The Emergence of the M-verse

Coining a new term is usually fool’s errand, like creating your own nickname. New lingo tends to emerge organically from semi-anonymous social and cultural groups. So, the word “m-verse” is just a provisional word that I’m using to describe something newish in human history.

It alludes to an emerging universe in which more and more of us will live large portions of our lives. The m-verse –or maybe it should be mverse—is located in the nexus between fast-evolving technologies such as augmented reality headsets and our own perceptions of the world.

Although virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and Internet-of-Things (IoT) technologies promise to transform our lives in the near future, we don’t yet have a rubric for talking about how these technologies influence our personal lives as well as our societies.

The term “mixed reality” technologies might turn out to be better: both simpler and less pretentious. For now, though, I personally use m-verse because it is resonant of several concepts at once:

  • immersive artificial environments of the kind VR headsets are making more common
  • merged environments in which computer-generated sensory input creates an overlay on our day-to-day realities
  • mixed technologies that will—depending on their settings—create either immersive or merged cognitive landscapes, depending on what the user wants. And, of course, mixed can also serve the same semantic function as the word “merged”
  • mobile technologies which, even if linked to our smartphone CPUs and apps, will expand our field of sensory input beyond the meager five inch screens we squeeze into our pockets
  • microphone-focused gadgets such as Amazon’s Echo, which are operated via voice-commands and wireless speakers rather than by screens and keyboards

The word “verse” not only alludes to the word universe but to its root Latin words versare and vertere. Both words mean “to keep going round, spinning, whirling, stirring, turning over and over.” This the flux-filled, mixed-up and enticing universe we are just beginning to enter.

In the end, though, perhaps we won’t even need a new term. After all, how often do we hear terms such as “cyberspace,” “Internet” or even “Web” anymore? If we are engrossed in our smartphones these days, we are simply “on our phones.” That helps keep things simple and normal-sounding, even if we are embracing the kind of massive social transformations that would have made our distant ancestors tremble and swoon in astonishment.

BY MARK VICKERS

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