Live reports from the virtual opium Den of Tomorrow

In the latest and exciting installment of “What the hell are we going to do about local journalism,” I proposed that there are really two concepts in a state of change. “Journalism” is one of them. The other is “local”, such as our own idea of ​​where we live and work.

Congress is at least doing everything it can to preserve the old order. Lawmakers, from both the Senate and the House, are pushing for similar bills that they hope will affect the industry. The two bills, collectively referred to as the “Local Journalism Sustainability Act,” will offer tax credits to consumers who purchase subscriptions; to news organizations that hire journalists; and companies that advertise in local media.

A group called Rebuild Local News, which presents itself as a coalition of community journalism organizations, sent a letter to Congress in support of the bill. This letter reminded us of what happens when you don’t have community journalism: “Weaker local news systems lead to more corruption, less turnout, more polarization, and more alienation from the community.”

It could be a major economic boost for newsrooms struggling to pay wages, but there is concern that under-represented communities will miss out and throw more money at hedge fund covers that have many roles. But “the perfect is the enemy of,” and so on. It has something called “bipartisan support,” an old political concept that says two political parties can agree on things. This could mean that local news is ultimately something that everyone believes is valuable, or that it poses no real threat to anyone’s political agenda.

But local news shouldn’t be spared if it didn’t sink to the limit in the first place. The most responsible internet players for stealing eyeballs and advertising revenue from local rags acknowledge that they have a responsibility in all of this and have belatedly devoted some of their own resources to saving local journalism. Google is trying to modernize newsrooms, the Craigslist guy bought his own school J and Twitter publishes newspaper ads.

These gestures to prop up “journalism” are counteracted by efforts to eliminate the “local.” As I said last time: Thanks to the Internet, our information industry is not only changing, but so are the communities to which we belong. “Being somewhere” is not what it used to be.

Greetings from the metaverse

In late June, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg began talking about the idea of ​​a “metaverse,” an endless virtual Eden of interconnected, business-driven experiences. Whether it’s fully virtual or a mix of augmented reality from the real and virtual world, metavers participants can expect to wear trendy futuristic glasses that, according to Zuck, will allow you to “teleport” from one place to another.

“People will spend time, they will be able to really feel like they are present with other people, they will be able to do all kinds of different jobs, there will be new jobs, new forms of entertainment,” he said. he said The VergeCasey Newton. “Whether it’s games or incredibly complex scavenger hunts like the one you’re talking about, or increasingly enjoyable ways to exercise or gigs or get together on the comedy show.”

Even more impressive? The future of business meetings. “The other area that I think will be pretty exciting is basically holding meetings,” Zuck added. “So if someone is sitting on your right, you are sitting on their left. If you’re sitting in a circle, everyone can remember the order in which people were. “

Head pressure! To sum it up: this is one of the most powerful people in the world springing up over an “infinite office” in a way that suggests it’s a good thing, rather than an endless, unavoidable nightmare scenario.

And just as we now pick up our phone early in the morning, the metavers will free us from having to relate to the physical world beyond the pods where we sleep at night. Freedom to enter a call, anytime, anywhere: “From the moment we wake up to the moment we get close to the bed, we can jump into the metavers to do just about anything you can imagine.”

Author Neal Stephenson coined the term “the metaverse” in his 1992 dystopian novel. Snow Crash. A story of mega-corporations controlling lives and crushing dissent in a working lower class whose only escape is a vast virtual reality, reflected William Gibson’s 1984 concerns Neuromantic, which in turn were projected through 1999 The matrix.

Then came the 2011 derivative book (and the 2018 Spielberg film) Ready Player One, who shunned the comment in favor of focusing on how cool it would be to live in a video game. While history points to dystopia, it’s hard to pretend Ready Player One – novel and cinema – he is no longer interested in obsessively fetishizing pop culture and the elements of play. He’s an addict who pretends he has no problem.

Zuckerberg also seems to have missed satire in favor of techno-fantasy. While looking for a real metaverse, it’s instructive to watch Spielberg’s film about what he says about what could happen to concepts like “cities”: bodies wrapped in stacked shipping containers, residents making a living working for the corporation of games, reality is a pen for human bodies that enters the most “real” online community.

The successful creation of metaverses means, yes, finally that the idea of ​​locality is erased.

“Flatten the distance”

The metaverse is a new utopia, superimposed on this shabby ass place we call awake life.

