Questioning Reality: Explorations of Virtual Reality and Our Social Future

The Data Sciences Institute Questioning Reality: Explorations of Virtual Reality conference will be taking place from April 18 – 20, 2024. This will be a unique and thought-provoking event that will explore the realm of social interactions in mediated environments, encompassing virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), extended reality (XR), and mixed realities (MR). This conference aims to bring together leading scholars, industry professionals, and enthusiasts to collaboratively shape the future research landscape of VR. 

About the Conference: 

In a world where technology is rapidly shaping our perceptions of reality, the “Questioning Reality” conference seeks to delve into the intricate interplay between social interactions and mediated environments. Hosted at the Data Sciences Institute space at the University of Toronto, the event will feature a series of engaging discussions, presentations, and networking opportunities aimed at shaping a social interaction-informed agenda for the next research cycle on VR. The conference will also serve as a launchpad for writing a “Debates in Digital Media” edition on Virtual Reality. Conference invitees will also have the opportunity to form collaborative teams to apply for $10k in research project funding to advance the field.  

What to expect: 

This invite-only conference is designed to foster a dynamic and inclusive atmosphere that encourages exploration and collaboration. There is no requirement to submit papers or deliver presentations, and participants are invited to engage in spirited discussions, share their insights, and gain valuable exposure to cutting-edge research in the field. Travel costs to and from the conference will be covered. 

Day 1 introduces the workshop’s goals, invites participants to share their questions, and features a keynote on communication in VR/AR. Day 2 delves deeper with chapter brainstorming, immersive VR experiences, lightning talks on cutting-edge research, and an industry panel. The final day brings forward the future with a keynote on the evolution of social VR, group discussions on forthcoming challenges, and a visionary activity forecasting the landscape of VR/AR/MR. Join this gathering to help shape the discourse and connect with industry leaders and scholars. 

The conference is made possible through the generous support of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, a not-for-profit, mission-driven grantmaking institution dedicated to improving the welfare of all through the advancement of scientific knowledge.    


Bree McEwan 

Associate Director of DSI@UTM and Associate Professor in the Institute for Communication, Culture, and Information Technology at the University of Toronto Mississauga. 

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.

Sun Joo (Grace) Ahn 

Director, Center for Advanced Computer-Human Ecosystems (CACHE)

Sun Joo (Grace) Ahn (Ph.D., Stanford University) is a Professor of Advertising at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Georgia. She is the founding director of the Center for Advanced Computer-Human Ecosystems (CACHE) and the co-editor-in-chief of Media Psychology. Her main program of research investigates how immersive technologies 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 funded by the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency, and published in numerous top-tier outlets in the fields of communication, health, and engineering.

April 18 – 20, 2024
Data Sciences Institute,
700 University Avenue, 
Toronto, ON