Metaverse Culture Series - Women Beyond

Metaverse Culture Series - Women Beyond

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- I wanna ask you one question. What about more women in the metaverse? (funky music) Alright, good morning everyone. Happy Women's History Month. I am Maxine Williams. I am Meta's chief diversity officer, and every day I am focused on delivering equity to everyone who builds and uses our products.

And storytelling can be such a valuable vehicle for some of the education that goes along with that. This year we launched in metaverse culture series to help historically excluded communities access the future of tech. We kicked off the series last month with a Black future experience, and that was focused on experiencing Black culture and community in these immersive spaces.

But we also wanted to see what it was like to reimagine the future through a historical lens. And so if you're interested you can go and check out on Meta's YouTube channel, like all of what we did during that series. It was really really amazing. So tell us, you are shaping the metaverse of the future with your immersive storytelling, all of y'all, and I am so here for it. - Hi, everyone.

Super excited to be here, I'm Mary Spio. I'm a space engineer. I'm also the founder and creator of CEEK metaverse, which is an immersive world where fans can connect with their favorite artists and sports teams, et cetera. I was actually introduced to the metaverse and virtual reality when I was visiting at Facebook, it was a diversity program and I happened to experience the Oculus and I fell in love with it again. I knew that I wanted to do everything in the metaverse. I wanted to go to sports events, concerts, and so I decided to build a platform that would focus on everything that I wanted to see in my metaverse.

And today we work with Lady Gaga, Demi Lovato, and the list goes on. - When you first saw that, why did you say I wanted to do everything in the metaverse? What makes somebody want to do everything in the metaverse? - What I saw was the moon experience and it really took me back to being like five years old. 'Cause I grew up in Ghana. I grew up at a time when it was very tumultuous and I used to escape through the TV. And I remember this experience which I feel defined who I am today, which was watching documentary on space exploration. Even though there was chaos around me, I wondered what it would feel like to actually be on the moon.

And so to actually be on the moon and the experience, it just took me back to that time and kind of following that curiosity to become a deep space scientist. So I think when I entered, you know, that universe through the Oculus, I felt like wow, if I could bring this to everyone, I wanted everyone to have that experience. - Wow, I have chills hearing you speak. So much of what we talk about is how do we bring presence? How do we make people feel presence when they cannot physically be in another place? And in those days you couldn't really feel the same presence. This technology now allows you to feel.

Candice? - My name is Candice and I am the founder of Art Collision, a creative studio based in Toronto that helps art galleries, art organizations, and artists to install art and host events in metaverses. (speaking French) (laughing) And I am from France, but I live in Canada. I am an immigrant. - Okay, well this is a global experience. - Yes. - Yes it is. - My name is Michaela-Ternasky Holland.

I'm currently on the land of the Canarsee and Lenape people in New York City. And I identify as a true of multi-hyphenate. My entry point into virtual reality was through journalism and through immersive interactive storytelling. But my entry point into immersive interactive storytelling was through dance and performance. It was such an incredible, incredible experience. And when I realized I could do the same thing in the metaverse or using virtual reality, I had like hot flashes and I had chills at the same time because when I, when you study journalism or when you study storytelling, you realize that there is a world where you can finally blend all those mediums together.

Like in the metaverse you can have photography, you can have film, you can have audio based experiences. You can have specialized experiences like theme parks where you're walking around and experiencing a space. And you're not necessarily limited to a physical environment. You don't have to get on a plane to go to New York City so someone could see an exhibit of yours. And when you're telling real people stories, especially people like we're talking about today, who are marginalized, it's so important to be able to have equity, not only in the storytelling and how it's being accessed but also in the storytelling and how it's being created.

- And you're saying that this has been accelerated and enhanced your ability to do that using this technology? - Totally. Using it to create, but also even using it to tell the stories themselves. - Wow. - So my name is Ang'l, I'm 25 years old. I'm from Brooklyn, New York. - Brooklyn.

- Yeah. (laughing) - And I am an artist of many trades. I do regular painting and sketching, all the way to makeup, tattooing. Right now I've got a lot of recognition being a Horizon World creator. And, and as a person who grew up playing nothing but either Nintendo or Sims, it was a dream come true to me.

I downloaded it. And then I found out you can actually build the worlds. And I was completely obsessed. I'm talking like there were certain days where I was on it like 13 plus hours, just straight creating. Like my rain was just firing, firing, firing all this stuff.

