One of the points made in the publication for the EP is that reality is increasingly hybrid: material presence can be linked to another quality of material capabilities elsewhere. Meanwhile, automation takes an increasing role in our everyday decision-making and task-execution mechanisms. There are chances that what we define today as “reality” will be totally different in a near future. A precursor experimentation field in this respect is Fortnite, whose metaverse is increasingly relevant
in the life of millions of people (and in the revenues of big brands):
Fortnite’s great advantage isn’t that it was built to be the Metaverse, but that it’s already a massive social square that’s gradually taking on the qualities of one. It’s also worth highlighting that Fortnite’s monetization is itself based on identity – or more specifically, how one chooses to portray one’s self in the digital world via skins and avatars, tracked via the Epic Account. And to this end, we know that 3rd party IP owners are eager to bring their content into Fortnite in order to generate additional revenue, engagement or affinity (hence Disney’s integration of The Avengers’ Thanos in May 2018 and Wreck-It Ralph in November 2018, as well as the introduction of official NFL jerseys that same year). These extensions will be critical to Fortnite’s ability to sustain interest and broaden its demographic appeal. To this end, Fortnite may even endure because it has no IP or characters.
Wired calls it a “mirrorworld”
, following Yale computer scientist David Gelernter:
Deep in the research labs of tech companies around the world, scientists and engineers are racing to construct virtual places that overlay actual places. Crucially, these emerging digital landscapes will feel real; they’ll exhibit what landscape architects call placeness.
The mirrorworld will reflect not just what something looks like but its context, meaning, and function. We will interact with it, manipulate it, and experience it like we do the real world.
Another look at this is the concept of digital twins
, declined not on the level of personal identity, but on that of mirroring built infrastructures. In the UK a governmental task force, the Digital Framework Task Group (DFTG), aims to develop a digital framework that will help to unlock the value of infrastructure data and support a national
digital twin to be created. In this case, the focus is changing how data about the built environment is accessed, used and shared to make spending more efficient, improve the performance of our existing infrastructure, and increase safety, while protecting privacy, commercial confidentiality and national security.
My two cents: this is clearly only the beginning. As their experience and visual appearance improves, we will see more and more of these reality-enhancing/doubling environments. Whatever this hybrid quality of presence will be called, it can’t be treated as a “virtual” replica of the built world. Thinking in terms of “mirroring” is dangerous, as there is a fault line between human and technology, meaning that responsibility, agency, self-awareness are increasingly mixed. Discriminations, violences and monopolies happening on one side find a way also on the other. We have done that already with the Web, remember? Furthermore, designing new contexts is an enormous chance to go beyond technosolutions and “human-centric” design. I am collecting resources (see previous issues
) about these kinds of perspectives: “Xenodesign
”, design characterized by an engagement with experiences and perspectives beyond the human and an understanding of all entities on an equal level — humans, ecologies, bacteria, air, soil, artificial intelligences, etc.)
adds up nicely.