The Cinematic Metaverse: Hollywood Science Fiction and Silicon Valley’s Vision of the Future

Mark Zuckerberg demonstrating the capabilities of the metaverse.

Abstract

This essay analyzes science fiction novels to reconstruct a partial literary genealogy of the Californian Ideology first described in 1995 by Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron, as a strange mixture of the counterculture hippie movement and the ideal of the free market. It addresses the ways in which writers and artists during the Cold War (1946-1989) inspired a set of beliefs later articulated by Hollywood and Silicon Valley. This science fiction archive gave proleptic glimpses of a future marked by a corporate dystopian dictatorship as well as a world of possibilities. Such tropes fed an evolving concept of the Global Village and its contemporary incarnation in the Zuckerberg-Metaverse. The essay argues that neoliberal notions of connectivity, despite the culture of isolation unleashed by our pandemic-present, not only name the deeply rhetorical hubris of Big Tech billionaires; it also rehashes the historical celebration of technology during the Cold War. Basing my arguments mainly on Frederic Jameson’s Archaeologies of the Future which draws on the writings of Karl Marx and Walter Benjamin, I present the post-war proliferation of a futuristic literary culture as a discourse continuously mined by both Hollywood and Silicon Valley. The essay argues for parallels between the conception of the cinematic universe and the metaverse.

Keywords: metaverse, science fiction, californian ideology, ranciere, frederic jameson, cold war

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