We are happy to announce a new upcoming special issue of Baltic Screen Media Review. Please find its Call For Papers below.
Now that ‘cyberspace’ has been conquered and with ‘Web 2.0’ in our rearview mirror, the ‘metaverse’ is currently being rapidly adopted by the consultant class and industry professionals as the next big thing. Once again the future of the Internet is captured in a buzzword that is equally revered and critiqued as it is misunderstood (van Dijck & Nieborg, 2009). Because of the large capital reserves of investors and big tech companies, there is a widespread sense of urgency not to miss the boat. Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard and Facebook’s rebranding to Meta show that platform companies are deeply committed and the stakes are increasing.
Among internet scholars, the current wave of enthusiasm is met with wariness. After all, the metaverse, both as a concept and an imaginary, has a history that far predates the founding of Facebook. Virtual worlds have long served as spaces for play, communications (e.g., social, marketing, work), entertainment, entrepreneurship, (monetary) transactions, and so forth (van der Graaf, 2018). For example, in 2006 Second Life (Linden Lab, 2003) made global headlines with journalists widely deploying the notion of the metaverse - hyped as the next big thing - in that exactly the combination of those features was considered a dramatic departure from what was common in the larger (3D) games and in the digital platform industry at that time. Many iterations, shapes and forms of the metaverse have followed since.
The current re-actualisation of the metaverse concept can be linked to a wide variety of concepts, imaginaries, and technologies that include VR and AR, 5G mobile connectivity, NFTs, the Internet-of-Things, Web3, blockchain and other digital ledger technologies, game engines, etc. Their collective development is both driven by urban innovation such as ‘smart cities’ or ‘digital twins’, cultural practices such as transmedia storytelling and augmented reality gaming, and a widespread solutionist attitude amongst technology investors and entrepreneurs. Against this background the metaverse is widely understood to be the next iteration of the Internet; one that is not only mobile but also spatial, enabling connectivity across physical places and virtual spaces. Utopian discourses emanating from developer conferences and interviews with CEOs understand blockchain technologies to allow for a radical democratization of access, decentralization of power, and more equal ownership of digital assets. Such lofty ideals fly squarely in the face of the centralized ownership model of the platform economy where resources are (made) scarce and power hierarchies among users are notably asymmetric (van Dijck et al., 2019).
That said, the metaverse is in an important state of interpretive flux which leaves space for a radical reimagining of the governance of metaverse spaces. This raises the question: do blockchain models and platform business models allow for such a reimagining? What is the division of power between, on the one hand, Meta, Microsoft and Epic, versus blockchain-based protocols such as Sandbox, Decentraland, NetVrk or Pavia? Are there modes of community organization and collaboration that provide viable alternatives to centralized platform-driven models of the emerging spatial internet? And, how do the interests of governments and infrastructure companies – telecommunications firms, developers of game engines, hardware manufacturers – play a role in this political economy?
With this special issue, we invite contributions that analyze, critique and/or conceptualize the structural conditions that underlie the metaverse. Such contributions may include past, present, or future uses of metaverse technologies for communication, transactions, or artistic practices such as filmmaking. Relatedly, we welcome contributions that survey convergent processes of audiovisual storytelling, digital play, and other creative practices. We invite also discussions on methods for researching the metaverse worlds, the cultural practices of their development and use, perhaps by using evolving approaches such as cultural data analytics (Manovich, 2020; Ibrus et al., 2021). Lastly, contributions that challenge the metaverse concept – or related imaginaries and applications – are encouraged.
Possible paper topics may include:
- Critical histories of the metaverse (and related) concepts, including histories of VR, AR, and XR technologies
- The metaverse as an imaginary
- The political economy of the metaverse and its position in the platform economy
- The role of constitutive technologies such as blockchain protocols and game engines vis-a-vis metaverse development
- Labor relations in the metaverse
- The physical, spatial and material dimensions of the metaverse (e.g. smart cities)
- The infrastructural dimension of the metaverse (e.g., the role of telecoms, 5G networks and ‘Internet of Things’
- Emerging creative practices (e.g., storytelling, virtual design, etc.)
14.03.2022 - deadline for abstracts
31.03.2022 - decisions on abstracts sent out
31.05.2022 - deadline for articles
15.12.2022 - issue publication
In this volume of BSMR, we will accept long research articles (4000 – 8000 words w/o ref) and short perspective papers/commentaries (2000 – 4000 words w/o ref).
The editors of the theme volume are Shenja van der Graaf (University of Twente), Indrek Ibrus (Tallinn University) and David Nieborg (University of Toronto). All submissions should be sent via email attachment to Indrek Ibrus (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Baltic Screen Media Review is a peer-reviewed academic journal dedicated to audiovisual arts and media. The journal was launched in 2013 and is published by Tallinn University Baltic Film, Media and Arts School. Its core mission is to publish original and critical research articles on a variety of screen media forms and phenomena. This issue of BSMR will appear as Volume 10:2, published both online and in print in late 2021. BSMR embraces visual storytelling, we thus invite authors to use photos and other illustrations as part of their contributions.
Further info about the journal can be found at
- John David N. Dionisio, William G. Burns III, and Richard Gilbert. 2013. 3D Virtual worlds and the metaverse: Current status and future possibilities. ACM Comput. Surv. 45, 3, Article 34 (June 2013), 38 pages. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1145/2480741.2480751
- van der Graaf, S. ComMODify! Mod Development at the Crossroads of Commerce and Community (2018). Palgrave Macmillan.
- Ning, H. Wang, W., Lin, Y., Wang, W., Dhelim, S., Farha, F., Ding, J., Daneshmand, M. (2011). A Survey on Metaverse: the State-of-the-art, Technologies, Applications, and Challenges. Computers and Society (IF), arXiv:2111.09673v1
- Lik-Hang Lee, Zijun Lin, Rui Hu, Zhengya Gong, Abhishek Kumar, Tangyao Li, Sijia Li, and Pan Hui. 2021. When Creators Meet the Metaverse: A Survey on Computational Arts. ACM Comput. Surv. 37, 4, Article 111 (December 2021), 36 pages. https://doi.org/10.1145/1122445.1122456
- López-Díez, J. (2021). Metaverse: Year One. Mark Zuckerberg’s Video Keynote on Meta (October 2021) in the Context of Previous and Prospective Studies on Metaverses. Pensar la publicidad 15(2), 299-303.
- Stephenson, Neil. (1992). Snow Crash. Bantam Books.
- van Dijck, J., & Nieborg, D. B. (2009). Wikinomics and its discontents: A critical analysis of Web 2.0 business manifestos. New Media & Society, 11(5), 855–874.
- Van Dijck, J., Nieborg, D. B., & Poell, T. (2019). Reframing platform power. Internet Policy Review, 8(2). https://policyreview.info/articles/analysis/reframing-platform-power
- Manovich, Lev. 2020. Cultural Analytics. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.
- Ibrus, Indrek, Maximilian Schich, and Marek Tamm. 2021. "Cultural Science Meets Cultural Data Analytics." Cultural Science Journal 13 (1). https://doi.org/10.2478/csj-2021-0001