There is much hype around the development of the metaverse, a new digital space which has the potential to be so real and immersive that it might blur the line between our physical and virtual lives.
Technology companies promise that it will bring about a newly empowered, just, and equitable society, by removing physical barriers to social participation and enhancing human capabilities and experiences. But there are many factors to consider when discussing what the metaverse should be, how significant it might become, and how it will affect both the individual and society.
This working paper, a joint effort by The Alliance for Universal Digital Rights and Vulnera, was written to assess the impact of the metaverse on human vulnerability. On the one hand, it acknowledges the positive impact the metaverse could have in empowering individuals and enhancing human capabilities, particularly for those who experience vulnerability in the offline world. However, it also highlights the reinforcement of social inequalities due to the digital divide, limited access for certain groups, and the perpetuation of subordination and conformity within the virtual realm.
The paper questions why the metaverse is being developed, how it will be created and accessed, who will be creating it, and how it is defined. It also explores the nuances and definitions of vulnerability and positions human vulnerability within the context of the metaverse to consider its impact.