ETHICAL XR symposium


ethical xr symposium

School of Communication and Multimedia Studies • Institute for Sensing and Embedded Network Systems Engineering • The Walter and Lalita Janke Emerging Technologies Fund

Living Room Theater, Culture & Society Bldg (CU-97), Florida Atlantic University
Boca Raton, FL

February 21, 2020

Dr. Danya Glabau (Director, Science and Technology Studies, Dept. of Technology, Culture, and Society, NYU Tandon School of Engineering)
Dr. Helen Nissenbaum
(Director, Digital Life Initiative, Cornell Tech)

The future of technology will consist significantly of extended reality applications in media, gaming, medicine, and education. These innovations are radically transforming traditional practices and promising to be more interactive, connected, or just plain smart. As they pass engineering milestones, many recognize that function, utility, and profit should not be the sole drivers of decision-making. The success of Pokemon Go presents an instructive example of the potential compromises of XR. The AR game provided developers with untold amounts of behavioral data, and the opportunity to carry out real-time testing of how reward systems can bend psychological motivations. Could similar games be combined with facial recognition systems to impinge on privacy and embed us in surveillance society’s apparatus?

At the same time, less commercial civic-minded projects have been established on socially conscious ideals. These ideological counterweights may seek to preserve endangered traditions, enrich cultural memories, use virtual experiences to transform social realities, or produce empathy for marginalized racial and gender groups. All bring fresh potential to enriching both the present and future.

The ethical issues that complicate the work of designers, developers, and marketers are producing responses from many areas. Within science and technology studies, the chorus of critical voices is growing. Some companies driving emerging technologies are adding ethicists and humanists to their ranks. Following Lisa Nakamura’s observation that “Other” bodies and experiences can still be objectified and disavowed, even socially conscious VR programs are reflecting on the ostensible value of empathy.

"Ethical XR” is a symposium for these and other ethically driven concerns regarding the design, construction, and use of technologies all along Paul Milgram’s “virtuality continuum,” including virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality. We invite proposals from scholars, practitioners, developers, and parties with a stake in XR, to a forum at the intersection of theory and practice. We want designers and producers to enhance their historical knowledge as they further develop best practices, and aim to give critical scholars a chance to engage with practitioners, including engineers working to capitalize on technological advancements, as well as with developers already committed to socially responsible production.

Bringing together practitioners and scholars, we hope to conceive of new ethical frameworks to safeguard our individual and social well-being. This is a multidisciplinary venue to think more deeply about the meanings and impact of XR.

“Ethical XR” will take place in Florida, a hotspot of VR and AR enterprises. We believe that opening channels between fields of craft and critique are a way to foster learning, impact technological implementation, and envision the future.


Please register in advance HERE.


Opening Remarks (9:00-9:15am)

 I. Keynote Presentation (9:15-10:15am)

  •  Danya Glabau (New York University)

 Break (10:15-10:30am)

 II. Empathy and Affect in XR (10:30am-12:15pm)

  • Kim Grinfeder (University of Miami) Advocacy in XR
  • Anthony Stagliano (Florida Atlantic University) Facing Posthumanity
  • Reese Muntean (Simon Fraser University) Ethics in 360° Ethnographic Research
  • Neta Alexander (Colgate University) From “Survivor Hologram” to Virtual Reality: Reinventing Holocaust Remembrance

 Lunch Break (12:15-1:30pm): XR Demos by Magic Leap and FAU Media, Technology, & Entertainment MFA Program

 III. The Politics of Immersive XR Spaces (1:30-3:15pm)

  • Eric Freedman (Columbia College Chicago) Media, Software and Urban Mechanics
  • Lisa Messeri (Yale University) The Shape of the VR: Molding a Technological Present and Future
  • Jessica FitzPatrick (University of Pittsburgh) & Kelsey Cameron (Regis University) Ethical Positionings: University AR and Community Engagement
  • Rachel Donley (University of Central Florida) Real World, Real Change: Lessons and Opportunities in Live Immersive Experiences

 Break (3:15-3:30pm)

 V. Ethics of XR Design and Implementation (3:30-5:15pm)

  • Shannon Bailey (Immertec, Inc.) Ethical and Privacy Considerations for Designing Immersive Technologies in Healthcare
  • Wan-Hsiu Sunny Tsai & Ching-Hua Chuan (both University of Miami) Merging the Virtual and the Real: The Power and Peril of Mixed Reality
  • Jasmine Clark (Temple University) and Zack Lischer-Katz (University of Oklahoma) Supporting Accessible XR in the Academic Library: Institutional and Practical Challenges
  • John T. Murray and Emily Johnson (both University of Central Florida) Ethical Development Platforms for Content Creation in XR

 Break (5:15-5:30pm)

 VI. Keynote Presentation (5:30-6:30pm)

  • Helen Nissenbaum (Cornell Tech)

 FAU Organizing Team

  • Gerald Sim
  • Nicole Morse
  • Chris 'Topher' Maraffi

Email questions to 



Danya Glabau is an anthropologist and STS scholar, currently Visiting Industry Assistant Professor and Interim Director of the Science and Technology Studies program in the department of Technology, Culture, and Society at NYU Tandon School of Engineering. She was previously an Adjunct Instructor in the department from 2017-2019, and has been Faculty at the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research since 2015. She is the Founder of Implosion Labs, LLC, an ethnography-driven research and consulting group. Her research helped to produce the 2018 white paper, “Hate in Social Virtual Reality” for the Anti-Defamation League. Her book-in-progress is titled, Reproducing Safety: Food Allergy Advocacy and the Politics of Care. She earned her PhD from the Department of Science and Technology Studies (STS) at Cornell University.


Helen Nissenbaum is director of the Digital Life Initiative and Professor of Information Science at Cornell Tech. Her books include Obfuscation: A User's Guide to Privacy and Protest with Finn Brunton (MIT Press, 2015), Values at Play in Digital Games with Mary Flanagan (MIT Press 2014), and Privacy in Context: Technology, Policy, and the Integrity of Social Life (Stanford 2010), where she lays out the theory of contextual integrity. Her research spans topics of privacy, security, accountability, bias, data concentration, and values in design as manifest in digital technologies. Beyond academic publication, Nissenbaum works on free software tools, Adnauseam and TrackMeNot, defending privacy, autonomy, and freedom online. She holds a BA (Hons) in mathematics and philosophy from the University of Witwatersrand and a PhD in philosophy from Stanford University.