The Media Majlis aims to ignite a conversation full of inspiration and curiosity as society plunges deeper into the intricacies of the Metaverse.
Northwestern University in Qatar’s Media Majlis unveiled its latest exhibition, ‘MetaWhat?’ on Tuesday, exploring the intricate facets of the Metaverse by juxtaposing the challenges, opportunities and intersections between the natural and virtual worlds.
The seventh exhibition by the Media Majlis is not just a pretty display— but an experience that shifts the perspective from the West’s monopoly over the Metaverse narrative to a more global viewpoint, emphasising voices from the Global South.
As it stands, the world is buzzing with the term “Metaverse,” a concept few truly understand but many are eager to discuss.
Dean of Northwestern Qatar, Marwan Kraidy, emphasised the exhibition’s role in demystifying this expansive virtual world, inviting not just students, but the wider public, to engage and participate in the broader conversation surrounding the evolution of digital society.
“This exhibition basically explores the new frontiers of the digital world. The virtual world that we are all becoming more immersed in [and] the Metaverse is a very audacious, very provocative concept of what life can be or can look like in the virtual world,” he told Doha News.
“What we’re trying to do here is demystify the components of this virtual world so that not only our students, but also the general public, can understand them and therefore contribute to a broader debate about digital society and ultimately about knowledge society.”
What sets this exhibition apart is its dynamic approach, moving away from the static and linear journeys typical of many museums.
Visitors embark on an interactive journey led by five avatar personalities.
These avatars, curated to perfection, guide the audience through digital screens, hologram NFT displays, and virtual and augmented reality across five thematic installations.
‘MetaWorld’ and ‘MetaExperience’ particularly stand out, offering insights into the layered Metaverse and the captivating data visualisation of the growth of virtual land sales.
Inside the metaverse concept
Jack Thomas Taylor, Curator and Interim Director of the Media Majlis, explained to Doha News the origins of the ‘MetaWhat?’ moniker, noting the influence of Facebook’s rebranding to Meta.
As an academic institution emphasising journalism, communication and media, Taylor accentuated the role of the Media Majlis in initiating timely discussions, in contrast to the slower-paced academic world.
“Technologists and software developers might create their own lexicon and people could get lost.”
The aim of the exhibition, in his words, is to simplify the concept, emphasising that with the human ability to imagine, anyone can step into the Metaverse.
Touching upon the Western-centric development of the Metaverse, Taylor expressed concerns about potential replication of real-world boundaries in the virtual domain, reinforcing the importance of controlling the narrative.
He foresees a burgeoning “creator economy” with the Metaverse being at the forefront, transforming gaming and digital content creation into strategic, profitable careers.
The curator further pointed out that the transition to platforms like Zoom during the Covid-19 pandemic indicates an organic move towards virtual environments.
What to look out for at MetaWhat?
Beyond the digital, there’s a tangible connection to the past and present. Over 100 nostalgic collectibles are showcased, with standout items like the early print of Super Mario Bros and an Aladdins Kingdom token, providing a bridge from yesteryears’ physical experiences to today’s digital dominion.
Partnerships and collaborations take centre stage as well. The culmination of a unique collaboration between the Qatar-based company Astro Automotive Services and American artist Daniel Arsham presents the ‘ERODED Safari’ collectible and an exclusive photobook—melding the physical with the ephemeral, and tangible artistry with digital documentation.
Further enhancing the exhibition’s grandeur, Luke Jerram’s ‘Gaia’ is a masterpiece on display. This artwork is not just a representation of earth but a statement, urging viewers to contemplate the Metaverse’s impact on our tangible reality.
An intriguing addition to the exhibition is the forum ‘Where do you stand?’, curated by Emirati TV personality Anas Bukhash. This space invites dialogue, with leading figures from the Arab world’s media scene sharing their insights on the Metaverse, including Aisha Bin Bishr, Wissam Breidy, Matthias Mende and Sharifa Albarami.
Tying the narratives together is MetaCat, an AI-created mascot symbolising the intersection of tech culture and the universal internet affection for felines. The playful mascot, conceived through deep learning algorithms, engages audiences, guiding and educating them through the exhibition.
Visitors are also treated to a special edition of the museum’s publication, “Voices and Conversations”, which dives deeper into the lexicon of the metaverse, exploring its potential for global good.
The exhibition is open until Thursday, 7 December 7, 2023.