Rachel O'Dwyer and book cover





Introduced and moderated by Bill Maurer, Anthropology, UCI and IMTFI Director

About the talk:
The term ‘metaverse’, like the term ‘blockchain’, is both vague and capacious, mashing together visions for the future of gaming and augmented reality with scenes from Ready Player One.

For all its varied meanings, most agree it refers to one place, in the sense that the internet is one place with shared standards and multiple offerings. Each platform wants to be the monopoly – a hermetically sealed ‘magic circle’ where, as Mitch Zamara, a metaverse game designer puts it, ‘You are the central bank, you are the regulator, you are the Federal Reserve. You get to do everything.’  

Platforms are now competing to see who will build the world and develop the standards for how items are rendered, who will manage identity, and, perhaps most crucially, act as a payment rail for processing the purchase and transfer of digital items.

But as  things stand today, there are many islands and many tokens and many ways of rendering virtual things. You cannot take your Tama¬gotchi to Animal Crossings, any more than you can wear your phygital Nikes to walk from Linden to Decentraland. Each game is its own ‘magic circle’. What kinds of issues, from duping to real money trading threaten that economy and what solutions, from sinks and drains keep it afloat? And what might fungible tokens look like in the future of gaming?

About the speaker:
Rachel O’Dwyer is a lecturer in Digital Cultures in the National College of Art and Design, Dublin. She is the author of Tokens (Verso 2023), longlisted for the FT Schroders Book of the Year Award 2023. She was formerly a research fellow in Connect, the Centre for Future Networks and Communications in Trinity College Dublin and a visiting Fulbright Tech Impact Scholar in collaboration with the IMTFI at University of California, Irvine. Her research focuses on the intersection of cultural and digital economies. 

O’Dwyer is the curator of the Dublin Art and Technology Association and a regular contributor and co-editor for Neural Magazine of Critical Digital Culture and Media Arts. Recent publications include articles in the London Review of Books, The Journal of Cultural Economy, Convergence: International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, Neural Magazine, Longreads, The Institute of Network Cultures and The MIT Press.


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