Field notes weekly #2

This is a weekly update on my progress to document the history, perspectives, and narratives of the metaverse. For more on the contents and structure of the book, please see “Structuring my field notes“.

Current book word count: 69,249


This week I have been thinking a lot about the fieldnotes chapters. These are the chapters that contain my personal notes and perspectives on metaverse topics and milestones. Up until now these have been monolithic blocks at the end of a section.

While they started out as relatively short chapters, they now got quite long. They also touch on multiple topics, which is hard to follow.

For example, the fieldnotes for the section “A new subculture is born (1980 – 1986)” touches on the metaverse as a narrative device in cyberpunk literature, as well as discussing some of the early concepts and implementations to create literal, spatial computing interfaces.

The fieldnotes chapter for “The Emergence of Virtual Worlds (1978 – 1997)” talks about the concept of the magic circle, as well as early ideas for interoperability between virtual worlds.

After some back-and-forth, I decided to give each topic its own chapter. That allows me to better structure the notes, as well as providing a better reference for people that are only interested in one specific topic.

Bottom line: Not many words added, but a way better flow overall.

Also, fun fact: This week I calculated the average rotational speed of skateboard wheels to make a point about the metaverse. The more you learn..


I am really happy how the interview with Dr Richard Bartle turned out. We talked about how the work on MUD piqued his interest to look deeper into the motivations of players, and how that eventually led to one of the foundational papers in the field of virtual worlds. The interview will go online tomorrow.

The next interview on my list is with Julian Dibbell. We already had the conversation and touched on a lot of interesting topics – I’m really excited to write it up in the upcoming days.

Finally, I am still chewing on the chapters around Web3. To get more clarity, I am in the process of organizing a couple of exciting interviews. Stay tuned.

Reading & Watching

New World Notes: Jenova Chen on Designing a More Socially Positive Virtual World — Excerpt, Making A Metaverse That Matters (

This is an except of Wagner James Au’s book Making a Metaverse That Matters (which you should absolutely read!). The article is interesting, because it talks about identity within virtual worlds, which is something that came up a lot in the interview with Richard Bartle.

Following Yee’s insights, the avatars in Sky are humanoid but genderless, evoking Studio Ghibli characters, and are intentionally without race — their skins are dark grayish hue. 

“We don’t really care about gender either because you know, a lot of people, their gender in their mind and the gender of their body is different. And it doesn’t really matter if they are a man or a woman in real life. As long as they are who they are in the virtual world.  

“Jenova Chen On Designing A More Socially Positive Virtual World”

Terry Gilliam’s Air Canada

One reason to love Peter Watts is his ability to see and describe the hard stuff, the scary stuff about the future. Another thing is that he’s great at finding the tiny little tidbits of absurdity when normal people try to engage with this hard stuff.

Air Canada has claimed, in court, that they’ve created a chatbot which is already an autonomous agent, and hence beyond corporate control.

Ah yes. Because the chatbot was “a separate legal entity that is responsible for its own actions.”

Apparently the Singularity happened, and Air Canada’s attorneys were the only ones to notice.

We’re about to finally get the “Here Web” — MWC2024 | by Steve Jones | Feb, 2024 | Medium (

When Steve Jones and Bill Joy talk about the “Here Web”, it’s very similar to my idea of ambient computing and mirror worlds. Where we disagree is the timing – he argues that it’s “nearly here,” I’d argue that it has been here for a decade or two.

This is an entirely person centric network in which all of the devices need to collaborate to deliver a unified experience.

“We’re about to finally get the Here Web”

Einführung in die Digitaltechnik – Folge 1

A German TV series from 1974 about the opportunities and impact of digital technology. I love these time capsules to dissect and re-evaluate how we talk about “the future,” digitalisation and technology today.

Snow Crash audiobook on Audible

I wanted to read Snow Crash again since I just worked on its milestone and fieldnotes chapter, but I couldn’t bring myself to it. I’ve read it so many times that it seemed like a chore.

Then we had to travel during the weekend and I downloaded the audiobook from audible – and it’s great. The production is so 1990’s – from the cassette-like audio quality to the cheesy “future-synth” sound effects. I loved it.

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