EU Citizens' Panel on „virtual worlds“

24. February 2023
Bybit / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The Metaverse is a vision of the internet of the future. It aims to unite the real and virtual worlds in a single environment. Users can work, play, meet or shop there as avatars. In an EU Citizens' Panel, randomly selected citizens from all over the European Union are to develop visions, principles and measures for the development of virtual worlds.

At the invitation of the EU Commission, 150 randomly selected citizens met for the first time in Brussels from 24 to 26 February to consider how virtual worlds in the EU can be designed for the benefit of the people.

"Embodiment of the internet"

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg talks about the Metaverse as an "embodiment of the internet". Users do not look at a screen, but move around the metaverse with the help of appropriate virtual reality glasses. Everything we do on a screen today is possible virtually in three dimensions.

Metaverse users could meet friends, attend meetings, play games or shop in the Internet of the future. Users appear as avatars in the virtual world and interact with each other. Or friends appear as holograms in our own living room.

"Exploiting the potential of this change"

The term "metaverse" comes from the 1992 science fiction novel "Snow Crash", in which author Neal Stephenson tells of a parallel world in which people live as avatars.

The European Union wants to react early to this new technological development. " The EU and its Members States are committed to harness the potential of this transformation, understand its opportunities, but also the risks and challenges it poses, while safeguarding the rights of European citizens," it says on the EU Commission's website.

EU Commission wants to develop initiative

The EU Commission hopes that the outcome of the citizens' forum will be recommendations on a set of guiding principles and measures for the development of virtual worlds in the EU. These should be based on the experiences, perceptions and wishes of the citizens. The EU Commission intends to develop an initiative from the recommendations and bring it to the EU institutions.

The participants of the Citizens' Panel on Virtual Worlds were randomly selected by an independent opinion research company. In order to reflect the diversity of people in the EU, the members of the Citizens' Panel are mixed according to the criteria of geographical origin (nationality and urban/rural), gender, age, socio-economic background and level of education so that they represented a reflection of the EU population.

Young Europeans over-represented

These criteria were supplemented by a question on the attitudes of those drawn to the EU, so that EU critics are as adequately represented in the Citizens' Panel as EU supporters, according to their share of the population. Young people between 16 and 25 are over-represented. They make up one third of the participants. A gender balance will also be maintained.

The Citizens' Panel will meet for three sessions. These will take place in Brussels from 24 - 26 February, online from 10 - 12 March 2023 and again in Brussels from 21 - 23 April 2023. The recommendations that emerge here are intended to support the Commission's work in the field of virtual worlds.

The Citizens' Panel is organised and moderated by experts from The Danish Board of Technology (DBT), deliberativa, ifok and Missions Publiques. These four investee companies bring their long experience in organising mini publics to the panel.

Citizens' Panel follows up on citizens' recommendations

The Citizens' Panel is a direct result of the Conference on the Future of Europe. At this conference, 800 randomly selected citizens from all over the EU also discussed the further development of democracy in the European Union. One of the recommendations that emerged was the wish to use randomly selected citizens' panels on a regular basis in the EU. The EU institutions have followed this request.

Prior to the Citizens' Panel on Virtual Worlds, a panel on food waste already took place from December 2022 to February 2023. Another Citizens' Panel on learning mobility in the EU is running since 3 March 2023.

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Image licence: CC BY 2.0