Note — Sep 26, 2021

Place, Commerce, Boundaries, and the Commons

Seen in → No.189

Source →

The original title of this list of thoughts by L. M. Sacasas was “Notes From the Metaverse,” which is why I kept it in my back pocket for a couple of weeks (spread the Metaverse talk a bit more thinly in the newsletter) and why I changed the title, so some of you won’t skip over ;-).

It’s a really great list of thoughts on much more than the Metaverse, firstly with the four words in my title (lifted from the piece), but also orality, commerce colonizing more and more of our experience, attention space, surveillance, and the ‘attentional commons.’

It also fits quite well with the two articles above, recognizing the encroachment of commerce, rethinking the speed at which we do things, and fighting against the destruction of ‘network ecosystems’ can all be seen as aspects of a certain view of society and the internet, one that looks and cares for humanity before markets.

Private life was sequestered from public spaces, work was clearly distinguished from home, reason and emotions were distinct, as were mind and body, nature and the human, fact and value, etc. First under the aegis of electronic and then digital media, these sharp lines were harder if not impossible to sustain. […]

“It shouldn’t be too much to ask for spaces in one’s life that can remain sacrosanct, where we’re not subject to surveillance, where we’re not targeted for sales, where what we make doesn’t have to be immediately commodified and what we do can remain resistant to measure …” […]

A commons is not a public space. A commons is a space which is established by custom. […]

So, to put this another way, the metaverse would do for common sense, as Arendt understands it, what enclosure did to the commons. Having our perception of the world increasingly mediated by proprietary technologies that immerse us in ever more sophisticated realms of digital simulacra is a way of surrendering the experience of a shared reality with others.

More → Sacasas mentions a piece by Drew Austin a couple of times, it also reminds me of this more recent one. It’s members only but let me share a couple of quotes from The Airport Lounge City because I think we’ll come back to that insight going forward.

American Express doesn’t need a metaverse. They can just carve it out of meatspace. […]

The final form of the physical store is an environment where prospective or existing customers just hang out, marinating in the brand without necessarily buying anything while inside.