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R/GA's Victoria Wells on Web 3 and The Metaverse


Creative technologist and strategist describes her career path and why spatial computing and identity excite her

R/GA's Victoria Wells on Web 3 and The Metaverse

Victoria Wells is a creative technologist and strategist who joined R/GA in 2021 and has been leading the development of end-to-end business strategies, GTM planning, and brand transformation for the next era of the internet, Web3, and the Metaverse. She brings her hybrid background in emerging technology, startup consulting, and systems thinking to clients, ventures partners & creative teams for future-proof tech strategies.

LBB> What’s your career background, and how did you become curious about the metaverse and Web 3? 

Victoria> My career path was fairly nontraditional. I started my career in design research, working primarily with non-profits, cultivating an art practice in creative technology and new media before transitioning to brand strategy and consumer insights. 

The prominent through-line is that I've been into computers and tech for my whole life. Experiencing the transition through three major paradigm shifts for modern computing and the internet (web 1.0, 2.0, and of course, web 3.0) has been continuously inspiring and formative.

Looking back, everything I've done, from tech art to consumer research, to getting my master's in systems science, has led me to where I am today. It all works together and makes sense in a way. I love working with emerging technology. For me, it represents infinite possibilities, new ways of thinking, and unique approaches to solving big problems. All the fantastic people who are now helping build web3 share a curiosity that makes this work rewarding and fun.

LBB> What excites you most about the metaverse?

Victoria> I’m most excited about the underlying tech that the Metaverse lets you explore — Web 3 — and what that means for our relationship with technology. Two exciting areas for me are spatial computing and identity.

We already use spatial computing when interacting with computers in 3D physical space. It's a Metavese/W3 mainstay. The advancements here mean that the way we interact with technology will be more natural and human — our tech adapts to us vs. the other way around, which is what we're used to. Think about how we naturally reach out for objects, communicate feeling and intention with the tone, and suggest to other drivers our next move just by the way we roll to a stop or make micro-adjustments. Our technology can and should understand and adapt to these natural behaviors.

In the Metaverse, you get to choose who you are, and that’s pretty magical. We’ve talked about digital ownership, interoperability, and avatars that you own and that stick with you wherever you go. Still, there’s so much more that we haven’t talked about, including things like pseudonymity, new approaches for authenticity, implications around EDI, and queerness.

LBB> How will the metaverse shift culture forward in terms of leisure, creativity, and social interaction?

Victoria> This is a great question! The short answer is, we’ll have to wait and see. But in the meantime, we can look at some fascinating emergent phenomena enabled by new technologies. 

People have organically used Web 2 channels like Discord and Twitch to connect and communicate beyond the initial design of platforms. Communities are built on these platforms, and organized communities called DAOs are popping up all over the place. In our IRL lives, we’ll be freed from screens more and more and can move back to human interactions like making eye contact while communicating. Still, we’ll be able to do so with our digital technologies integrated — things like smart glasses are the first step in this direction.

We’ll have more social experiences with connected technology, both IRL and entirely virtual. We can see this a little bit with IRL experiences like Jackbox games, second-screen experiences, how GenZ uses Snapchat together, and holograms that bring speakers into a physical space live, digital watch parties, and simultaneous game-play on Pokemon-Go and MMO games like Fortnite. 

Creativity has a long way to go, but things like spatial computing and more robust processing and networks will be integral here. We’ll be able to create digitally using natural gestures that align with our natural behavior, co-create with others, and alongside our technology in novel ways. Currently, we can build entire 3D worlds, and this will continue to get better.

LBB> We’ve heard about what companies and brands should be paying attention to as the metaverse comes together, but what should consumers look forward to in the space? 

Victoria> So many things — ownership of our digital assets (ex: instead of buying audiobooks that get locked in Audible), interacting with others without relying so heavily on screens and being able to explore the magic of discovering virtual worlds (much like finding websites without indexes in the early stages of Web 1) are some immediate benefits that will continue to evolve.

LBB> How has the Internet helped you discover yourself and created a safe haven for exploring your identity as a queer-identifying person? How do you hope to use that experience to help shape the future of Web3 & the metaverse for future generations’ self-discovery? 

Victoria> The early internet in the late 90s/early 00s was all about discovery. We didn't have great indexes to help us search through all online content. It was very much focused on curiosity and connecting with people who have niche interests through websites built by fellow tech nerds or in early internet chat rooms. And as we transitioned into Web2 (the social internet), there were new ways of exploring identity and connecting. Here we got to create different versions of ourselves on various platforms and curate how we want to be seen and understood (within the cultural constraints of each platform). Growing up, I didn't have many models for what queerness could look like -- our understanding of queer identity was pretty limited, and when I didn't fit into the binary of gay or straight, I didn't have community. The internet enables opportunities to find your community. Still, more importantly for me, it allowed methods of self-expression not possible IRL and created flexibility and fluidity around my identity. What's beautiful about it is that it's a space where you can easily be whichever version of yourself is present on any given day. I'm excited about our autonomy and ownership over our identities to expand, and I can't wait to discover new ways of understanding and expressing our unique and complex identities.

LBB> What book are you reading now? What is the last book you read? 

Victoria> I try to stack a fiction book with a non-fiction book — current reads are The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin and re-reading “The Cyborg Manifesto” by Donna Haraway. The last set was “Convenience Store Woman” by Sayaka Murata and “Infinite Retina” by Irene Cronin and Robert Scoble.

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R/GA US, Mon, 14 Mar 2022 13:17:00 GMT