On Democracy and the Metaverse

CGA depiction of a man's head with circuitry coming out of it

Over the past decade, I must have moderated over a hundred panel discussions on EU politics. Most have been offline (many of them in the European Parliament’s VoxBox), but I’ve also run plenty of online panels, particularly since the pandemic pushed us all deeper into cyberspace.

I’ve even moderated several hybrid panels, with a mix of both offline and online panelists. A couple of weeks ago, however, was my first ever metaverse panel.

On 15 December, I joined a VR panel moderated by my colleague Chris Kremidas-Courtney during the 3rd annual Metaverse Safety Week, organised by the Extended Reality Safety Initiative (XRSI). The topic was the future of safety and democracy in the metaverse.

What was it like? Pretty much like you’d expect: chaotic, geeky, and enormous fun.

Running a hybrid panel is tough. But running a metaverse panel is orders of magnitude more complicated than even a hybrid setup (so kudos to Chris for doing an outstanding job).

There were myriad technical issues: connection problems, echoes and acoustic feedback, panelists unable to unmute their mics, etc.

Then there were a set of experiences unique to the metaverse, such as audience members floating all over the auditorium.

Overall, though? What fun! I really look forward to running panels and group discussions in the metaverse, and experimenting with deliberative XR. It will be a niche approach for some time, I suspect, but I can see it growing in popularity as the technology develops.

Anyway, you can see me blathering on about democracy and technology in the video here.

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