The race to build yet another metaverse is on fire (Economist). It is fueled by people looking to gather with like minds in an increasignly polarized world, and worries me that it will lead to more of our differences being shunned rather than embraced.
I found a beacon of hope in reading 📚 Design Struggles for its essays on the pluriverse, where design can be driven by a people's desire to gather through (and not despite of) their differences.
Pluriverse not as a place where one wants to arrive, but as an entangled way of thinking and understanding," resulting from processes of correspondence which thrusts us toward a world where many worlds coexist, living together in difference. (p176)
While not the only factor, technology has played a huge role in enabling the polarization. I remember attending a talk by Alistair Croll close to a decade ago, where he had a slide to explain what "big data" is, and then spoke to the fear of cherry picking facts and connecting only with those who reinforce one's beliefs. The fears that felt speculative and gloomy have fully materialized today with the firehose of data and connectivity creating the perfect Pietry dish for polarization.
Fast-forward to today, isolation brought about by waves of COVID, together with the gold rush of decentralization through blockchain, and Facebook's boisterous attempt to diverge attention from blatant ethical misbehaviour (i.e. Meta rebrand), created the perfect storm to spark the race to create metaverses that would fortify these polarities.
Designers of all sorts have had a big contribution in the making of these technologies, as well as in finding ways to make them available to the masses. Rooted in commercialization and capitalism, the common design practice and curriculum does not leave room to reconsider the designer's responsibility in these larger patterns problems taking place in society.
While being a big proponent and active user of these technologies myself, as a designer I feel it is imperative to critically engage both in my work, but also in continuously questioning what Design means to me. Failure to do so could lead to a life's work spent creating the very problem we've worked towards solving, and a legacy of a digital world that left the real world worse than we found it.