Critical Data Futures: Art, Data and Life in the Metaverse


March 18, 2022
12:30pm to 6:00pm
Berkeley, CA


Critical Data Futures: Art, Data and Life in the Metaverse is a symposium event that will be held on Friday, March 18, 12:30-6:00 PM Pacific, at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA). The event is free to attend and open to the public.

CDSS Critical Data Futures event March 2022 - banner logoThe unknown potentials of the metaverse are both exciting and terrifying. Technologists and the media have been exploring the implications of a potential shift to user-centered 3D experiences, which could eclipse our familiar two-dimensional ways of interfacing with our screens. Here, urgent questions emerge about who owns the data of our virtual bodies, our movements and online traces, and our virtual “homes.” At the same time, new modes of expression and data manifestation through online characters, animations, digital art, simulations, and machine learning promise to reveal new modes of cultural production and ways of living together.

The program will include a panel discussion presentation followed by a variety of colloquium sessions to discuss specific aspects of media production, critical analysis and data stewardship. 

12:30 – 2:00 PM – Panel Discussion: Art, Life & Data in the Metaverse (Registration required)
In-person Registration – BAMPFA's Osher Theater, 2120 Oxford Street, Berkeley, CA.
Webinar Registration – Register to receive Zoom access link.
Charis Thompson will introduce this roundtable featuring media innovation experts Edgar Fabian Frias, Emma Fraser, Don Hanson, Wade Wallerstein and Richmond Wong, who will discuss the challenges and opportunities of potentially shifting to user-centered 3D experiences.  

2:30 – 3:30 PM: Breakout Sessions — Anthro and Art Practice Building (AAP), UC Berkeley (No registration required)

  • Session 1: Metaverse Economies with Rich Lyons and Kelani Nichole — AAP Room 275 | Zoom Link — The combination of blockchain and immersive 3D web experiences opens up new possibilities for online economies. Can this inflection point bring us closer to decentralized structures or will it increase the corporate footprint in daily operations? What is the role of artists in structural innovation?
  • Session 2: Aesthetics of Control with Karen Nakamura and Lisa WymoreAAP Room 285 | Zoom Link — Imagining virtual/digital spaces as participatory and performative environments that center diversity of bodily expression and radical embodiment. Can we explore unquantifiable bodies within the metaverse instead of reducing our humanity to traceable information patterns? What if we imagined technologies that allow for more indeterminacy of expressions and movements rather than erasing or reducing them?
  • Session 3: Speculative Fictions with Morgan Ames and Hannah ZeavinAAP Room 295 | Zoom Link — Silicon Valley has been built on speculation, carrying on a tradition that reaches back to the colonialization of the Golden State it resides in. Such speculation is often utopian: many have staked claims hoping for the next untapped vein of wealth, whether buried in the Sierra Nevada or in the digital middens of Big Data. Paradoxically, some of the dearest ideals of Silicon Valley, from cyberspace to the metaverse, hark from dystopian science fiction worlds. How might we borrow from science fiction’s lessons to harness the potential of speculation as not only a tool for utopianism, but critique and – ultimately – social justice? 

4:00 – 5:00 PM: Breakout Sessions — Anthro and Art Practice Building (AAP), UC Berkeley (No registration required)

  • Session 4: Trading Shapes in the Metaverse with Jacob Gaboury and Don Hanson — AAP Room 275 | Zoom Link — The metaverse will drive an unprecedented need for computer graphics. How does the fundamental shift from looking at computer graphics as 2-dimensional renderings to looking at computer graphics as objects in a 3-dimensional space change frameworks of creation, perception and dissemination?
  • Session 5: Mapping Marginalized Voices with Clancy Wilmott and Asma Kasmi — AAP Room 285 | Zoom Link — Does the emergence of a new medium allow us to rethink fundamental relations between land, people and stewardship, or does it reinscribe forms of control and notions of property in yet another “terra incognita”? 
  • Session 6: Alternative Visions: Data Futures/Creative Futures with Shannon Steen and Cathryn Carson — AAP Room 295 | Zoom Link — All visions of the future overlay occluded and often denied pasts. What are these for the world of data and its logics? How do we expose these, and how might we reorient them in order to remake the social implications of the digital and data worlds? We will explore shadow histories of individualism, nationalism, and eugenics that traverse the creative economies of the tech world, in order to open up possibilities for how these forces might be reshaped. 

5:00 – 6:00 PM: Reception: Colloquium Reflections with Jennifer Chayes — Sessions wrap-up and complimentary reception for event participants only.

This event is co-sponsored by the Human Technology Futures Group and the Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society at UC Berkeley.


Event information and links updated 28 Feb 2022.  


Cathryn Carson

Professor, History, UC Berkeley

Cathryn Carson holds the Thomas M. Siebel Presidential Chair in the History of Science at the University of California, Berkeley. Before receiving her Ph.D. in History of Science from Harvard University, she was trained in condensed matter physics. Her research deals with the intellectual, political, and institutional history of contemporary science, including theoretical physics and data science. She has served as Associate Dean of Social Sciences, founding Director of the Social Sciences Data Laboratory (D-Lab), founding Senior Fellow of the Berkeley Institute for Data Science, Faculty Lead of the Data Science Education Program, and Chair of the Faculty Advisory Board for Berkeley's Data Science Planning Initiative, which developed the blueprint for Berkeley’s organizational realignment around data science. In 2019-20, she served as Associate Dean for Strategy and Planning for the Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society. She was a co-I for the Moore/Sloan Data Science Environments.