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K-Pop To Catalonia: How The Metaverse Can Turn Local Culture Global

Glitchy online museum tours are a thing of the past. From Barcelona to Bollywood, the metaverse is bringing immersive cultural experiences right into our homes.

K-Pop To Catalonia: How The Metaverse Can Turn Local Culture Global

A metaverse experience at the Mobile World Congress 2022 in Barcelona

Rozena Crossman

Between environmental costs, COVID and criticisms of digital nomads hurting local economies, the world is questioning the magic of travel — and increasing the time spent in front of screens. Although the meager form the metaverse has taken today can’t replace the smells, tastes, or exact luminescence that make discovering new corners of the world so thrilling, it may soon be dropping local adventures from far away lands into our living rooms.

While the guided tours of museums and online concerts that we all tested out during lockdowns were often glitchy and underwhelming, the beginning of 2022 has seen regional cultural initiatives from around the world flocking to the metaverse, a virtual reality world where people can interact and have experiences as they do in the real world.

“One of the qualities we have in virtual reality is embodiment, that sense of being present in a different environment,” said Louise Claassen, an executive fellow at Henley Business School Africa, to Forbes. “Your body is responding to where your mind believes that you are. There are all sorts of very interesting opportunities that this convergence into the metaverse present.”

From learning the Catalan language to Bollywood performances, here are three breaking examples of cultural institutions developing projects that offer the kind of total digital immersion in their community’s art and heritage — experiences that were, until now, accessible only by boat, train or plane.

Promoting Catalan language and culture virtually

This autonomous region in Spain is famous for its die-hard investment in keeping its language and traditions alive. Now, the government of Catalonia and the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce are launching a virtual world to promote the Catalan language and its culture.

Spanish daily La Vanguardia reported on the launch of the Catalan metaverse, named “CatVers,” in January. CatVers is a digital space where avatars can go to art galleries, concerts and even attend university classes. It all happens exclusively in Catalan.

For the first two months, entry to this digital Catalan world will be free of charge. But organizers hope they will soon be able to offer accessible rates, and they eventually hope to have their own currency within the Catalan metaverse.

Bollywood's next big move is virtual

Looking for a new way to engage audiences and fans, India’s renowned Bollywood industry is making moves in the metaverse, reports The Economic Times of India.

Pooja Entertainment, one of the country’s leading movie companies, paid over $5,000 for a plot of virtual land in the metaverse. They subsequently made the first-ever Indian film announcement within the metaverse for BadeMiyan ChoteMiyan, its upcoming film, which will be an immersive experience.

Meanwhile, actors such as Deepika Padukone and Kamal Haasan have created metaverse avatars, and NFTs of film art for upcoming Indian movies from major production houses are about to drop.

South Korea hopes to become a Metaverse superpower

In January, the South Korean Ministry of Science and ICT announced an investment of $7.5 billion into developing both AI and its own metaverse. Culture is very much a part of the program, as the space will include a Korean language institute.

With the aim of becoming the fifth largest metaverse market in the world within the next five years — which seems plausible, given that they currently harbor the fourth biggest video game market — the government is clearly hoping to export Korean culture en masse with the “K-metaverse”.

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Pasta v. Fascists: How Italy's Staple Dish Became A Symbol Of Resistance

Pasta may not be considered controversial today, but it played an important role during Italy's fascist years, particularly in one family's celebration of community and liberation.

Photo of the Cervi family.

Photo of the Cervi family, whose seven children were shot by the Fascists on December 28, 1943, at the Reggio Emilia shooting range.

@comunisti_alla_ribalta via Instagram
Jacopo Fontaneto

ROME — Eighty years ago — on July 25, 1943 — the vote of no confidence by the Grand Council of Fascism, leading to Benito Mussolini's arrest, set off widespread celebrations. In Campegine, a small village in the Emilian province, the Cervi family celebrated in their own way: they brought 380 kilograms of pasta in milk cans to the town square and offered it to all the inhabitants of the village.

The pasta was strictly plain: macaroni dressed with butter and cheese, seen as more of a "festive dish" in that period of deprivation. As soon as the Cervi brothers learned about the arrest of Mussolini, they procured flour, borrowed butter and cheese from the dairy, and prepared kilos and kilos of pasta. They then loaded it onto a cart to distribute it to their fellow villagers. Pastasciutta (dry pasta) specifically regards dishes with noodles that are plated "dry", not in broth. That would disqualify soup, risotto, ravioli...

Even though pastasciutta is the most stereotypical type of pasta today, it had a complicated relationship with the government during Italy's fascist years.

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