As people pontificate about the Metaverse - highlighting both pros and cons - there are many parts of the world where concepts such as the Metaverse are still a big non-issue. This is mostly because basic Internet connection is still a challenge in these parts, many of which are villages.
On 3rd December, I had the pleasure of attending an online event called “Routing for Communities film festival", where I got the chance to check out “a series of creative and inspiring short videos produced by communities in Africa, Asia and Latin America.” I attended the first session featuring six short films that focused on Asia and Africa. Two of the six films especially stood out for me.
The first short film, “COW - Community Owned Wireless Mesh, Karnataka” showcased the young women of Durgadahalli village in south India. It highlighted the power of technology to empower girls and women. It also showed how technology can be used to preserve cultural knowledge.
The third short film was about “The Ju |’hoansi people's digital network: Talking around Elephants.” The Ju |’hoansi people of Namibia live in 40 villages that are regularly visited by elephants. An innovative solution was developed to ensure communication between the villagers: “the team built a special offline social network that sends messages by Bluetooth.” Here too, technology is used to preserve cultural knowledge.
Dr. Megan Laws, in her 2019 thesis: “All things being equal: uncertainty, ambivalence and trust in a Namibian conservancy” writes: “All Ju |’hoansi are related’ was a phrase I heard voiced frequently by my Ju | ‘hoan interlocutors….When translated directly the term means ju (person) who is | ‘hoan (real or true), with - si as the plural suffix.” This term can also mean “people who are correct and proper in speech and manners.”
Despite the many technological challenges, a common thread runs through the ‘Villageverse”. In each village, I noticed the beautiful scenery and the beautiful sense of community. No doubt, the Metaverse will bring about many benefits but it will never replace the real sense of beauty and community that I saw in the Villageverse, courtesy of these short films.