Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Debajehmujig Storytellers reflect on a pre-pandemic Shadowpox: The Cytokine Storm

Daniel Recollet Mejaki, Samantha Brennan and Bruce Naokwegijig reflect on the December 2018 workshop Shadowpox: The Cytokine Storm, at Debajehmujig Storytellers, Manitoulin Island, 26 October 2020.


Saturday, October 10, 2020

Shadowpox: Citizen Science Fiction at ISEA Montreal

The artist's capsule "Shadowpox: Citizen Science Fiction" will be part of the exhibition “Life, A Sensorium,” presented by Sensorium: Centre for Digital Art and Technology as part of the 26th International Symposium of Electronic Art, (e)Montreal, October 13-18.  

I'll be presenting Shadowpox alongside the lovely and talented David Han (Friend Generator) and Michaela Pnacekova (Symphony of Noise VR), in Life: A Sensorium – Artists' Talk on Art & Video Games on October 13th. Please join us!

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Imagining Co-Immunity in Shadowpox: The Antibody Politic

I'm thrilled to announce the publication of the special issue of the journal Imaginations: <Immune Nations> Research-Creation at the Intersection of Vaccine Science and Global Health Policy.

Guest editor and research-creation trailblazer Natalie Loveless introduces the project, which I had the good fortune to join just before starting my doctorate, thus:

Initiated in 2014, <Immune Nations> brought together scientists, policy experts, academic scholars, and artists to work on an interdisciplinary and collaborative research-creation project tackling complex issues related to the use and distribution of vaccines in the world today. 

The project… aimed to address a gap between knowledge about vaccines and how they work, and vaccine reception in the public imaginary, including fears and misinformation.

All the contributions to the <Immune Nations> special issue are worth a read, but I'm going to link here to the two I wrote or co-authored:

"Shadowpox: The Antibody Politic - Thoughts and Reflections" with Caitlin Fisher and Steven Hoffman


"Imagining Co-Immunity in Shadowpox: The Antibody Politic," a deeper dive on the development and theory behind the video game installation.


Monday, April 20, 2020

Shadowpox in the Time of Coronavirus

Three years ago, the full-body videogame Shadowpox: The Antibody Politic debuted as part of the exhibition <Immune Nations>, opening at the 2017 Conference on Global Health and Vaccination Research in Trondheim, Norway, then touring to Geneva, Switzerland during the 70th Assembly of the World Health Organization. (We came full circle submitting the Covid-19 reboot, Shadowpox: #StayHome Edition, to the WHO's Global Call Out To Creatives last week.)

Here's a video from the Robert McLaughlin Gallery in Oshawa, Canada, where the game was part of Public Notice, a prescient 2018 exhibition looking at the ways "fear and disease go hand in hand." (Click here to watch the video in full resolution on Facebook.)

The Shadowpox game was created with a simple goal: to help players imagine the effects their seemingly private vaccination choices had on the friends, family, strangers, colleagues and neighbours around them. 

Actually, that wasn't originally the goal. It was only in the process of developing the game that I realized my design mindset was blind to one of the major reasons vaccines work: herd immunity, a concept that has jumped to the forefront of debates about public health policy responses to Covid-19. 

The middle section of this 2018 talk (from 4:55 to 12:10) explains how the game's design evolved as my understanding did:


I'm half design geek, half drama nerd, so it was even more exciting when the storyworld expanded into its second, participatory-storytelling phase.

This 2019 video from York University's Office for Research and Innovation sets the game in the context of the wider research-creation project:
"In a world plagued by a deadly new disease composed of viral shadows, young, healthy volunteers across the globe step forward to test a breakthrough vaccine.  
"Shadowpox is an immersive science-fiction storyworld that imagines community immunity both as a public health phenomenon, and as a metaphor for any voluntary collective effort."

As the coronavirus pandemic turns all eyes to the development and testing of new vaccines, the third and final phase of the Shadowpox project will be an unusual new undergraduate course I'm developing to teach at York's School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design in the 2020-21 academic year.

Science & Fiction (FILM 3841, Digital Culture) takes a mixed-reality approach to experiential education, blending academic study with dramatic composition and digital production.

In addition to more traditional ways of learning about the biology and sociology of immunization, students will create videos in which they play volunteers in the Phase I trial of a vaccine against the shadowpox virus.

Designing a networked sci-fi narrative to build scientific, civic and media literacy, Shadowpox invites participants to grapple with one of the thorniest political dilemmas of public health: voluntary participation in the collective good.

Shadowpox workshops at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (photo: LaLaine Ulit-Destajo), Debajehmujig Storytellers (photo: Lynda Trudeau), and the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation Youth Centre (photo: Jenn Warren)
In the spirit of international collaboration that marks the Covid-19 research effort (as well as Shadowpox research-creation in the UKCanada and South Africa), I'm working with York's Immersive Storytelling Lab on an online complement to the course – one that will invite teachers and learners to explore the concepts and conflicts around vaccination through this co-created work of “citizen science fiction.”

