Filled with the virtual version of people, events and objects, the metaverse adds another element to our already complicated world.
Whilst the metaverse may seem like its reserved for gaming and technology, two Indigenous women are looking to cement their culture within this space.
Yupungathi and Meriam woman Vanessa Lee-Ah Mat and Darumbal, Biri Gubi, Gadigal and Yuin woman Bibi Barba have released a discussion paper detailing their aim of creating an Indigenous cultural embassy in the metaverse.
The Indigenous cultural embassy will incorporate First Nations people and their rights into the early formation of the metaverse.
Ms Lee-Ah Mat said the idea for a cultural embassy in the metaverse originated from her time spent working on the blockchain.
“We’ve branched out into a digital technology, which is like a digital economy in the metaverse and then I started thinking okay how do we not lose our identity, our culture, our people,” she said.
“I thought, if we’re not careful, this could actually be colonisation on steroids for our people.
“And I was like you know what, we need to have a cultural embassy, and we need to be able to have all cultures in the world, not just our own culture but we start with Australia because we have the oldest continuing culture.”
For Lee-Ah Mat and Barba, part of creating the cultural embassy has meant trying to connect Indigenous lore with the technologies of the metaverse and ensuring Indigenous organisations are the ones who can profit from it.
“The way the metaverse works, or the blockchain, you have to have an understanding of entrepreneurship,” Lee-Ah Mat said.
“So it’s almost like we’re putting a value on our lore so it becomes economically empowering to our nations.
“It’s making sure everything goes back to our communities, our nation groups all over Australia so Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander not-for-profits or charity organisations is where we start distributing funds.”
Part of implementing a cultural embassy in the metaverse also means creating a governance structure, Lee-Ah Mat said.
“We’re bringing in a much more collective cultural structure. What we’re doing is bringing in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, Indigenous people globally, and we’re trying to keep the balance of male and female,” she said.
“But it’s making sure that as we build this governance model, that it has Indigenous data sovereignty embedded into it and Indigenous governance embedded into it.
“So that Indigenous people have their rights and ownership of everything that we do.”
Lee-Ah Mat and Barba hope setting up a cultural embassy will prevent colonialism from happening in the virtual realm.
“So what’s going on the in the metaverse at the moment, it’s a virtual land grab right and it’s been created as the basis for privilege and best access for virtual games, work leisure and learning environments.” Lee-Ah Mat said.
“And that virtual land grab is happening with companies and venture capital firms buying plots of virtual land ahead of commercial opportunities.
“We need to bring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture into this virtual land and we need to make sure that Indigenous culture globally is not forgotten.”
Lee-Ah Mat said she and Barba want the cultural embassy to create a sense of purpose for other people.
“Indigenous culture has already been decentralised long before the metaverse, long before the blockchain,” she said.
“And now it’s about bringing that decentralised culture and replicating that in the metaverse.
“It’s about making sure that as we bring that in, we give you guys a sense of purpose because in the Age of Reason, there is no sense of purpose.
“We’re going to show you guys how to connect to that sense of purpose because I really believe that will reduce the depression, and the anxiety and the suicides amongst young people globally, and especially for our people.”
Lee Ah-Mat and Barba are currently developing an operational plan prior to launching. They are also looking at different gaming options.