A dystopia in the cities of tomorrow

With Metaverse, What will the cities of the future look like and even serve? Here is an analysis by Misha Young, Assistant Professor And Sarah Chowka, Assistant Professor (Center for Studies and Research in Digital Culture) at the University of Ontario, France.

Analysis – Several companies, including Apple and Microsoft, are betting that tomorrow’s world will live in full or partial metavers. Microsoft recently acquired video game giant Activation Blizzard for US $ 68.7 billion.

At a time when more and more social and cultural activities are taking place in this virtual universe, let’s push the reflection to the extreme: if tomorrow’s city dwellers recommend Metavers in real infrastructure, what it will look like, even serve. City of the future?

As professors of urban environment and digital culture, respectively, we propose to reflect this question, exploring how Metaverse can profoundly change our day-to-day relationships with urban spaces.

This view may sound dystopian, but let’s have fun imagining this future world.

From science fiction to reality

The term “metavers” comes not from science and technology, but from science fiction. Neil Stephenson discovered it in 1992 in his novel “Snow Crash” to designate a virtual and dystopian urban environment.

Stephenson presents us with Metaverse in the form of a very long boulevard produced by powerful computers. This is controlled by Global Multimedia Protocol Group, Which manages building permits and controls zoning by setting boundaries for business, parks and advertising spaces. These spaces, rented or purchased by large corporations, make Metavers a virtual urban environment controlled entirely by personal interests: the digital technology giants.

Virtual Urban Environment: Wear Your Helmet!

Thirty years after the publication of Stephenson’s novel, science fiction issues point to new realities and new urban challenges. We are currently spending a lot of money to make our cities more equitable, sustainable and effective; But will these investments be worthwhile if tomorrow’s city dwellers gain practical city experience?

Let’s start with social activities. If we switch to Metaverse, a number of urban attractions such as cinemas, restaurants, and museums and historical monuments, the number of customers going through their doors will decrease. In the meantime, many museums can be practically visited.

The growing flow at the Metawares gate will require a significant increase in the funds required for land purchases and infrastructure maintenance. Created environments can be virtual, but their costs – both in financial terms and in energy and environmental terms – are real and growing. Could these funds be taken from a budget previously devoted to physical space and the environment? Will our government, like Saudi Arabia or South Korea, start investing in infrastructure and virtual city plots?

In the coming years, other social activities such as having coffee or beer with friends may be online. These virtual meetings will not only overcome the distance constraints and therefore reduce our interaction with the urban transport infrastructure, but will also make it possible to choose any place on the “planet” where they meet.

For example, a morning coffee with colleagues in the virtual garden of the Eiffel Tower, in the evening, could lead to a celebration surrounding a Super Bowl match in augmented reality. The latter will be visible nearby and will be available instantly under changing angles Microsoft already offers us this perspective on future sports philosophy, including the “HoloLens” augmented reality headset. This headset will not only give the feeling of sitting in the stadium, but will also allow you to interact with the screen using hand gestures.

Urban travel in virtual mode

Will the socialization of shopping center shopping, already virtualized by online sales, be reborn in Metaverse? Several companies are trying to answer this question, such as Samsung and Nike, who have already launched commercial space on Metaverse. The trend towards metavers has inspired new fashion collections like Ralph Lauren launched in the virtual world last December. RobolaxAn immersive platform that serves as both a showcase and a virtual space for video games.

A future where many of our social activities take place in metavars may seem hasty and even somewhat expansive, but those changes are already underway. Virtual performance halls also now host a number of events, such as the Sundance Film Festival and concerts by artists such as Ariana Grande, Jay Balvin and Travis Scott. The next show, hosted on the Fortnite video game platform, also attracted more than 12.3 million guests.

Let us now return to our physical activity, which is practically increasingly performed. Companies like Peloton now offer Tour de France and Giro-caliber bike rides without the hassle of traveling to Europe. Their popularity continues to grow, from 1.9 million users in 2019 to 5.9 million in 2021.

Another example might be the company Tempo, which offers home workouts with virtual personal trainers using artificial intelligence.

A new urban departure

While practical, this transformation into Metaverse changes the way we interact with urban landscaping and space and forces us to rethink many urban priorities.

Even today, in order to differentiate themselves and make themselves more attractive, many cities emphasize the quality and quantity of green space in their territory. But what of the use of these spaces – which for the moment serve primarily as a place to meet and practice – if tomorrow’s townspeople decide to run these activities online?

Without the need for urban space, and without their border businesses, the benefits of living in the city are also likely to be reduced. Meanwhile, during the epidemic, many Canadian families became familiar with teleworking and chose to leave the city to take advantage of more affordable rentals. We need to believe that, in addition to working from home, if many people could manage their social and physical activities remotely from Metavers, we would face a new urban exit.

Urban development needs to be redesigned

Apple, Meta and Microsoft are not the only companies that believe that we will occupy the virtual spaces where they will invest. But if they are right, cities need to start taking notice. Several places and urban developments need to be reviewed and even re-imagined: a process that can take many forms.

For example, the response to corporate commitments to virtual happiness can be embodied in new projects, such as creating community gardens and rearranging coastal beaches to urban beaches. These national initiatives, added to the renewal of affordable housing, can very well address the urban outflow.

Whatever they are, it would be difficult to imagine possible solutions if they do not come from a concerted and concerted effort, both public and private. On the one hand, these efforts need to involve today’s citizens in determining what the metaverse consists of and, on the other hand, what its role will be in the cities of tomorrow.

If we don’t start thinking about these questions soon, Silicon Valley companies will be happy to answer them for us. And nothing will prevent the transition from the science fiction of the dystopian metavers imagined by Neil Stephenson to reality.

However, it is clear that the more private companies invest in their virtual urban perspective, the less our focus will be on our current urban spaces.

This article has been republished from Conversations under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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