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The Metaverse as a new means of consumption to relaunch the digital economy

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The Metaverse has become the great hope in the digital economy through its ability to promote consumption. Since Zuckerberg pointed his strategic finger at it, there was a collective awareness that there was business there. An economic projection that goes through its conversion into a means of consumption.

The practice of consumption lit up the boulevards and avenues of the cities that grew around its shop windows between the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. Consumption, even though it was still directed at the still meager middle classes, turned the hostile urban space into magic. Consumption or, at least, the imaginary of consumption, invited to walk, beyond the great gardens hitherto owned by the monarchy.

 

The magic of consumption developed especially in the 1960s, in the United States and Western Europe. It seemed like consumption came from heaven, thanks to a new showcase, such as that of television. As Baudrillard describes in his  Consumer Societythe citizens looked like indigenous people, on their closed islands, watching a shower of enchanted objects fall from the sky. For those who lived on the ground, the explosion of consumption was a spectacle, which had its main means of consumption on the television screen.

Metaverse and consumption

 

If the enchantment was in the original impulse of mass consumption, it must be recognized that we have been disillusioned in its practice for several decades, on this side of the world. The reasons are various, grouped into at least four categories. On the one hand, the very maturity of the consumer society. What was magical and extraordinary becomes everyday. Ordinarily, especially for the generations that have already been born into the society of affluence, as Galbraith calls it.

 

It was about an -at least, apparent- opulence, a waste, which contrasted with a previous culture of scarcity. But, for those who came to the world of the consumer society, the scarcity could be at home; but not in the environment. Society as a whole had gotten used to it. Perhaps spoiled, subservient, as the critics said, pointing to the figure of the opulent worker (Marcuse, Goldthorpe). Consumption became practical, it was incorporated and, in a certain way, it became disenchanted

It can be said that a good part of mature consumers, of those matured in the consumer society, already have almost everything, that the satisfaction and marginal charm that they find in new purchases has been diminishing. It is consumed, yes. But keeping the purchase receipt, in case you decide to return what you bought.

 

Consumer disenchantment

 

To this disenchanted maturation of consumption, producers and brands have reacted by injecting continuous doses of spectacularization of consumption. An attempt is made to turn it into a show, both when new “purchase and consumption experiences” are proposed, and when special days for consumption are called, such as Black Friday, Cyber ​​Day, etc. Paradoxically, the latter are attempts to re-enchant consumption based on promoting rationalization, linked to obtaining better prices.

The other process, which is far-reaching and which combines with the maturation of the consumer society, is that of rationalization. The process was already pointed out by the classic sociologist Max Weber, as one of the backbones of modernization and capitalism, giving calculation and the relationship between means and ends a central place. 

In fact, the enchantment of mass consumption itself seemed like a kind of non-rational outbreak, in a framework of rationalization. For this reason, consumption could be experienced as a kind of liberation from the rationalizing iron cage. At least, as a getaway from it. But, upon awakening from the first impulses of consumption, the rationalization was there. The practice of consumption became more rational, contributing to his disenchantment. 

 

Climate change

 

The third source of disenchantment is already found in the very principles of the consumer society, even when it has been renewed in new contexts. It is the blaming for excess, it is the rationalization of what is considered the irrationality of consumption -always considered excessive and unnecessary- as an evil. An evil that leads to the exploitation of workers, of the planet, of vulnerable social categories -children in countries of the so-called Third World, for example. Calls that try to load the charm of consumption with social responsibility and, therefore, disenchant it. 

With globalization and calls for attention on climate change, this source of disenchantment has been increasing, under the principle that consumption generates victims. A disenchantment that proposes a certain regression to a secular asceticism, which blames consumption.

 

However, it has been the successive recent crises that have erected a wall against the charms of consumption. The economic crisis of 2008 has been followed by the pandemic and now the supply crisis, both as a result of the pandemic itself and the emerging geopolitical map.

Successions that have led the consumer to a framework where uncertainties dominate more than certainties. Uncertainties about your employment, income, pensions or health coverage. A context that pushes towards precaution in the form of savings. Even when, as is the case now, inflation directly attacks and impoverishes such saving, or government economic policies seem to punish rather than promote it. As some indicators show, consumption continues to contract

The lights of the Metaverse

 

In this context of disenchantment with consumption, the lights of the Metaverse allow us to recover a certain charm. The desire to play consumption. It can become, for millions of adolescents and young people, in that magical world that their parents or grandparents lived in, when they experienced the arrival of the first mass consumer society in their countries. A consumption without the blame that has been dragging material consumption for some decades.

 

The Metaverse is a means of consumption, a space that produces consumption, which leads us to consumption, more powerful than its predecessors. More powerful than the avenue with shop windows, than television and its magic, than theme parks, large shopping malls, casinos or cruise ships, to take some of the consumer media that George Ritzer talks about, who is the one who we take the concept of means of consumption. A space that facilitates consumption.

To become the great means of consumption, it still lacks some elements. The improvement in direct interactions between avatars, which we already talked about, is a fundamental one. Others are the generation of trust, the fact that users feel that everything is quite controlled and that they are protected from possible bad experiences, and a certain familiarization with the Metaverse.

 

The first of these two elements places us in the current tension over regulation and management in the metaverses. A debate with multiple voices. Making it more familiar, taking into account that a good part of our consumption has this family character, is the other challenge. At the moment, the Metaverse is leaning towards individualized and individualistic consumption of individuals integrated into communities, fostered by the Metaverse itself, from a common focus of interest. These are necessary steps for the Metaverse to revolutionize the practice of consumption.

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