Imagining the Metaverse Worlds : The Perspectives of Meta and Indonesians

University essay from Lunds universitet/Medie- och kommunikationsvetenskap; Lunds universitet/Institutionen för kommunikation och medier

Abstract: On October 28, 2021, Mark Zuckerberg announced the rebranding of Facebook to Meta through a keynote video uploaded on Meta’s official YouTube channel. The keynote video contains Meta’s new vision to build an immersive extended reality world called metaverse. However, the idea of the metaverse is contested. Meta’s metaverse has also been a hot debate in Indonesia for several months after Meta’s rebranding announcement. In that case, it is promising to investigate this phenomenon through the lens of sociotechnical imaginaries. As Jasanoff (2015) suggested, a comparison is the best method of conducting research in sociotechnical imaginaries. This thesis aims to compare the perspectives of Meta and Indonesian tech workers in envisioning the metaverse. As suggested by previous research, this comparison also seeks to discover cross-nations and engineer-user relationships, providing contextual settings and actors. In this thesis, the sociotechnical imaginaries are framed into two aspects they are technological and phenomenological. While technological aspects seek to identify the technical concept of metaverse, technological convergence, and transmediality of the metaverse, phenomenological aspects ascertain the key concepts on postdigital, mediatization, and civic imagination. This thesis uses a qualitative multimethod approach. First, qualitative textual analysis is used to analyze the keynote video of Meta rebranding uploaded on YouTube. Second, semi-structured group interviews were conducted with nine female and male Indonesian tech workers living on Java Island, where accessibility is highly concentrated. The findings illuminate that Meta envisions the metaverse as an immersive Meta ecosystem, a platform to provide digital freedom, and a new experience of living in a hybrid way. Meanwhile, the Indonesian tech workers envision the metaverse as a marketing gimmick, a threat that exacerbates a digital divide, and the contention of living in the real vs. virtual world. In terms of the cross-nation relationship, the findings demonstrate that Meta’s vision is tied to Silicon Valley’s ideology. In contrast, Indonesian tech workers still urge to prioritize the national digital revolution agenda. Likewise, in terms of the engineer-user relationship, the results also demonstrate the interplay of the topography of agency between the two perspectives in envisioning their sociotechnical imaginaries of the metaverse. Lastly, the contribution of this thesis is two-fold. First, this thesis contributes to developing sociotechnical imaginaries research by contextually analyzing Indonesia, a Southeast Asia country. Second, this thesis also contributes to discovering the relationship between engineer-users, revealing its topography of agency.

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