A journey of discovery: social mobility in the metaverse

Alina Akbar, an award-winning visual artist from a low-income background, is documenting her journey into the metaverse exploring the opportunities and challenges from a social mobility perspective.


She is supporting her journey with her own research and a series of one-to-one meetings with Ofcom, the EY Metaverse Lab team in the USA and the School of Digital Arts (SODA) at Manchester Metropolitan University. The project builds on the 'human centered' artist in residence approach developed by the EY Metaverse Lab team in the USA, harnessing innovative thinking to help build an inclusive metaverse.


In the second phase of the project, Alina will run a series of workshops with young people from Greater Manchester to gather their insights, concluding with the creation of a bespoke piece of digital artwork to creatively communicate her findings. The artwork will be exhibited within Manchester and nationally.

Week 1

Watch Alina's week 1 video here.


Working as a collaborator on EY Foundation’s Metaverse Artist project looking into the challenges and opportunities for social mobility in the Metaverse, I was most definitely interested in what this advancement in tech means for people who come from a similar path to me. However, as a working-class visual artist who works in a community orientated and collaborative way, I can admit I do not know much going into the project about the Metaverse. I have been speaking with friends and discussing what this space is from presumption, what could it become and how it feels like a bit of a threat to the way “we” do things and develop collaborative practices. Are they trying to turn us all into humans who don’t physically interact or leave our homes? Or is it genuinely going to bring ease and development to our day-to-day life?


At this point cost barriers feels like something which is self-explanatory, so I have been thinking about what it could mean to have to use systems designed by people who do not necessarily always know how we live, systems that don’t account for working class people and all the other barriers such as race and gender that communities also face. I have also been thinking about what this technology could do for systems that serve us such as community groups, allies and local businesses who all play a part in the social mobility of young people as that what is available to them on their doorsteps as a first point of contact.


It’s definitely a positive to see EY Foundation carrying out this project as it’s an opportunity to explore from the earlier stages what could make the working-class experience of the Metaverse a more beneficial one.


Alina Akbar 

Week 2

Watch Alina's week 2 video here.


After having a meeting to develop my knowledge on the Metaverse I have had a shift in my thought process that I will probably carry forward for the rest of this project. Instead of thinking of the Metaverse as a replacement to what we have today, I am now looking at it as an addition to everything we have with our current technology and online social interactions. Learning about the different elements I am still unclear about metaverse uses; however, it has sparked some thoughts about ownership especially when it comes to the blockchain and NFT’s. Thinking from the perspective of a visual artist who posts a lot of art online without any control over how it is shared or consumed and even used, I can already see the way in which these new technologies could begin to benefit my career and protect working class people who are not always informed. 


I am still sceptical of whether this technology will advance at the pace everyone thinks it will.  


Alina Akbar