(Image: Tom Red/Private Media)

On October 29, 2021 Mark Zuckerberg gave a video presentation across hundreds of platforms, announcing the change of the Facebook corporation name to Meta, and the inauguration of what was being called "the metaverse". The metaverse, Zuckerberg explained, was a new totalising online environment in which people and groups were free to meet, explore, change where they were, who they were, etc.

To demonstrate, Zuckerberg suddenly appeared as a cartoon avatar -- looking, it must be said, not significantly different from the man himself -- moving around a landscape, standing next to a roasting fire, playing cards with a robot and a unicorn, and so on.

The resulting reaction was a mixture of relief and anxiety. Relief because it was clear that what was being proposed was on the face of it, a next-generation Second Life, that alternative dreamscape of clunky avatars and bizarre pseudo-events against rigid backgrounds.