Metaverse is a complex term coined by Neil Stephenson in his sci-fi novel Snow Crash, which, along with William Gibson’s novel Neuromancer, was a source of inspiration for the Wachowski brothers’ Matrix universe. As Stephenson conceived of it in 1992, a metaverse is an immersive environment, a virtual 3D world that interacts with the real world. For these two founding fathers of cyberpunk literature, there are a whole slew of passageways between the real and virtual worlds thanks to mediating objects like computers, cyber-prostheses, or intelligent objects that Bruce Sterling, another cyberpunk writer, now calls “spimes”. For these authors, acting on the real world can alter the virtual world and vice versa.
Since then, with the emergence and evolution of new technologies, the bridges between reality and virtuality have been ceaselessly multiplying. Nowadays, the most widely accepted definition of metaverse is the convergence between the virtually enriched real world and the physically persisting virtual world. In simpler terms, a metaverse encompasses what we call the real and virtual worlds, doing away with any dichotomy between the two. The two are no longer opposable: you meet people on Facebook or at the corner café, and you can work together with someone located on the other side of the planet. Our reality has been enriched: it might be said that we have moved from a schizophrenic dualism of real vs. virtual to a more Eastern monism.
This metaverse is the framework for the collective imagination in our day, and will naturally provide the framework for transmedia. A framework abolishing all dualities – narrator vs. listener, imaginary vs. real, us vs. the world –, a framework that opens us up to Otherness within ourselves and within others.
In the world 2.0, the user is the centre around which the content has to revolve. The transmedia project has to take hold of the semantic metaverse of content. A universe at once virtual and real, moving smoothly, seamlessly, between the content and various programmes on each medium and the imaginary world offered up to users. It is up to users and content creators to enrich this semantic universe. Hence the need for creators and the various distributors to define this editorial terrain clearly and take their place therein.
Transmedia should invite us to enter the semantic universe of our choice and share it with it others