are actively taking action in the metaverse, contributing to the creation of value in individual platforms? " and, finally, "How is the metaverse being communicated to the broad audience?" To answer these questions, a data-driven analysis was conducted, first by applying digital methods (Rogers, 2013) for field data tracking and collection operations, then by using data visualization tools in the data analysis and representation stages. This methodology made it possible to develop a deep understanding of the technological context that characterizes the metaverse, hence the origin of MetaverScope, an editorial product that aims to synthesize the insights that emerged in the research phase.
The artifact consists of an atlas designed to expose the phenomenon through the design of an alternative narrative (Briones, 2021), which contrasts with the dominant ones popularized by major players in the technology sector. This mainstream information, which are carried out by industry giants with the aim of increasing traffic on platforms and generating profits, tends to better enhance the vision and capabilities of the individual company, however not always translating into something concrete. Therefore, the narrative proposed within the project offers a much more concrete vision of the metaverse, which is framed starting from its material technologies and components, to value creation dynamics enacted by well-known brands and external institutions.
In this way, the volume aims to serve as a tool to encourage the dissemination of more knowledge among those who are unfamiliar with the metaverse, but who are inevitably exposed to the topic, even if only marginally. In addition, the mapping operation serves a witnessing function, crystallizing a certain set-up that characterizes the infrastructure of the metaverse in the early stages of an unpredictable evolution, perhaps destined to come to a halt, or to become the dominant technology of the future. Whatever scenario comes to materialize in the future, MetaverScope documents and archives the contemporary layout, becoming a hypothetical material for scholars of the future to analyze the phenomenon.
To fulfill this purposes, the project offers a guided tour that brings together a series of heterogeneous data visualizations, designed in such a way as to take advantage of a visual language derived from information design, and accompanied by a reading layer made of annotations and comments that deepen the point of view presented.
In this way, the atlas exposes the complex relationships and emerging dynamics among metaverse platforms, companies, technology, and society through visual representations, thus providing a general picture of the contemporary landscape.