In January 2020, essayist Matthew Ball pronounced the metaverse to be the “next great labor platform.” Beyond a portal to entertainment, he envisioned the metaverse as the enabler of an inclusive, high value economy, in which any individual, regardless of location or identity, could participate via virtual labor.
Months later, in the wake of pandemic-induced economic fallout, this prediction quickly materialized. While some jobs moved online, many did not. Particularly impacted were blue-collar workers in emerging economies—local shopkeepers and service workers who watched already unstable income streams dry up. With bills to pay, people turned to new income sources wherever they could find them—including play-to-earn video games.
By Li Jin and Lila Shroff
In the 1930s, the New Deal was a series of programs and projects instituted to aid the unemployed, support economic recovery, and reform the financial system in the midst of the Great Depression. Among the programs was Federal Project Number One, which devoted $27 million—roughly $522 million today—to provide employment for tens of thousands of artists across music, design, visual art, theater, writing, and more. As the largest instance of government patronage of the arts, the program also sought to make art accessible to the wider community and to create a new American style of art.
These programs employed some of the 20th century’s most celebrated artists, including Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Lee Krasner, and Mark Rothko, and yielded over 100,000 works, including murals, sculptures, and paintings. The Federal Art Project aimed to be inclusive of artists of varying experience levels and allowed wide latitude in subject matters and styles, with program director Holger Cahill declaring, “Anything painted by an American artist is American art.”