Journal of Big Data
School of Business and Law
The metaverse has become one of the most popular concepts of recent times. Companies and entrepreneurs are fiercely competing to invest and take part in this virtual world. Millions of people globally are anticipated to spend much of their time in the metaverse, regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity, or culture. There are few comprehensive studies on the positive/negative sentiment and effect of the newly identified, but not well defined, metaverse concept that is already fast evolving the digital landscape. Thereby, this study aimed to better understand the metaverse concept, by, firstly, identifying the positive and negative sentiment characteristics and, secondly, by revealing the associations between the metaverse concept and other related concepts. To do so, this study used Natural Language Processing (NLP) methods, specifically Artificial Intelligence (AI) with computational qualitative analysis. The data comprised metaverse articles from 2021 to 2022 published on The Guardian website, a key global mainstream media outlet. To perform thematic content analysis of the qualitative data, this research used the Leximancer software, and the The Natural Language Toolkit (NLTK) from NLP libraries were used to identify sentiment. Further, an AI-based Monkeylearn API was used to make sectoral classifications of the main topics that emerged in the Leximancer analysis. The key themes which emerged in the Leximancer analysis, included "metaverse", "Facebook", "games" and "platforms". The sentiment analysis revealed that of all articles published in the period of 2021–2022 about the metaverse, 61% (n = 622) were positive, 30% (n = 311) were negative, and 9% (n = 90) were neutral. Positive discourses about the metaverse were found to concern key innovations that the virtual experiences brought to users and companies with the support of the technological infrastructure of blockchain, algorithms, NFTs, led by the gaming world. Negative discourse was found to evidence various problems (misinformation, harmful content, algorithms, data, and equipment) that occur during the use of Facebook and other social media platforms, and that individuals encountered harm in the metaverse or that the metaverse produces new problems. Monkeylearn findings revealed “marketing/advertising/PR” role, “Recreational” business, “Science & Technology” events as the key content topics. This study’s contribution is twofold: first, it showcases a novel way to triangulate qualitative data analysis of large unstructured textual data as a method in exploring the metaverse concept; and second, the study reveals the characteristics of the metaverse as a concept, as well as its association with other related concepts. Given that the topic of the metaverse is new, this is the first study, to our knowledge, to do both.
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