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NFTs and the Metaverse Are So Meta

7 minute read
John Horodyski avatar
“Meta” is what it is all about. Meta this, and meta that. But brands won't survive in the metaverse without metadata.

“Meta” is what it is all about. Meta this, and meta that.

The currency and relevancy of meta are ever present and participatory in our cultural and technological discourse, with recent announcements on the “race to the metaverse” — the unknown, much hypothesized next version of the Web 3.0 internet, with virtual and augmented reality experiences, with Meta (formerly Facebook), Microsoft and gamers charting courses for this arguable meta unknown.

The very word “meta” itself has a fascinating epistemology from its origin as a prefix defining the “aboutness” of something. And it is this evolution of the term in a more modern usage to define something above and beyond in pop culture: to describe when something is being self-aware. It is more than the thing itself, exhibiting as a higher level of perspective of aboutness.

Metadata's Still the Foundation

Metadata — data about data and yet so much more — is the foundation for your digital strategy in this uncharted, hyperreal metaverse. You want your content to be discovered, to be found and experienced in the way in which it was intended.

Access is everything. Classification is meaningful. But what will a metaverse give us except possible identify exclusion and content disorganization? We can anticipate more of the same disorder we find in the Web 2.0 universe, but now with the introduction of an unknown realm in which to operate. If you have great content and no one can find it, the value of the content is nonexistent.

The path to good metadata design begins with the realization that your digital assets need to be identified, organized and made available for discovery, and metadata will help ensure that you are building the right system, for the right users, at the right time. Metadata done well will ensure that you and your content will never be lost again.

Metadata matters because it provides us with the best information available to us at any given point in time by means of its managed foundation for content clarity. Metadata is the defense needed against our current information disorder, and the pathway through which our individual and collective “aboutness” and “awareness” may serve us all well. It is at the core of a successful digital strategy because it’s so meta, and so needed for the Metaverse.

Related Article: 4 Ways the Metaverse Can Enhance the Customer Experience

What Are NFTs?

One of the key distinguishing features between Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 is blockchain technology, and from this, the NFT. By definition, an NFT is a non-fungible token. An NFT is a unique digital asset stored on a blockchain. A blockchain is a digital public ledger that is duplicated and distributed across a network of computer systems on the blockchain. NFTs are commonly bought, sold and traded online using cryptocurrency. 

Because of their unique metadata, NFTs are a fast and secure way to verifiably "own" digital files. When someone purchases an NFT, a record of that transaction, along with other metadata attached to that NFT, is uploaded to the blockchain. Just as one can hang a print of a famous masterpiece in the physical world, one can also download an image of that same masterpiece from the internet.

However, many physical-art collectors seek out the original. Downloading a "print" is not the same as "owning" that piece of art. Just as collectors, consumers and superfans have done throughout history, people are willing to pay a lot of money to own the "real" thing.

Related Article: What Are NFTs: Digital Assets or Modern Fad?

How Can You and Your Organization Use NFTs?

  1. Monetize assets.
  2. Increase brand awareness.
  3. Create exclusive communities with VIP access.
  4. Offer subscription or membership perks.
  5. Ticket or memorabilia to or from a special event, concert or webinar.
  6. Verify ownership of physical or digital collectibles.
  7. Fractionalize and sell ownership to otherwise individually owned assets.
  8. Safeguard domain names.
  9. Protect confidentiality of electronic health records (EHR).
  10. Raise funds for charity.

Ultimately, NFTs are an opportunity for your organization to innovate and expand your brand in new ways and for new audiences. But, in order to make an NFT, you need to be able to find your assets. This is made possible with rich metadata.

The opportunity for content owners, marketing technologists and everyone managing content lies in understanding how digital assets sit at the center of all things digital from creation to discovery, and all the way through distribution. Businesses creating and disseminating brand and marketing messages and products engage with customer communities who, in turn, respond with shopping behavior, internet searches, assets and data such as reviews, comments, images, check-ins and other online actions.

Learning Opportunities

Those with the content will always win, and the same applies to those brands wanting to play in the Metaverse. So, get organized, get prepared and assemble your content with effective metadata. It’s just so meta.

Are We Ready to Play in the Metaverse?

If the “meta” amplifies the experience, then before we go falling forward into any meta experience, and, in particular, the metaverse, we should figure out how to manage the real one in which we all currently live and operate. We know that the Metaverse is happening, that brands want to participate, and NFTs are one of the most popular ways in which to engage.

But are we ready to play?

Technology be damned; we are still fumbling around our real-world scenarios with real-world issues such as privacy, information disorder and echo chamber-based algorithms. Therefore, it is all the more crucial to rely on the existing foundations laid out by tried-and-true structural metadata management models to avoid some of these common pitfalls in this new, amplified metaverse. Metadata matters because it provides us with the best information available to manage the content we use, the products we purchase online, the entertainment we watch on streaming services, and more.

Conclusion: Driving Toward Responsible Meta Future

But will the metaverse will be just that — a meta-amplification of what we are currently doing and the extension of even more, with virtual worlds as inspired by digital gaming to help influence future, unwritten digital experiences? Is it the next chapter of social connection? Or is it yet another place of social confusion, distraction, or angst with no compass or markers, both either intellectual or technological, to guide our actions.

Meta-good? Meta-bad? Meta-other? The concern is that this anticipated metaverse will replicate the worst of what we already experience on the internet. We are all raised on content from books to television to the internet to the aggressive proliferation of social media and connections. Before we can even figure out the information disorder of our current use of the internet and social media technology, we have meta-problems that we are not “meta-solving” right now. In its current guise, the creation, dis-semination and consumption of information in 2022 has become hyper-personal, targeted and influential.

As a nod to chaos theory and the perils of science without responsibility and ethics, remember the ominous warning from fictional character Dr. Ian Malcolm in the 1993 film Jurassic Park: “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should, yet here we are on the precipice of change to a world with a metaverse and uncharted and untested new digital experiences. A strong metadata foundation, borrowing from concepts and lessons learned about privacy, transparent governance and responsible stewardship in the Web 2.0 model, can help propel us toward a more ethical and considerate Web 3.0 future.

So meta indeed.

About the author

John Horodyski

John Horodyski is a Managing Director with Salt Flats for the Insights & Analytics practice with executive management strategy experience in Digital Asset Management (DAM), Metadata and Taxonomy design, Data strategy, Analytics, Governance, MarTech, and Marketing Operations.John is a world leading expert and has provided strategic direction and consulting for a variety of Fortune 10, 50, 100, and 500 clients from Consumer Packaging Goods, to Media & Entertainment, the Pharmaceutical industry, and Insurance.

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