I finally met a Meta I didn’t like


Until recently I occasionally would note that, “I never met a meta I didn’t like.” Going meta is such an important practice to me that I introduced it twice in our process of developing the Group Works deck, because the first time around it got renamed and then changed meaning beyond recognition under the new name — which is in a sense actually affirming of its power. The second time I introduced it, it stuck, even if the heart description does not fit my understanding perfectly. For me, it is very much centered on the shift “from content to process.”

== == ==

The metaverse of Mark Zuckerberg’s dreams, as in Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, is not just a virtual 3-D world with believably-rendered faces. It is the 3-D world. Everyone just has to be in it, and land ownership in the novel was a very, very big deal. The company that owned the metaverse was bigger than any tech company in our world. This is what Zuckerberg wants — to capture part of the free market, become a rentier over some critical bottleneck of the World Wide Web, so that he and his company might have an endless profit stream.

We escaped that dystopian future when AOL, CompuServer et al joined the Internet one by one. Thank goodness! I laughed when I got what Stephenson was suggesting, because it was ridiculous to believe that it could happen. The Internet was already so multifarious in 1992 I couldn’t believe that we would let it happen.

I should not have been so sure. We have allowed social media and everything app companies to enclose far too much of our online activities. Fortunately, there are so many layers and options of independence — email and DNS come to mind — that even behemoths like Facebook and Google remain vulnerable, as the current rise of Mastodon and the fediverse suggest. The odds are looking okay to preserve what remains of and grow out the online commons — collectively ours, “if we can keep it.”

(Especially to the degree the ad markets are in a big bubble. Surely this is what Facebook fears, and why they’re placing big bets on finding another, more solid way of locking up future profits.)


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