Everyone is hoping for a Web3 without the inclusivity issues we currently face on social and in the real world. But finding progress means addressing Web3’s financial challenges
By Jason Mitchell, CEO, Movement Strategy
Tragic events like the George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery murders, as well as the efforts of the BLM movement have forced people like me to be more aware of the very real, longstanding racial inequities and injustices in this country and to take significant steps to try to address those wrongs.
It’s an enormous effort filled with successes and failures on the path to a more equitable future. Nowhere is that push and pull more embodied than on social media — an area with the potential to be both a vehicle for prejudice and a vital weapon in spreading awareness.
But it’s also because of social media and users’ ability to mobilize and spotlight injustice, that the broader issues at the core of these scandals are even getting the attention they deserve from the media and the wider public.
Web3, even in these early days, faces that same paradox.
Though I have a privileged position when it comes to these issues, I do my best to leverage my privilege, especially in the social media space. So, as an agency leader who has seen these platforms struggle with racial diversity and persistent social media echo chambers, the threat these same challenges pose to our Web3 future causes me concern.
That said, Web3 is also so new that it can be defined in any number of ways — hopefully finding inclusive applications. But to make sure diversity thrives, we must carefully address an important challenge unique to the platforms, systems and communities that will arise in the Web3-based world.
Progress Means Equal Access, or Inequities in Web3 Will Only Get Worse
Right now, people are talking about the high transaction costs in Web3 but they’re not talking about it from a diversity and inclusion perspective.
Instead, everything is being framed according to what will result in mass adoption at scale, a legitimate concern if ideas like the metaverse will become viable. But the unintended effect of framing it this way is that anyone who can afford to get in early has a massive head start on shaping the culture of these virtual spaces.
For diversity to be possible, access is crucial.
On the most basic level you need internet access to be part of Web3 but there are additional barriers within the current Web3 ecosystem. For example, when you look at the metaverse, many of the new platforms require significant processing power and won’t work well on inexpensive computers or mobile devices.
While the statistics are becoming more equal, many factors have still resulted in US Black and Hispanic adults reporting less ownership of desktops, laptops and high-speed internet services. So, at the start, you have inequality built into the Web3 system.
On the NFT side, access barriers are reflected in the high transaction costs. Of course, this will improve over the next 6-12 months but, as with any new technology, it is the early adopters who benefit the most. Given that the profiles of the NFT buyers and creators are largely homogenous, this is a recipe for future disaster.
There are certainly lots of projects and groups of people who are early in the space that are pushing inclusivity — projects like LinksDAO with a mission to use Web3 to make golf more accessible and the PFP NFT World of Women.
But more attention must be paid as these projects are exceptions to the norm.
A Helping Hand
Brands certainly have a part to play in increasing access and can use their influence to help shape a more inclusive and equitable Web3 future. I don’t want to suggest that inclusivity is solely their responsibility, rather, if a brand values representation and inclusivity at their company as well as in their products and services, they should join with like-minded individuals to build towards a more inclusive Web3 ecosystem, collaborating along the way.
It’s up to everyone — individuals, the creators, brands — to promote access and build the type of digital world that we want.
Ultimately, finding success will mean creating a framework for people and brands to collaborate towards a shared goal of diversity. Working together, large brands and consumers could use their advertising dollars to push companies to ensure they are doing everything they can to attract and protect diverse users.
Brands could also do things like creating eco-conscious NFT projects with diverse groups of creators or technologists designed to welcome new perspectives and push other companies and people to do the same.
Brands could offset costs and radically reshape the digital marketplace, allowing diversity to influence how this Web3 culture emerges.
There are certainly some major barriers to increasing access in a way that will foster inclusion but there are also some positive signs that this space will be something that continues to push us in the right direction towards a more inclusive society.
We are all learning together but if we can make sure that everyone’s voice is represented in some way, not just those that can afford it, Web3 can reach its ultimate potential.