Critical Data Futures

A colloquium co-sponsored by the Human Technologies Futures Group and the Division of Computing, Data Science and Society at UC Berkeley


The 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. 

Join our panel of media innovation experts including Edgar Fabian Frias, Emma Fraser, Don Hanson, Wade Wallerstein and Richmond Wong to discuss the challenges and opportunities awaiting our curious explorations in this emerging space of critical data futures. 

After the panel discussion, join the colloquium sessions to discuss specific aspects of media production, critical analysis and data stewardship. This event is co-sponsored by the Human Technology Futures Group and the Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society at UC Berkeley.

Art, Life, and Data in the Metaverse

March 18, 2022   12:30 PM to 2:00 PM PT,  BAMPFA Osher Theater
Panel Discussion: Art, Life & Data in the Metaverse
Registration Required

Intro by Charis Thompson
Roundtable featuring Edgar Fabian Frias, Emma Fraser, Don Hanson, Wade Wallerstein and Richmond Wong
BAMPFA Osher Theater, UC Berkeley | In-Person Registration | Webinar Link 

Charis Thompson is the Associate Dean for Campus Partnerships in the Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society. She is the author of Making Parents: The Ontological Choreography of Reproductive Technologies, and of Good Science: The Ethical Choreography of Stem Cell Research. She received a UC Berkeley Distinguished Teaching Award and a Honorary Doctorate for Services to Science and Society from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. She served on the World Economic Forum Global Future Council and was a Visiting Professor at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study.

Morgan Ames (Moderator) is an Assistant Professor of Practice in the School of Information and Associate Director of Research for the Center for Science, Technology, Medicine and Society at the University of California, Berkeley. Her book The Charisma Machine: The Life, Death, and Legacy of One Laptop per Child (MIT Press, 2019) won the 2020 Best Information Science Book Award, the 2020 Sally Hacker Prize, and the 2021 Computer History Museum Prize.

Emma Fraser is a Lecturer in New Media and Media Studies at UC Berkeley. Emma’s research focuses on digital video games, media cultures, and representations of the city, including digital space and place; the imagined ruins of video games, and post-apocalyptic visions of the end of the city.

Richmond Wong is a postdoctoral researcher at the UC Berkeley Center for Long Term Cybersecurity. His research focuses on how technology professionals attend to and address ethical issues in their work.

Wade Wallerstein is a digital anthropologist and curator from the San Francisco Bay Area. His research in the realm of visual culture examines digital curatorial practices and the ways in which the internet can be used as an exhibition platform. He is the founder of Silicon Valet, a new parking lot for digital art and expanded practice. Wallerstein is also the curator of the Multimedia Anthropology Laboratory at University College London

xyz (Don Hanson) is a designer and internet artist based in Oakland, CA. He codes websites as artworks and software as creative prototypes. Some of his prototypes such as New Art City, an independent VR platform, have become fully realized tools used by artists all over the world. His work has been featured in The New York Times, Art in America and CBC Radio.

Edgar Fabián Frías is a nonbinary, queer, indigenous (Wixárika), Latinx and Brown multidisciplinary artist, curator, educator, and psychotherapist. They work in photography, video art, sound, sculpture, printed textiles, GIFs, performance, social practice, and community organizing, among other emergent genres. Edgar is currently completing their MFA degree at UC Berkeley.

Join our panel of media innovation experts including Edgar Fabian Frias, Emma Fraser, Don Hanson, Wade Wallerstein and Richmond Wong to discuss the challenges and opportunities awaiting our curious explorations in this emerging space of critical data futures.

In-Person Eventbrite Registration is Sold Out.
However, walk-in tickets are available first come, first serve.

March 18, 2022   2:30 PM to 5:00 PM PT, Anthropology and Art Practice (AAP) Building
Critical Data Futures Seminar
No registration required

      • Session 1: Metaverse Economies with Rich Lyons and Kelani Nichole
        2:30 PM to 3:30 PM, 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, Jaime de Val, and Lisa Wymore 
        2:30 PM to 3:30 PM, AAP 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, Hannah Zeavin, and Richmond Wong
        2:30 PM to 3:30 PM, AAP Room 295 | Zoom Link

        Silicon Valley has been built on speculation, carrying on a tradition that reaches back to the colonization 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? 
      • Session 4: Trading Shapes in the Metaverse with Jacob Gaboury and Don Hanson
        4:00 PM to 5:00 PM, 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
        4:00 PM to 5:00 PM, 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
        4:00 PM to 5:00 PM, AAP Room 295 | Zoom Link

             We apologise that we have to cancel Session 6.

March 18, 2022   5:00 PM to 6:00 PM PT, Platform: Sessions Wrap-Up and Reception
Colloquium Reflections with Jennifer Chayes

Complimentary Reception for conference participants only.

Map and Directions