For people excited for the next big thing, the metaverse is imagined as a collective virtual shared space that allows citizens and consumers to explore new worlds and experiences. For us at the School of Cybernetics, the metaverse is already and will ever be a cybernetic system; an open, complex adaptive system encompassing the virtual and material, whose shape and boundaries are fluid, whose creation is deeply human, and thus whose design and enactment reflect the puzzles of human values, politics, power, and our accountability for one another.

The School of Cybernetics has received a gift from Meta as part of their broader initiatives to support and catalyse conversations around the metaverse globally. We are pleased that the value of a cybernetic approach is being recognised in so many different and vital places.

The metaverse, as imagined and articulated in so many places already, is a complex open system with multiple goals and amongst the many other challenges it raises is an epistemology one: can you take a cybernetic systems approach to a digital born system. And equally important, are there things we can learn from prior socio-technical systems that might better inform our approaches?

For us these question are appealing ones. We believe in the value of a cybernetic lens and a cybernetic approach to designing, building, regulating, securing and even decommissioning systems. The focus on the relationships between and through the technological, cultural and ecological components of any systems allows us to see them clearly and critically. We also have an abiding interest in histories of science and technology, and large-scale systems. We believe that such histories help inform our understanding of present versions of those systems, as well as provide critical frameworks within which to explore present and future systems.

We believe the work we do and the approaches about which we care will also us gain insight into the metaverse as a system, including key questions such as; Where will its boundaries be? How will a changing set of technologies that create the metaverse influence communities and the environment? And what can the histories and pre/histories of early systems tell us about the forces that are likely to shape the metaverse/s, and the dynamics that are emergent.

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