And I built this Black art museum and that one's what really made everything just take off. - Wow. - It's just been really amazing on here and I do not take it for granted at all, yeah. - What is it that makes someone wanna spend 13 hours a day doing something? - For me it's definitely just the love of art.

Not having to go out every single time to buy art supplies when I'm creating some art piece, everything is at the, right at my fingertips. And like the only limitation is my own creativity. - Sounds like you're describing that there's an infinite space and canvas, like everything in your head can just come out. - Absolutely yes. - And then you can share it as well.

- Yeah, yeah. - So there's that. - Or even sell it. I've had people buy some of my art pieces so yeah. - Wow.

- Truly amazing experience. - That is fantastic. Mary.

- Hey, so I'm Mary Matheson and I am an immersive director. My background is in journalism and documentary filmmaking. I was a foreign correspondent and, and then started to make documentaries for impact. So I made my first film in 2016 in Sierra Leone and a bit like Michaela as well I really love collaborating.

So I sort of do a lot of co-creation with the people who are actually in the films to make sure that they feel that they're being represented properly, that their story is represented how they want it to be represented. It's always about bringing the audience into the story further so you know it's, it's not about storytelling, it's about story living. - I think the word feeling is one that is also really present here right? We can feel more through this technology and what I'm hearing all of you say is that that's what you've been able to achieve. I would love to like a little step back and literally think about like, what is the metaverse? Some people are still wondering, like, what does it mean? - For me it really is about continuing the connections that you have and human connections.

And it's simply a different way of connecting to people. - Anybody else have something they would add on to that? - Yeah I feel like it's this interconnected parallel world that we're creating. So any and everything that you could do in the real world and more you can do in the metaverse.

- Sometimes I also describe it as a digital reality for people who feel very alienated by the term. Right, they tend to think, oh, that's a very sci-fi term. Like how does that exist in the real world? I say, well start with the idea of your physical reality. Right, like you live and exist in the physical reality.

You didn't just start owning a car and you didn't just start by going to school every day. And now think of that in the digital reality, think of this as like another reality that lives coexisting with the physical reality. And we're all at different places when we experience this digital reality and the metaverse is the extension of that digital reality. It's going beyond just having your computer, your phone, your TV, now it's in headset. Now it's augmented into your physical space. And that is to me like the expansion of metaverse, it's a starting point of the digital reality and it builds on top of it to become the metaverse and everyone's at a different place and that's okay.

- There's a lot of video games where people can already play together, have experiences together. I'm thinking about Minecraft or, or even ROBLOX. People don't that the metaverse is actually a concept that was explored since many, many years. But today I think we are trying to understand the potential of having that kind of creative environment where we cannot just game together, but we can also do business together.

We can connect together. We can host important events and we can create a whole new level of social interactions that have never been done before. I think it's very meaningful when you see two people shaking hands because they made a deal in the metaverse.

You talk about the fact that you successfully sold an artwork in a 3D environment. Like this is very meaningful. It means that you can make deals, you can talk to people and these meaningful interactions are the future of the metaverse.

- Yeah, yeah. Just to bounce off both what Candice and Mary were talking about. It's just so upgraded and so personal now, 'cause I, I deal with social anxiety really bad in the real world. Like even though I love doing art and I love performing and all that stuff, I am deathly afraid to be on a stage. I'm definitely afraid to, you know, start a conversation with a stranger.

It's just like I, I can't necessarily do it. So to have this avatar interface and be able to, I performed a song yesterday last night in Horizons. Being in here kind of works up my courage and I feel like I can go outside and, and you know talk to a stranger and start up a conversation. I feel like I can go try and network and it'll actually be as successful as it is in here.

- Wow. Alright, I wanna switch gears. What is the most unexpected experience you've had in VR? - I would say when I went and saw CARNE y ARENA, which she was a piece done by Alejandro Iñárritu and it was actually a physical space that I went into and it took me into the world of immigrants trying to cross the border from the US to Mexico. I actually took off my shoes and I was brought into a space where I was walking on rocks and sand and dirt. And when the helicopter came, I actually felt the wind of the helicopter above me right. That sense of being there, that sense of feeling, that sense of connecting to these people that you're seeing as avatars and my ability to let go of my normal way of thinking and believing in the physical world and letting go into this space to really feel open and welcomed and to kind of explore.

