Empathy, Ethics, and Equity in the Metaverse

The metaverse is full of exciting possibilities and endless new worlds. Virtual reality is the closest one can get to walking in someone else’s shoes and it’s been called “the empathy” machine for its unparalleled ability to illicit empathy because the viewer feels they are really present in the virtual situation. But technology’s rapid change can make it hard for regulations to keep up, leaving these vast virtual worlds open to bad actors. From sexual harassment to bullying to illegal activity, the metaverse has already seen many issues crop up. And not only can new tech create new problems, if we’re not careful and intentional in the creation and use of new tech, it can also continue or amplify existing issues such as racial, gender, or financial inequity. Emma Mankey Hidem will talk about the many different advantages, disadvantages, opportunities, and issues that come with this new virtual universe.

Emma Mankey Hidem is an innovative storyteller and media expert with over a decade of experience, who has been on the cutting edge of media technologies such as virtual reality and augmented reality. Emma started working with immersive and interactive media in 2013 and she immediately saw the promise that these new technologies held for storytelling. She founded Sunnyside VR in 2015, when virtual reality was barely a glimmer on most peoples’ horizons. Since then, she has created unique experiential media for brands such as Mercedes, Estee Lauder, Norwegian Cruise Lines, AARP and the ACLU. Emma has spoken about immersive media all over the country, most notably at festivals such as AFI Docs and SXSW. Emma was named a “woman leader in VR” by Authority Magazine in 2021 and was named “filmmaker of the month” by the DC Film Office for January 2022. Emma serves on the board of Women in Film; Video and DCXR.

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