Taylor Swift fandom is almost a true metaverse

Taylor Swift released A new album called midnight. For the past several weeks, Swift has presided over an internet micro-launch: Before dropping the album, she launched “midnight Mayhem With Me, the TikTok video series where it launched 13 track names one by one via bingo. This week, I went so far as to release A complete launch schedule for fans via Instagram which detail what can happen anytime and anywhere online – including a “special super messy surprise” at 3am ET last night.

Calling what Swift does with the release of this album “smart online”, “audience engagement” or “marketing” is to undersell it. It has, in a way, created a virtual world in which fans can experience the launch. as such The Washington PostTroy Emily Yahr, Swift He left secret puzzles and messages to fans for over 15 yearsand include them in album line notes, music videos, social media posts, and even (If the theories are correct) in the clothes you wear. The result is a nearly year-round ecosystem that’s constantly streaming on the Internet. Fans gather in the tens of millions to obsessively dissect every move you make. Last night, hmm Looks like Spotify has crashed.

A crowd gathers to participate in a large virtual world with direct connections to the real world. Talk about it enough, and it kind of starts to emerge as another much-discussed concept: the metaverse. This may sound like a leap, but the metaverse – a futuristic virtual reality world – is essentially a shared online experience, which isn’t much different from the online fan scene inhabited by Swifties.

“People are building metaverse platforms, and most think it’s a technical issue,” Wagner James Au told me. “But it’s really a societal and cultural issue.” Knows Au firsthand: In the early 2000s, he was Embedded as a Reporter on Second Life, which is an early platform for the virtual world. He is currently writing a book called Why does the Metaverse matter.

We’ve talked about Swift’s cross-platform virtual community — and whether, despite its technical glitches, it actually outperforms Mark Zuckerberg in its quest to build a true metaverse.

Our conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.


Caroline Mumbs Nice: I think Taylor Swift is a good case study to speak by what we mean metaverse: What are the actual forks that you identify? Should it contain VR?

Wagner James or: The term came from a novel called snow crash. It is very detailed on how it works. Author Neil Stephenson is also a programmer.

The identification It is this: the metaverse is a vast and immersive virtual world that can be simultaneously accessed by millions of people through VR and other devices. And it should be customized: highly customizable avatars, powerful tools for creating experiences. It is integrated with the real world economy and external technology. In other words, you can create content and experiences in the metaverse platform, and you can actually make money from it in some way. It’s called mixed reality. It is integrated with the real world.

Nice: What is the importance of virtual reality in this? Does this “and” — as in “virtual reality and other devices” — really work there?

Au: no no no. This is another thing that drives me crazy: the assumption that it has to be in VR. In the book, Stevenson mentioned that only the rich use virtual reality headsets, and ordinary people only use a regular computer.

metaverse Platforms are there. The largest is Roblox, followed by Fortnite. Being a real Metaverse with capital Myou may need, like, 15 million or more people in the same virtual world at the same time. And we haven’t gotten there yet. It was close.

Nice: Are you a Swiftie?

Au: I am not a Swiftie. But I try to follow it as closely as possible.

Nice: So two days ago, she Post on Instagram a video of a virtual office. Looks like it might be something from The Sims or something.

Au: I’m going to take a look while you’re talking.

Nice: You’ve outlined the full timeline for this week – where you want the people to be, and what platform you want the people to be on. She created this complete sharing table for her fans.

Au: I’m on it now. I did it in 3D Engine. Not sure which one.

Nice: How do you feel about this metaverse-y? To have a set schedule that is actually connected to things that happen in the real world, but people are watching almost all of them.

Au: Well, the fact that she created this kind of virtual office for herself, let’s call it metaverse-ish, especially if she ends up using it somehow in the future. [Say] Her fans come, or she already has her avatar of Taylor Swift come over and hang out in the office.

I think this was shot with Unreal, which is one of the main engines of metaverse technology. Are you familiar with Fortnite?

Nice: yes.

Au: Fortnite uses the Unreal graphics engine. It looks so real that you can actually make movies in it. It can create a kind of metaverse experience in Fortnite.

The The terms would be, for example, to have an island in Fortnite that you can visit. They bring real-life superstars to big Metaverse platforms like Roblox and Fortnite. They did so during the height of the pandemic with Travis Scott. Everything was pre-recorded, but it was a great experience. And the thing that got people excited in the music industry is that more people saw him in Fortnite than at a real concert. some Watched by 12 million people.

Nice: Second Life has had concerts too, right? Why do we have these concerts in these primary spaces?

