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More than the Sims: Harnessing the Power of the Metaverse to Ethically Engage, Motivate, and Connect the Future Workforce




In 2021, two issues that dominated both headlines and management discussions were the extension of remote work resulting from the ongoing pandemic and the explosive hype of the "metaverse." What if these issues were to collide? As industry and agencies alike grapple with engaging their remote workforce during the "great resignation/reset," the go-to platforms for meetings and gatherings have represented the "Hollywood Squares" video conference format. New issues of equity have emerged in this format for numerous reasons. In the metaverse, opportunities to build identity, experiences, and environments and to build engaged communities are limited only by our imagination. This panel will discuss the practical challenges embedded in creating safe and productive environments and experiences when considering virtual worlds as workspaces and the digital identities we create in those spaces.


Presenter Bios

Donna Davis, PhD  is an expert in virtual reality (VR), digital embodiment, tech equity and inclusion, and digital social capital. At the University of Oregon in Portland, she is an associate professor and director of both the Oregon Reality Lab and the Strategic Communication Master’s Program. She will also direct the new Immersive Media Communication Master’s program, set to launch in Fall 2023. Her ethnographic research focuses on the potential uses of social virtual worlds, gamification, and other emerging immersive media, with a special interest in marginalized and vulnerable communities. Her research on embodied experience and identity among people with disabilities in virtual reality was funded through a grant from the National Science Foundation. She has also extensively studied people with Parkinson’s disease who find and build support in the virtual world. Her interests continue to explore the impacts of these experiences on both the promise and peril of technosolutionism, recognizing both isolating and connecting powers of these emerging immersive environments.

Linjuan Rita Men, Ph.D., APR, is a Professor of Public Relations and Director of Internal Communication Research in the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida. With a background in corporate communication research and consulting, Men’s research interests include internal communication, leadership communication, emerging technologies, and entrepreneurial communications. Men has published more than 90 articles in refereed journals and as book chapters. She is the (co-) author/editor of four books, Excellence in Internal Communication Management (Business Expert Press, 2017), Strategic Communications for Startups and Entrepreneurs in China (Routledge, 2020), Current Trends and Issues in Internal Communication: Theory and Practice (Palgrave Macmillan, 2021), and Internal Communication and Employee Engagement: A Case Study (Routledge, 2023). Men serves as an associate editor for Journal of Communication Management and is a member of the Arthur W. Page Society. Men has worked internationally with Alibaba Group, Inc., Ketchum, Inc., and provided management communication consulting for various multinational corporations, startups, and non-profits.

Andrea Stevenson Won, M.S., Ph.D, is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication at Cornell University, and the director of the Virtual Embodiment Lab. The lab’s research is funded by NSF, NIH and DoD, and focuses on how mediated experiences can be used to change people’s perceptions, especially how appearance and behavior can be tracked and transformed in virtual environments. Recent applications include improving collaboration and social connections over distance, training teachers and others to be aware of their nonverbal behavior, and using social virtual reality to address pain.

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