EP61: Enter the Zuckerverse (ft. Sandrine Han and Ian Bogost)

The term “metaverse” was coined in a 1993 science fiction novel. Since then, it’s grown from a dystopian literary concept to a reality that corporations want to sell you. Strap on some VR goggles and escape your tired analog life! Except that the systemic issues we already have seem to be creeping into the metaverse, too.

As the lines between virtuality and physicality continue to blur, companies like Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta are setting their sights on virtual worlds. It’s a new frontier, full of potential – and full of our valuable data. Metaverses like Second Life or World of Warcraft can be positive and even game-changing experiences on the individual level, but when it comes to the navigating a virtual society with a capitalist backdrop…things get a bit dicey.

On this episode, guest host and producer Ren Bangert explores the metaverse. First, we hear a love story from the glory days of Second Life, told to us by Sandrine Han – a scholar of virtual worlds and a long-time Second Lifer. Then, writer and game developer Ian Bogost takes us on a deep dive into the corporatization of the metaverse. We’ll hear how the metaverse has grown from a dystopian warning from science fiction to a sinister data-mining reality – and how even the shiniest of tech utopias are still functioning under the same old capitalism.


  • Check out Ian Bogost’s article “The Metaverse is Bad” in The Atlantic. Ian’s got lots of excellent reading content listed on his website – perfect for a deep dive into game theory.
  • For a further imagining of democracy in a metaverse, check out Eliane Boey’s short story “The Forgotten”. You can read it in Clarkesworld Magazine, or listen to an audio version on the Clarkesworld podcast.
  • Watch the Wall Street Journal’s Joanna Stern get trapped in the metaverse for 24 hours. It’s a an emotional rollercoaster.
  • Han, H. C. (2013). Visual learning in the virtual world: The hidden curriculum of imagery in Second Life. Immersive Environments, Augmented Realities and Virtual Worlds: Assessing Future Trends in Education. http://www.igi-global.com/chapter/visual-learning-virtual-world/74048
  • Stephenson, N. (1993). Snow Crash. New York: Bantam Books.

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