Starting February, I have been advising LG Electronics on a project related to designing a new metaverse. My first academic paper was about Second Life, so I feel like I have come full circle, and my research on interactions in virtual worlds and virtual economy makes me the perfect fit for this project. Of course, I cannot talk about details, but in general, I am trying to sneak my personal vision of the metaverse into the design- a world without headsets, where virtual and physical realities coexist, where online communities can thrive and creators are properly compensated. I don’t know if LG (or any company for that matter) is ready to incorporate these visions. Personally, I have not seen any metaverse yet that is significantly different from what was already available 20 years ago (although of course things like graphics and interaction design have improved), which is a shame and an opportunity.
I have already presented so many different ideas, from hardware to software, including marketing, short-and long term plans, business models….about 5% of these ideas are being incorporated into the prototype that is being developed, and at the end of the day, the company may not end up doing it at all (for whatever reason) but I am having fun working with other designers, enjoying a creative role that I missed due to research. My team members are open-minded, passionate, and creative– qualities that are sometimes hard to find in a traditional Korean company.
One thing that I am beginning to see is that this very large organization has extremely smart people but information/collaboration between teams, unless initiated as a collaboration, is inefficient. Institutional habits and mindsets do not help morale and creativity. The long-term vision of the company is unclear, so everyone works toward short term goals– thus many good ideas get lost and people work without a dream. To a certain extent, I feel like what I am seeing is a reflection of society in general: most people live without a dream (is that a signal of our times? Why is everyone so unhappy?). Like a politician will only do things achievable within their term of office, many senior management care about the next year, but not the next ten years, probably because they know they will not last that long. Perhaps because I am an academic I have the luxury of thinking long-term, but how does society (or a company) grow in a way that makes its members happy and produce socially beneficial outcomes if such long term visions are not made clear?