A short note on matters of communication in the metaverse.

“I think words are one of our
lowest forms of communication”
~Ye

C0un7Ry s1n9ER Dmitri CherniakSince the dawn of the Computer Age, the primacy of the written word has been basically unrivalled. Communicating with the scarcest of bandwidth, the superpower of visual communication was never an option in those very earliest of days, though the possibility remained firmly in the imagination of pioneering creators and users.i Of course, jpegs couldn’t be held down forever – visual culture being always and everywhere a superpowerii – but text-based communication is still, even today, the bedrock of our online communities and networks. This is neither a feature, nor a bug, merely an observation, but left alone it’s certainly a limitation.iii

How is bare text a limitation?iv How are words, as Kanye put it in his seminal 2020 interview with GQ, a “low” form of communication? Think about how we’ve evolved! We’ve evolved to converse with one another while walking shoulder-to-shoulder, using our hands, body posture, vocal tones, pauses, and yes even pheromones as cues and reference points for our conversational partners to digest consciously and unconsciously our messages. We’ve also evolved to create art. The literal words coming out of our mouths are always important, but just as important is what isn’t said: the non-verbal things that we communicate.v Those of us who spent our formative years in the visual and performing arts are all too keenly attuned of this hidden layer of meaning, but the rest of the world still understands this intuitively, if not explicitly. Digitally native culture, therefore, has developed a few tricks and shortcuts over the years to help bridge the divides between us, including Emojis,vi Reactions/Tapbacks,vii searchable embeddable GIFs,viii !vibes,ix and more!

All of which, in our continued efforts to shape an engaging, inspiring, and compelling (and open!) metaverse, will need to continue evolving (the faster, the better!) in order to maximally supplement the lack of in-person non-verbal communication. We’re clearly making strides towards this ambitious end, but we’ve miles to go before we sleep…

Miles to go before we sleep…
___ ___ ___

  1. Verbal communication has been with us since the advent of Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone, and thanks to Clubhouse (RIP), Twitter Spaces (rugs notwithstanding), Discord Voice Chat, and a million podcasts besides, our ability to share our voices with each other has never been greater. Thank goodness for that!
  2. Before jpegs were transmittable, we had ASCII art, which is still a thing! Especially in smart contracts where text is the artistic putty. Also in pieces such as “C0un7Ry s1n9ER” (seen at top) by Dmitri Cherniak of Ringers/Eternal Pump fame. 
  3. The inadequacy of text-only communication underlies the popularity and cultural significance of visual-first platforms like Instagram and TikTok.
  4. Even though, yes, text is very “composable,” the act of composing is still an additional layer of work for the media consumer to undertake, one that ultimately benefits immensely from visual and other means of non-verbal communication.
  5. Our WAGs are right! It isn’t just what we said, it’s how we said it.
  6. Is it any wonder that Apple spends such a disproportionate amount of effort on robo-arms and what have you with every new iOS update? Quite rightly so!
  7. “Reactions” in Discord (as seem below when Signor Coz graced the CrypToadz #lily-pad with this presence after acquiring his standing Toadenza for a record-setting 140 ETH and “God Mode” Fidenza for a record-setting 2`500 ETH) and “Tapbacks” in iMessage/Signal/Twitter, etc. add soooo much colour and engagement to chat room conversations.

    Coz !vibes
    If only IRC and SMS could’ve adapted, they might still be culturally relevant today…

  8. The power of embedded and easily searchable GIFs (esp from GIPHY) on Twitter, iMessage, and Signal, etc. is out of this world in terms of quickly and effectively communicating culture. The meme is the medium and the meme is the message! This is why 6529 is so adamant about not letting the institutions steal our jpegs, because the jpegs are our cultural bedrock. And selling that means selling our souls! So if the ancient regime wants a piece of the action, they’re going to have to pry it from our cold, dead hands. 
  9. Similarly, this was, back in the day, the power of Reddit tipping in Dogecoin for popular/helpful comments, which seems like a trivial thing now, perhaps even a stupid one, but to paraphrase Picasso, it takes four years to grok crypto, but a lifetime to grok having fun with crypto. At least for those of us over here built like Ferraris instead of Chevys!

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