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What is the Metaverse and Who Seeks to Define it? Mapping the Site of Social Construction

The Metaverse has become a buzz-phrase among tech businesses. Facebook's rebranding to Meta is symptomatic of this. Many firms and other actors are trying to shape visions of the Metaverse, leading to confusion about the term's meaning. We use social construction of technology (SCOT) theory to disentangle the conflicting notions proposing that what the Metaverse is and will become relies on the collective sensemaking processes. We point out similarities and differences between various concepts presented in the public media and link them to individual actors' monetary, political, or social motives. We describe the tensions that occur because of the conflicting interests. As the Metaverse is an emerging phenomenon, opportunities exist to reorient it toward humanist values rather than singular interests. However, the complexity of the social processes that shape the Metaverse requires a considerate approach rather than premature conclusions about the Metaverse’s characteristics. The analysis presents the Metaverse as a new, continually evolving sociotechnical phenomenon, and calls for research that explores it as a dynamic, moving target.