Data and the Metaverse
Responsible Data Science, DSI@UTM

Current discussions of the metaverse and the increase in virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) adoption make this an opportune time to consider how data can, is, and could be employed in virtual reality and immersive environments. In VR/AR, people exist as data. These data provide opportunities for research and innovation, but also commodification and surveillance. As part of the DSI@UTM’s focus on Responsible Data Science, the Data and the Metaverse event seeks to imagine future possibilities, challenges, and implications of data creation, collection, analysis, and deployment in the metaverse. 

Join us to explore the future of data and the metaverse. Leading researchers and practitioners will present on the metaverse from varying perspectives of information practices, social interaction, public policy, as well as computer science and design. The day will include opportunities for break out discussions, as well as an opportunity to experience VR/AR.  

This event will be in-person on February 24, 2023.

10:00-11:00 am
Breakfast and networking
VR/AR Experience
11:00-11:05 am
Lisa Strug, Director, Data Sciences Institute
11:05-11:30 am

Present and Accounted For: Implication of Virtual Existence as Data in the Metaverse

Bree McEwan,
Institute for Communication, Culture, and Information Technology
Associate Director, DSI@UTM
11:30am -12:30pm
Panel Perspectives

Sun Joo (Grace) Ahn, Grady College of Journalism & Mass Communication, University of Georgia
James McCrae, Magic Leap
Luke Stark, Faculty of Information & Media Studies, University of Western Ontario
Daniel Wigdor, Department of Computer Science, University of Toronto and Meta Reality Labs
Moderator: Bree McEwan
12:30–1:30 pm
Networking Lunch
VR/AR Experience
1:30– 2:30 pm
Blue Sky Breakout Discussions
2:30 - 3:40 pm
Breakout report back and Q & A with panel
3:40 – 3:45 pm
Closing Remarks
Bree McEwan


Dr. Sun Joo (Grace) Ahn

Sun Joo (Grace) Ahn 

Director, Centre for the Advancement of Computer-Human Ecosystems, CACHE 

Associate Professor

Grady College of Journalism & Mass Communication 

University of Georgia 

Dr. Sun Joo (Grace) Ahn’s main program of research investigates how interactive digital media such as virtual and augmented reality transform traditional rules of communication and social interactions, looking at how virtual experiences shape the way that people think, feel, and behave in the physical world. Her work is supported by the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health and is published in numerous top-tier outlets in the fields of communication, health, and engineering. She is the recipient of the Mary Alice Shaver Promising Professor Award from the American Academy of Advertising, the inaugural Early Career Award from the National Communication Association’s Health Communication Division, and the Krieghbaum Under-40 Award from the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. 

Image of James McCrae.

James McCrae

Senior Manager, Magic Leap

Dr. James McCrae works with the System Application Team at Magic Leap. His group develops many of the core user-facing software applications for the Magic Leap 2 Augmented Reality device. Previously, he was the CEO and co-founder of immersive web startup Janus VR. He studied at the University of Toronto, working in the DGP lab with supervisor Professor Karan Singh. His research was on planar section representations of 3D shapes, and before that he explored problems in 3D navigation, curve fairing, and sketch-based interfaces. He is a founder and creator of the flatfab modelling software. He is the recipient of the University of Toronto’s Inventor of the Year award, and the Alain Fournier Award for best Canadian Computer Graphics Dissertation.

Image of Bree McEwan.

Bree McEwan

Associate Professor 

Institute for Communication, Culture, and Information Technology 

University of Toronto Mississauga 

Associate Director, DSI@UTM 

Dr. Bree McEwan’s research focuses on the intersection between interpersonal communication and communication technology. Her book Navigating New Media Networks explores how communication technology, in particular social media facilitates interpersonal communication processes and relationships. She has published two measures, the Facebook Relational Maintenance measure, and the Perceived Social Affordances of Communication Channels scale. Her recent projects involve tests of an original theory of online information diffusion, the Mediated Skewed Diffusion of Issues Information theory, and exploring how people interact within virtual reality environments. 

Image of Professor Luke Stark.

Luke Stark

Assistant Professor 

Faculty of Information & Media Studies 

University of Western Ontario 

Dr. Luke Stark’s work interrogates the historical, social, and ethical impacts of computing and artificial intelligence technologies, particularly those mediating social and emotional expression. He completed his PhD in the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University in 2016 and holds an Honours BA and MA in History from the University of Toronto. Prior to joining FIMS, he was a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Fairness, Accountability, Transparency and Ethics (FATE) Group at Microsoft Research in Montreal, QC, a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Sociology at Dartmouth College, and a Fellow and Affiliate of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. 

Lisa Strug

Director, Data Sciences Institute 

Director, Canadian Statistical Sciences Institute (CANSSI), Ontario Region 

Professor, Departments, Computer Science and Statistical Sciences, University of Toronto 

Senior Scientist, Program in Genetics and Genome Biology, The Hospital for Sick Children 

Dr. Lisa Strug is the inaugural Director of the Data Sciences Institute, a tri-campus, multi-institutional, multi-disciplinary hub for data science activity at the University of Toronto and affiliated Research Institutes. Dr. Strug holds several other leadership positions at the University of Toronto including the Director of the Canadian Statistical Sciences Institute Ontario Region (CANSSI Ontario), and at the Hospital for Sick Children as Associate Director of the Centre for Applied Genomics and the Lead of the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Gene Modifier Consortium and the Biology of Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy International Consortium. She is a statistical geneticist, and her research focuses on the development of novel statistical approaches to analyze and integrate multi-omics data to identify genetic contributors to complex human disease. She has received several honours including the Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Genome Data Science. 

Image of Daniel Wigdor.

Daniel Wigdor  

Professor and associate chair, partnerships and innovation, Department of Computer Science, University of Toronto 

Director, Research Science, Meta Reality Labs 

Dr. Daniel Wigdor’s area of research is the leveraging of computing technology to enable people to live better lives. This work includes the study of human uses of technologies, of basic human needs and capabilities, and the development of technologies to help meet those needs given their capabilities. These technologies include sensing methods, operating system architectures, development platforms, interaction methods, AI systems, and human-AI interaction. Talks about his work may be found online: haptics & high performance UX, post-WIMP user interfaces, and the symphony of devices.