Cannes Panel Recap: Shaping the Metaverse with Diversity and Inclusion at its Heart

by | Jul 9, 2022

Like it or not, ready or not: the metaverse is coming. Although the full roll-out of the metaverse and Web3 is years away, it was already a hot topic at Cannes Lions 2022. From Infillion’s own interactive experiences to yacht parties in the Metaverse, brands were already experimenting and showcasing metaverse technology and expounding upon the promise of Web3. The shaping of this virtually immersive new world of code is not only being molded technically, it’s being defined as the next cultural awakening. If you had a world to create from scratch, how would you use it for good? And how would you keep bad actors from ruining it? Infillion invited diversity champions who are shaping the future of media and tech in Web3 to discuss their vision and hopes for this brave new world.

Watch the lively panel discussion below.

Panelists: Carryl Pierre-Drews, EVP and Chief Marketing Officer, IAB; Joanna McElnea, Community Manager, Creative Spirit; Eric Jacobs, Chief Innovation Officer, VaynerX; Cheryl Overton, Overton Consulting; Laurel Rossi, Moderator and Chief Marketing Officer, Infillion.

The Time Is Now for Metaverse Innovation

If there was one thing the panelists and moderator had in common it was an excitement for the opportunities of diversity and inclusion in the metaverse. It was unanimously agreed that the metaverse has the potential to open many doors for accessibility and inclusion.  Most people are familiar with gaming communities like ROBLOX and Fortnite, and it seems like more and more brands are experimenting with virtual spaces. However, Cheryl Overton, Founder and Chief Experience Officer of Cheryl Overton Communications, thinks that brands aren’t doing enough yet and would love to see “more heart.” 

So what are some examples of using interactive experiences for good? She gave an example of The Breakaway out of Belgium. It uses e-cycling as a platform to give people who are imprisoned an opportunity to cycle with people in the outside world.  Carryl Pierre-Drews, EVP and Chief Marketing Officer IAB, talked about Mastercard’s True Self World, a safe virtual space for the LGBTQ+ community. She loved the authenticity “to come together and be able to celebrate who they are as themselves. I think MasterCard’s just doing great stuff in the space.”

From Education to Empowerment to Action 

Carryl believes that there still needs to be a lot of education about this virtual space. “I feel like there’s a lack of understanding and education around all the different things that go into the metaverse, the cryptocurrencies, NFTs—all of these things we’ve been talking about.” Despite its nascency, some organizations like PWC are already beginning to experiment. Carryl Pierre-Drews described PWC’s empathy experiment. By using a headset and creating a virtual scenario, participants can experience what it can be like dealing with microaggressions—in the hopes of preventing these activities.

But it’s not just enough to educate. “I see your education, and raise you to empower people from underrepresented backgrounds to build and become creators in the space,” said Eric Jacobs, Chief Innovation Officer at VaynerMedia. He pointed out that currently a lot of these experiences are being created and funded by a certain subset of people and we need to go beyond. “We need to make stuff that is representative and feels good for everybody and move into how we can empower people from different backgrounds to make things that feel authentic to themselves.”

Those suggestions inspired Joanna McElnea, Community Manager at Creative Spirit, an organization that finds employment for people with disabilities, to think about how they can raise the bar. “Once you open a new space, it can be a safe space…it could be your education opportunity, it could be your internship,” she said. She gave an example of how people with disabilities can be left behind when it comes to job and educational opportunities, but if they were able to get a job or an internship in the metaverse it could be put on a resume.  Laurel Rossi, CMO of Infillion and moderator captured the sentiment of the panelists by suggesting that Web3 activities “go beyond experimentation to education, empowerment and  action.” 

Cannes Lions 2022 Panel

Laurel Rossi, Moderator, Chief Marketing Officer, Infillion, Joanna McElnea, Community Manager, Creative Spirit, Eric Jacobs, Chief Diversity Officer, VaynerMedia, Cheryl Overton, Cheryl Overton Communications, Carryl Pierre-Drews, EVP and Chief Marketing Officer, IAB

 

For the Metaverse Future, Leave Behind Ego and Inauthenticity

There’s a lot to look forward to as we enter the next generation of the web, but Laurel Rossi provoked the panel to discuss the things that should also be left behind. For Joanna, it’s leaving behind ego. “We’re talking about a lot of technology, but we’re all humans and we’re all on a journey together to grow in the metaverse or in person,” she said. “With all the innovations, changes and possibilities it’s important not to lose the heart of what the metaverse should be; how it could be a safe space for marginalized people. In the work that we do, it is always about staying grounded and learning how to put the ego on the shelf and learn how to do good without expecting much in return.” 

We should also leave behind inauthenticity, according to Cheryl. “The metaverse gives us an opportunity to really be the person we intend to be, so it’s important to hold on to authenticity. Just like the real world, there will be a lot of pressures to look a certain way or take a certain path. However, I hope that your authentic self can truly fly free and that you can live truly, walking your purpose in the new world.” I

t’s clear, according to these diversity champions and tech experts, that the future of Web3 rests with each organization and individual to be intentional when building the core of this highly-experiential new world of community with both head and heart at the center.

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