“It has to create opportunities and, broadly speaking, be a positive thing for society in terms of economic opportunities, in terms of being something that, socially, everyone can participate in, that can be inclusive,” Zuck said. The Verge. “This is not just a product we are building. It has to be an ecosystem. “

It will be an ecosystem of intertwined corporate worlds. Facebook is just one example of this new model of the Internet; Second life i Roblox there are other versions of proto and Fortnite Manufacturer Epic Games has just received $ 1 billion in funding from Sony and others to build a better Else Somewhere.

“The better this presence technology, the more you can live where you want, be part of the communities you want,” Zuckerberg says. “I think one of the most magical things about the present and I think it will be even more so is that flattening the distance creates a lot more opportunities for people.”

You can live anywhere, because your “real” workplace is a virtual pirate ship where you sell custom fingerprints for people’s avatars. Real-world companies will have virtual offices that employees can access by putting on their VR glasses, as well as virtual stores that absorb and replace their electronic queue pages. Web searches become journeys through a three-dimensional space where distance doesn’t matter.

One can imagine the look of this community of users, because it is an extension of the world that the pandemic attacked us. Warriors “information workers” and “creative class” in a virtual opacity (formerly infinite meetings of Zoom), fed and occasionally bathed by a lower class who must walk from distant areas to meet the old world real and shitty. These people will also have access to metavers, although who knows how class systems will work. But Zuck’s idea that he will be a great equalizer doesn’t seem to explain the raw fact of someone you have to deliver the pizza and take the boxes with you.

What makes a place worth living in is the people who participate in that place and create a “community”. If it’s just the place where your meat orders and avatars are taken between connecting to the “infinite office,” it’s not much of a community. And if you’re not committed to your community in the same way (if your job or entertainment doesn’t depend on it), it’s hard to argue that a local news outlet will have so many interests, regardless of tax incentives.

Fortnite Gaming Tournament at the Australian Open 2020 at the Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne, on April 3, 2020. Gaming is big business backed by a worldwide network of fans and generates annual revenues of over $ 100,000 million. dollars. Photo credit: Philip Mallis / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Spend it all in one place

However, neither your money nor your time is infinite, so the more you invest in virtual experiences, the less you have to spend on your local physical community.

We see signs of the future metavers on other platforms where millions of players fight, build or just hang out, like Twitch players Fortnite or Roblox. A New York News history lets us know what kind of investment we are talking about: “In the first quarter of 2021, people spent nearly 10 billion hours playing Roblox, according to the company’s earnings report, and more than 42 millions of users logged in every day. Players also spent $ 652 million on the site’s virtual currency, Robux, which can be used to buy hats, weapons, hot air balloons and other digital items for its characters. “

Keep in mind that none of this money necessarily ends up in the community where these people live, unless they live in a community designing “hats, guns, hot air balloons, and other digital items” for some virtual communities. And, since the billions spent by businesses and governments to develop a metavers will focus on this virtual world, why should we assume that any of that money will affect a local community?

Or it may be that if your small town offers its embedded or empty business district a factory or a mine shaft to house the servers needed for the growing metaverse. Hell, you can keep installing servers wherever you are, at the bottom of the Marianas Trench or on the entire clear surface of the old Sequoia National Park. But one thing that can’t be done anymore is time. When you’re on metaverse, don’t interact with the non-virtual world.

We already see these stories of internet addiction. Unreal things: heart failure after marathon games, child neglect, murder and suicide in the real world. And that, after online experiences, which are, to hear Zuck, a fraction of the potential immersion of the metaverse.

So imagine in addition to us, most of us, living part-time in the metaverse and spending, say, half of our time walking the real streets. The physical world would become a dormitory community for the metaverse. It’s hard to see local media as relevant in this environment, or rather, will it be as relevant as ever, but will there be interest? And where will the money come from?

How will you keep them on the farm (after seeing the metaverse)?

Too happy to be stressed

Facebook has pointed out the importance of local news, of presenting it on the site. But in his metaverse interview, Zuckerberg’s eyes were clearly focused on the virtual horizon. I had nothing to say about what this potentially massive shift in care and human resources would make to where and how we really live, except to say, vaguely, that we can live anywhere and that everyone has a seat at the table. digital conferencing if you can. comes with a fun digital hat.

And while we dream, we don’t pay attention to our physical communities, which have lost the ability to tell their stories. As we dream, who is watching Apple watch Apple?

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