Au: Right now, social media like TikTok and Instagram are dominating everything, especially for Generation Z. This is not a real time, in the sense of people hanging out in the same place. While the metaverse platform is like Fortnite, people just hang out and play together. If you look at Travis Scott’s video, he’s performing, but all his fans are running around. They all fly and dance together because it’s in a 3D space, so you get that feeling of being there and hanging out with other people you admire too. This is the magic of the Metaverse platform. Don’t just sit around and “like” things and share things on social media. You are already testing it in real time.

Nice: Let’s say Swift doesn’t create a metaverse experience. How close is what you’re doing now to the actual metaverse?

Au: What you have now is a huge virtual community across all social media platforms, mostly on Instagram and TikTok. And their being, so to speak, or their world is based around Taylor Swift. It does not depend on any one platform. They will go wherever you go. So it is not a virtual world, but a virtual community. This is really what makes the metaverse and metaverse platforms so powerful. [It’s when] You have large virtual communities of people who love to hang out together, create content together, create experiences and play together. I think there will be a hunger for people who follow Taylor on TikTok or whatever they do in an immersive 3D experience.

Nice: By 3-D, do you mean it has to be like The Sims or Second Life?

Au: Yes, anything like what you see on Xbox or PlayStation, like Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto.

Nice: Like, should the world be?

Au: Well, by definition, the metaverse is 3D and immersive. What usually happens is that it starts out as a 3D game, and then takes on the attributes of the metaverse. This is what happened with Fortnite. We’ll likely see really massive games like Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto become more metaphysical.

Nice: So is 3-D the main thing that’s definitively missing from Taylor’s current universe?

Au: yes. It is a 3D virtual world in which millions of people can be present at the same time.

Nice: For some people out there now, this whole week is Taylor Swift. They flip a lot between TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, and even real life. But because they don’t have avatars and don’t congregate in a virtual space, that’s not technically a metaverse?

Au: Right. But yes, she can do it tomorrow if she wants to. It could have its own metaverse platform. She can instantly invite people to join her, hang out with her, and create content based on her songs. She can perform live shows if she wants to. And you won’t have to rely on any of the platforms. Currently, she is creating content for Instagram, which is owned by Meta and TikTok.

Nice: It looks like Swifties might be living in something very close to the metaverse right now. He doesn’t seem to be missing much to get there. People overuse the term percussion instrument. But the fandoms seem to be giving off a positive vibe at the moment.

Au: It’s like BTS ARMY. It’s a virtual community almost like its own, because it runs across borders. It has everything except for the 3D graphics, but that’s something they can add later if they want to.

Nice: Can we say that Swifties are living the closest thing to the metaverse right now?

Au: [Laughs.] I wouldn’t put it that way. I would say they live in a virtual world across platforms which is all Taylor Swift and Taylor Swift related content. It is more than an intellectual world. It is not 3D.

Nice: So it is not a metaverse.

Au: the correct. But it’s everything except the 3D part. Put it this way.

Nice: Let’s compare this to Meta Horizon World, for example. Does Swifties actually experience a more authentic metaverse than people using that platform? How important is the 3D aspect of it versus the cultural aspects?

Au: Well, for the sake of technical definition, you need along with a 3D virtual world. But the virtual community should be just as powerful as the tech piece. So you need a really thriving community. And that’s what she has. It has a thriving virtual community across multiple platforms. So it has everything the metaverse needs except for 3D graphics.

I love that you asked me to do this, because I’m thinking, Wow, it’s actually bigger than the metaverse.

Nice: Maybe this is just silly, but I’m also kinda serious: Is Taylor Swift doing a better job building the metaverse than Mark Zuckerberg right now?

Au: Well, in the sense that Mark Zuckerberg is almost a complete flop, yes. The people who build the metaverse platforms, most of them think it’s a technical issue. But it is in fact a societal and cultural issue. It must be built. Horizon world has just about 200,000 to 300,000 users. So Taylor Swift could launch Fortnite Island on her own, and it would have 100 million users in a month.

It has what Zuckerberg doesn’t have. It has a brand and an aesthetic and an almost, like, global outlook for millions and millions of people — like, they have this world they have on their mind that they share with people. And that’s something Zuckerberg doesn’t have. People who play Roblox, they all share that. People who play Fortnite share it all. And people who go viral on social media, like Taylor, have fans who have that too. They don’t necessarily have the 3D part, but she can do it if she wants to, or she can’t.

oysters in the world. The virtual world has oysters.

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