- What about you Mary? Can you tell us about some of your most impactful projects? - You know when I started out, it was all about concerts and connecting music fans to music artists. But what has been the most surprising is getting people that are in hospitals. For example, a lot of frontline workers, we have a wellness type environment where you can unplug and a lot frontline workers are using that. And then, you know when we get letters from people that are getting cancer treatment or escaping by being able to travel to these concerts or have these experiences, and that has been completely unexpected. To me it's just so wonderful that we're able to make that kind of impact.

- And the artists that you work with, did you have to educate them about what this was and how to use the technology? - First we went to the label and we set up the headset and when everyone puts it on, their first thing is, wow. You know, people just love it. So it's just about getting them to put the headset on and then once they do they're like you figure out the rest, but we love it. - Candice, what do you hope to see more of as people continue to a build in these virtual spaces? - I hope to see a healthy ecosystem. So for the past two years I've been working with a company called Art Gate VR.

It's a Toronto startup that built a metaverse that is specially designed to install exhibitions in order to host art events. And for the past two years we are organized like free art fairs. So a lot of art events that are in link with the traditional art world. And what we saw is meaningful international collection. And oh my God, it's, it's so great to see an art collector from Hong Kong shaking the hand of an art dealer from Toronto and presenting artworks that will not be presented otherwise. So it's about creating possibility, but it's also about creating a good ecosystem that will fit for each industry.

It's about understanding that the metaverse will fit a lot, a lot of different industry, but you have an ecosystem for each. And I really hope to see that. So more business in the metaverse. - More business in the metaverse.

What about more women in the metaverse? - Yes. - Mary let's talk about, we're in Women's History Month, celebrating women. What are some of the tips for ways women can break into this industry and become VR creators today? - I mean I think what's really exciting about sitting here today is the variation of all the women here. I mean we're all coming from such different backgrounds.

And I think that's what's really exciting. You know we have to take our responsibility as female leaders in this new industry to make sure that we bring other women with us and to make sure that people from underrepresented groups also feel like they can belong and that they can access this. So if there are any women who are, who are listening to this, who are worried about getting into it, just go for it.

We're all starting out. We are all, everybody's making mistakes. Nobody knows what they're doing. You know, it's a really fun and welcoming place to be actually at the moment. So it's to be encouraged for sure. - I dunno if any of you have other like tips we can give to, to women about how to get into this space.

Whether it is just to experience it for fun or to build businesses. - Actually, when I was first interested in getting into VR in 2016 I joined a bunch of Facebook groups. There's so many incredible Facebook groups and online forums for women to find other women who work in this space.

And I have found jobs. I have given away jobs. I have posted about opportunities in these groups.

And I have also found other people who are the perfect fit. I have found people who I've been inspired by who I've been able to connect with through these Facebook groups. And I really think that that to me was the first entry point into the metaverse and VR/AR work. I did a hundred percent if you're interested and you know nothing, start there, and just start by telling us who you are and tell us what you're interested in and what your passionate about and we'll find the right fit for you through those forums.

- Yeah, definitely buy a VR headset. You have to experience it because once you experience it there's really no going back. You know, to have the experience, there's no going back. And it's also going to lead you thinking about what you want into experience that maybe you are not seeing, so that then can become a business for you, or it will inspire you to think of other things that you want to be able to do. So experience it. - And maybe even think of one thing you wanna change in the physical reality and make that your passion to make sure that happens in the digital reality, 'cause you can make that happen, right? Like if you are frustrated in film because you don't see people on set or if you're frustrated in art galleries 'cause things are, are, are in a hierarchy and artists aren't being seen that can be your passion start to the digital metaverse.

That can be your passion moment to say this is what I'm coming in to wanna do and wanna change. And that's so exciting because as women we haven't had that voice. We're living on centuries worth of like a different type of world in the physical reality. But we get to come into this new metaverse reality and, and say, here we are, we're here today, and this is what we wanna change starting now in the digital reality that we don't see in the physical reality. - Once you've got the headset and you, you have an idea of what it is that you want to do.

Exactly what Michaela's saying, bring your own thing. Like you are not sort of having to catch up very much because we're all beginning. And in a sense it's like an opportunity for us to, to start and sort of set ground rules for everybody so that it is more equitable. - I mean we have been saying that, right? It's like, this is the beginning.

You're not late and coming in now you also I think get to shape what it is. Candice? - In terms of accessibility, I think it's also important that metaverses are not just accessible through via headsets. A lot of metaverses today are accessible through a PC or a Mac. - Absolutely. - So anyone with a laptop can download an application for free and get access and at least experience a bit of the potential. - You're absolutely right Candice. Any device you have, you can have some of the experience.

