Sustainability in Metaverse Research
The engaging new technology’s potential to bring environmental, social, and ethical challenges into balance is under discussion in the scientific dialogue of global institutions.
The following summary examines the research and academic discussion found in the article “Metaverse and Sustainability: Systematic Review of Scientific Publications until 2022 and Beyond” by Jussi S. Jauhiainen, Claudia Krohn and Johanna Junnila about how the Metaverse emerged and developed in scientific publications. This article presents the conceptual framework of sustainability for the Metaverse's material and digital realms. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is cited as a broad reference and the results focus on the quantitative development of publications on the Metaverse.
The Metaverse has become well-known as the next evolution of the Internet, boasting the possibility of merging the physical and digital worlds into an immersive, multiuser environment. This technology enables immersive real-time presence and multisensory interaction with virtual environments, digital objects, and people. The prerequisite for the Metaverse is that digital technology, communication networks, and applications develop quickly and become globally ubiquitous. It will most likely bring billions of people into a globally shared interactive digital environment and early estimations indicate that the Metaverse will increase the global GDP (gross domestic product) by several percentage points in the 2030s. Furthermore, remarkable amounts of money and other resources are currently invested in Metaverse development.
Sustainability is also a key topic for the Metaverse's responsible future. Research and academic discussion on the metaverse are developing quickly. More than twice as many metaverse-related peer-reviewed scientific publications appeared in international journals in 2022 than had ever been published. VR and AR technologies are advancing and demand for immersive Internet is increasing.
Sustainability in Metaverse(s)
The Metaverse and sustainability are connected in many ways. The media and many enterprises discuss that while the Metaverse would boost economy and financial profitability, these need to be put in balance with environmental, social, and ethical aspects. On the one hand, the Metaverse may result in substantial reductions in carbon emissions as many physical goods will be substituted with digital ones. Radically, a more dematerialized future is within reach. Many technology development companies prioritize sustainability goals toward more energy-efficient practices that shrink their current carbon emissions. It is important to design the Metaverse platforms so that fewer specialized hardware resources are required.
On the other hand, the design, construction, and use of technology devices and wider and faster physical data networks require energy and other natural resources, and produce CO 2 emissions. However, within the blockchain space, a major shift toward sustainability is emerging. At the same time, one needs to address the social sustainability. In the metaverse, many kinds of data are collected from its users. The metaverse needs to be connected and analyzed along broad realms of sustainability. One possibility is to connect the metaverse with the United Nations' SDGs. The metaverse could play an important role in the achievement of various SDGs. The metaverse as a global platform will become one important arena in which SDGs can be addressed. The metaverse could play an important role in the achievement of various SDGs. However, the metaverse's development, construction and implementation can create challenges to sustainability. The metaverse is a digital 3D Internet realm. It is based on material infrastructure, and requires the use of natural resources.
Materials and Methods
The study utilized the Web of Science (WoS), Scopus, and Google Scholar databases to gather peer-reviewed scientific publications about the metaverse from various disciplines. Only peer-reviewed scientific articles, scientific review articles, and scientific papers in proceedings that specifically discussed the metaverse were included in the analysis. Empirical sample books, book chapters, seminar publications, and letters were excluded to ensure the sample was free of anomalies.
After screening the databases, the study resulted in three datasets for both WoS and Scopus, which were analyzed to determine the volume of metaverse-related publications until 2022 and in 2022. The study also identified the most common research topics, themes, countries, and organizations in these publications using the VOSviewer program for a more detailed analysis.
Furthermore, the study conducted content analysis on the metaverse-related publications in the WoS to identify their main and secondary topics or point of views to the metaverse, which were classified based on the abstracts and metadata.
Thomson Reuters and Elsevier, which are behind WoS and Scopus, respectively, were not involved in modifying the databases used for the study.
Location and Number of Publications
According to the WoS and Scopus databases, the first scientific article on the topic of "Metaverse" was published in 1995. The article focused on the ability to move from one virtual world to another, but did not generate much interest in the topic. Until 2020, the number of publications per year on the topic remained less than ten in the WoS. However, the publication numbers changed substantially in 2021 due to the increased attention on Second Life, resulting in a fivefold growth in the WoS and a doubling in Scopus from the previous year.
Up until 2021, there were 158 peer-reviewed scientific publications on the Metaverse in the WoS and 1080 in Scopus. In 2022, there were 333 peer-reviewed scientific publications on the topic. The most common publications in the WoS were in the 2022 IEEE Conference on Virtual Reality and 3D User Interfaces. Nearly half (48.7%) of all publications in the WoS were published through Open Access modes, which were more common in international scientific peer-reviewed publications on the metaverse. The scientific research fields that focused extensively on metaverse topics were computer science and engineering. In 2022, more in-depth conceptual and ontological views on the metaverse also emerged.
Prior to 2022, scientific publications on the metaverse involved authors and organizations from 28 countries, with the most common countries being the United States and South Korea. In 2022, the number of countries involved in publications doubled, with China becoming the most common country involved in metaverse-related publications. The most common main category of these publications was "uses," followed by "technology" and "societal influence." However, very few of the publications addressed sustainability as the main subject, with only 2.6% of scientific publications about the metaverse addressing sustainability. Some of the topics covered in these publications include ethical issues in the Metaverse, energy efficiency, responsible consumption, and the potential to enhance cities' technical design and construction processes. The passage concludes by emphasizing the need to address sustainability more in the development of the metaverse, given its potential to reduce material consumption and the use of natural resources.
This has been a summary of the paper. You can download the full text here: Metaverse and Sustainability: Systematic Review of Scientific Publications until 2022 and Beyond