It's hard right now to visualize what our world will look like by the end of the year, but I also can't picture anything I'd rather be doing than collaborating with young people to imagine and build a future of co-immunity.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Six O'Clock Shadowpox

CTV News Toronto catches Shadowpox! (If you can't see the video below, try this link.)

To play the game, visit:

Big thanks to CTV health reporter Pauline Chan, and to Anjum Nayyar in York's media relations office, for making this piece possible.

Kudos too to Shadowpox technical director Lalaine Ulit-Destajo for pulling together the behind-the-scenes footage in record time!

Update, April 25:

My York colleague Justin Baillargeon gave Shadowpox: #StayHome Edition a shout-out en fran├žais on Radio-Canada this weekend.

He mentions us at the 6-minute mark, alongside Assassin's Creed: Origins, in a discussion of ways to learn through video games:

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Shadowpox: #StayHome Edition

Our new online game is live!

Play Shadowpox: #StayHome Edition here:

Check out the announcement from York University, "Online video game brings to life the impact of staying home during COVID-19 pandemic."

And let the team know what you think!

(April 18th Update: Check out CTV and Radio-Canada's coverage of the game!)

Monday, March 23, 2020

Left-Handed (2002)

A student film I'm very proud of.

The round hole...the square peg. If neither bends, which will break?

A left-handed boy is just beginning school. In 1979 China, conformity is a matter of survival, so his teacher convinces his father to correct his 'problem' for the boy's own good.

At home and at school, the boy struggles to understand his place in the world, guided only by the sage advice of an ambidextrous street-corner barber.

Then one day, his father sprains his right wrist in a bicycle accident...

Left-Handed Canada, 2002, 10 min

Daniel Yan, Arthur Cheng, Xiao-Ming Yu, Xingfa Zhang, Fu Yu

Director: Baoqi Ye
Producer: Alison Humphrey
Screenwriter: Baoqi Ye & Alison Humphrey
Editor: Peter Yu
Cinematographer: Jeff Maher
Original Score: Kirk Elliott
Sound: Rob Turi
Design: April Viczko
Produced in the Sheridan College Advanced Television and Film program, 2002.
Distribution: The Movie Network, Air Canada, Cathay Pacific Airlines,
2004 Chicago International Children's Film Festival – Montgomery Prize Certificate of Excellence, Best Film or Video by an Emerging Director, Baoqi Ye.
2003 Canadian Society of Cinematographers Awards – Best Cinematography, Student Category, Jeff Maher.
2003 WorldFest Houston – Gold Award, Graduate Level Student Production
2002 Anchorage International Film Festival – Best Super Short Film
About the Director
Baoqi Ye graduated from Tongji University in Shanghai, receiving his Bachelor of Engineering degree in Industrial Design. Ye worked for Ogilvy & Mather Advertising Shanghai first as Art Director, then as Creative Group Head. He has created dozens of commercials for clients like Vespa Scooters, Siemens Home Appliances and Beck's Beer. The Beck's campaign won both Gold and Silver medals in the Times International Chinese Advertising Awards organized by Taiwan Times Newspaper.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Sensorium Seminar

Bring your lunch to the Loft! I'll be talking about my research-creation project, Shadowpox, this Wednesday at Sensorium: Centre for Digital Arts and Technology at York University. Here's the flyer:

Winter Lunchtime Seminar Series

Wednesday, February 26, 2020
The Sensorium Research Loft
4th Floor CFA, Room M333
RSVP to 

Please join us for our next Winter Lunchtime Seminar Series featuring Cinema and Media Arts PhD Candidate and Sensorium Graduate Research Associate, Alison Humphrey!

Alison Humphrey plays with story across drama, digital media, and education. As a Vanier Scholar in Cinema and Media Arts at York University, her research-creation doctoral dissertation explores how a participatory science fiction storyworld, Shadowpox, can help young people build scientific, civic and media literacy by exploring immunization and vaccine hesitancy through a superhero metaphor.

The project’s first phase, full-body videogame, debuted during the 70th World Health Assembly in Geneva, where The Lancet called it “one of the most powerful and playful ways to illustrate both the individual and population-level implications of community immunity.” The second phase is a networked superhero narrative, The Cytokine Storm, co-created with young artists on three continents.

Lazola Nkelenjane (left) and Zanele Melapi experiment with solar-powered visual effects in a 2019 Shadowpox workshop at the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation Youth Centre, Masiphumelele, South Africa.

The third phase adapts this narrative into a Scalar-based online platform for a “courseplay”, a hybrid undergraduate seminar that weaves academic study with dramatic composition and digital production. Science & Fiction: Imagining Immunity in an Immersive Storyworld (which will be offered in York's department of Cinema and Media Arts in the coming academic year) takes a new approach to the concept of experiential education: action refraction, where students use metaphoric world-building and digitally augmented role-play to explore one of the thorniest political dilemmas of public health: voluntary participation in the collective good.

For more, please see and