You know we are talking about women and how they can find their way in. Y'all have given great examples of what you have done as women creators. Is there anything that you see that like we're sort of lacking, like here's what I want to bring that isn't already there? - A lot more tools to make it super easy for any and everyone to be able to monetize their, their talents.

'Cause we're gonna see a lot more with avatar commerce. So for example if we can have simple tools where artists can maybe upload their artwork and we're able to create t-shirts. I think that will also motivate a lot of people to invest themselves 'cause people are always looking for new ways to, you know, to increase the revenue streams using their talents. - Have you all participated in commerce in these worlds? 'Cause that's a space where we think about the possibility of more opportunity for underrepresented communities, for marginalized communities, where if we build it right from the beginning, people can have the opportunity to earn a living. - For us that's a huge driver, for a lot of the artists.

Yes, they wanna connect with fans, but they also wanna be able to directly monetize and we sell virtual concerts. So we have some concerts that are free, but most of 'em are sold. Especially during the pandemic it was very very important because music artists, their main source of revenue is touring.

So they made that shift to where they're selling virtual tickets and they're selling virtual merchandise as well, yes. - I worked with multiple virtual reality applications that are already exploring how to potentially make an income out of the, the application. For example we had this app that distributes virtual reality artworks. You can use simply PayPal to buy directly to your VR headset and rent the virtual reality artworks.

Another way to do it is to synchronize it to type, to rent an exhibition space in Art Gate VR. I think that the potential of the blockchain obviously has, will have a tremendous impact on metaverses. It will allow 3D environments to be synchronized to a financial system that will allow a faster development. - Yeah, very true.

When we talked about the opportunity that this has provided for people who could not physically go somewhere to be able to feel present and be there. I think the same is true for commerce. You know I remember when we launched women's business groups and we would hear from women who said, you know, I was a stay-at-home mom who couldn't afford to pay rent for a shop but I make hats and I wanted to be able to sell my hats. And once Facebook came along and Facebook groups, people could set up from home and sell things. I had people who said I never got around to printing my business card because I just created a Facebook group and I was able to sell.

So we created the opportunity for a lot of women who didn't have it before to be able to earn money, to earn a living at home. And I think, you know, as we think about this technology, what you all are mentioning is that there will be even more ways for people to be able to do that. When we take away the barrier of, you know, the cost of brick and mortar, then the three or $400 if you have a headset doesn't seem that bad.

Look I think the pandemic has shown us a lot about what we can do from where we are. - And I know we are here to talk about inclusivity, but think about the environmental impact we can have by building this world instead of having a physical location. Once again I'm coming back from the art industry, we have more than 150 art fairs, international art fairs in the world. Art dealers have to ship the artworks internationally.

It takes planes, it takes boats. But if we find alternatives and hybrid models, we can really have a real impact on the environment. - I wouldn't have had the, the resources for the physical world to open up my own art gallery. But I did in here.

I wouldn't have the resources to just build up huge sculptures that are like 10 times my size, but I was able to do that there. The only thing that's taking people away from their business is not having the financials to open up a brick and mortar. - And then Candice connecting that to what you're saying.

If people build things, they can also sell those things. - And you can have clients and visitors that come from everywhere in a world. You can make international connections. It gives so much potential. - Oh boy. Well y'all have given us so much.

This has been so rich. Any closing comments anybody would like to make? - We're at the dawn of a brand new world. It's a great opportunity. It's the perfect time to come in. It's not too late.

It's fantastic. You can defy gravity. You can be whoever you want to be. So this is the time to join. - You're welcome to come. We want you with us.

We want as many women as possible to be part of this. - The metaverse is its own reality. So it doesn't matter even if you're not a storyteller, it doesn't matter if you don't identify as a creative, an artist, just come, just come and see. 'Cause you might be inspired and find something that you didn't expect yourself to find. And that's okay.

The world is truly open. - I am truly inspired by your talents and your work. And it is clear that this is only the beginning. Thank you all so much you group of incredible women. You're all innovators helping to shape the future of the metaverse.

Throughout the year we will continue to roll out more experiences to celebrate cultural moments in VR and move towards a more equitable future of technology. You can all follow the metaverse culture series across our Meta social channels each month to hear from more amazing diverse creators and explore the experiences they're building. Fly through the sky.

(funky music)

2022-03-10 04:28

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