Sunday, September 15, 2019

How "Citizen Science Fiction" Can Boost Immunity

Life Sciences Building, York University (NXL Architects) 
I'll be presenting a talk on Shadowpox as part of the York Circle Lecture and Lunch on Saturday, September 28 in the Life Sciences Building on York University's Keele Campus. The event is free – you can RSVP on the York Circle website.

Here's the précis:
Shadowpox: How "Citizen Science Fiction" Can Boost Immunity
Alison Humphrey will discuss how her research-creation project, Shadowpox, a participatory storyworld exploring immunization through a superhero metaphor, can help young people build scientific, civic and media literacy. A full-body Shadowpox 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 other three presentations sound fascinating:
Your Brain in Action
Denise Henriques - Professor, School of Kinesiology & Health Science 
Humans surpass all other animals and robots when it comes to the diversity and malleability of movements produced — we are the world’s most versatile movers. Dr. Denise Henriques explains how the brain’s remarkable control systems make this possible. 
Transgender Studies: What You Should Know & Why It Matters
Sheila L. Cavanagh - Associate Professor of Sociology 
This presentation will introduce you to the burgeoning field of transgender studies. Transgender studies is based on the experiences of those who identify as transgender. Transgender is an umbrella term that includes everyone who is, in some way, gender diverse or gender non-conforming including, but not limited to, transsexuals, bi-genders, non-genders, Two-Spirits, etc. Transgender studies is not only concerned with the study of transphobia (discrimination against people who are differently gendered), but with questions relating to sex and gender embodiment. 
And this one is especially timely the morning after Toronto's #FridaysForFuture Climate Strike. I only wish I weren't speaking at the same time!
Is a 100% Renewable Energy Future Possible? Advances for Community Participation in a Low-Carbon Energy TransitionDr. Christina Hoicka - Assistant Professor, Faculty of Environmental Studies 
Over 80 percent of Canada’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are energy related and Canadians are among the highest per capita energy users and GHG emitters. Under the Paris Climate Agreement’s goal of limiting global warming by 2°C, Canada committed to a 30 percent reduction below 2005 levels of GHG emissions by 2030. However, scientists now caution there are clear benefits to keeping warming to 1.5°C, requiring an acceleration of carbon mitigation activities. This talk discusses the important factors to acceleration of a low-carbon energy transition, such as the innovation-diffusion of low-carbon energy innovations for communities, made up of individuals, households and organizations, to adopt, as well as diversity and inclusion in the energy and innovation sectors.

Friday, August 23, 2019

The Biology of Story

I'm thrilled to be joining Amnon Buchbinder's rich and profound course The Biology of Story as a teaching assistant this autumn.

Check out the first lecture clip below, then head over to the course website and the innovative, interactive Biology of Story documentary for more:
"What if there was magic? A mysterious power, hidden in plain sight, all around us, touching us, touched by us – daily. Wouldn't we want to learn how this magic works? How to work with it, consciously and effectively. How to ensure that it works for the benefit of ourselves, our communities, our world. How to use this magic to cast good spells – and to break the bad ones. 
Well, that magic, that mysterious power, does exist. Its name is Story."

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Communications, Transformations, Futures

I'm heading to the University of British Columbia on Unceded Musqueam (xʷməθkʷəy̓ əm) Territory this week for the 2019 Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory conference.

HASTAC is "an interdisciplinary community of humanists, artists, social scientists, scientists, and technologists changing the way we teach and learn." This year's conference theme is "Decolonizing Technologies, Reprogramming Education," and there are some inspiring plenary speakers lined up, including Leanne Betasamosake SimpsonKaryn Recollet, and Elizabeth LaPensée.

I'll be part of a panel titled Communications, Transformations, Futures, presenting a talk on "Building Co-Immunity in Wiikwemkoong and Masiphumelele: Participatory Science Fiction to Inoculate the Civic Imagination." If you're in Vancouver on Friday, come say hi!

Friday, March 15, 2019

On location at the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation Youth Centre

Photographer and communications consultant Jenn Warren joined our Shadowpox group recently at the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation Youth Centre in Masiphumelele, Cape Town, and took some beautiful shots. Pictured: Sibulele Bontshi, Abongile Maputhuma, Buhle Mavi, Zanele Melapi, Lazola Nkelenjane, Asiphe Ntshongontshi and Aphiwe Zabezolo.

Bongo Mavi, with Alison pretending to be his cell phone
Zanele Melapi 
Lazola Nkelenjane
Abongile Maputhuma
Alison, Abongile, Zanele and Lazola in the "EduZone" computer lab
Discussing the next scene...

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Building Black Panther

For last week's Cellphone Cinema workshop at the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation Youth Centre, I put together a collection of links and videos on the making of the film Black Panther.

Early storyboards for the ancestral plane sequence by artist Simeon Wilkins:

(click image above to enlarge)

An animatic is a video showing how the panels from a storyboard would look as a sequence of shots. Here are a few from Simeon Wilkins, starting with the ancestral plane sequence above:

(Click below for more...)

Monday, February 11, 2019

Brainstorm profiles Shadowpox

Brainstorm is a monthly newsletter published by the Office of the Vice-President Research & Innovation at York University. Megan Mueller, senior manager of research communications, wrote a wonderful profile on Shadowpox:

Interactive video game highlights the impact of vaccine decision-making

The piece also included a new video with Steven J. Hoffman, the scientific director of Shadowpox: The Antibody Politic (among his many other titles):

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Debajehmujig Catches Shadowpox

This past week I had the joy of collaborating on a pilot workshop for Shadowpox: The Cytokine Storm with Debajehmujig Storytellers on Manitoulin Island. Shout-out to the talented and fabulous Bruce Naokwegijig, Joahnna Berti, Daniel Recollet-Mejaki, Sheila Trudeau, Sheldon Mejaki, Reece Wabegijig, Samantha Brennan and Bradleigh Steven Trudeau.

The Debajehmujig Creation Centre in Manitowaning, Manitoulin Island, Ontario

Discussing a scene with Debaj artistic director Bruce Naokwegijig 

Bradleigh Steven Trudeau records in the sound studio.

In the loading dock for Sheila Trudeau's "video journal" scene 

Friday's Shadowpox workshop – Debajehmujig Storytellers, Val O'Leary, Andrea Letander-Trudeau and Adrian Rampersad of Wikwemikong High School, and Maurianne Reade of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine – having waaay too much fun. 

Shadowpox technical director LaLaine Ulit-Destajo joined us on Saturday, and got to catch the company's brain-bending Christmas clown show Gulchmuss. (Of which songs still stuck in head...)

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Inoculating at the Ideas Digital Forum

Ideas Digital Forum was two fascinating days in October of "engaging conversations between artists, curators, digital specialists, and scholars dedicated to thinking critically and collectively about the future of digital technology, digital art and public art galleries."

The symposium was supported by the Canada Council for the Arts’s Digital Strategy Fund, whose principles include:
  • "a focus on collaboration, partnership and networking; 
  • open-mindedness, and willingness to share knowledge, results, ideas and lessons learned; 
  • experimentation, risk-taking and iterative development."
The forum's organizers have just posted videos from the full lineup of speakers, including this one where I had the chance to share some of the thoughts and challenges from the creation of Shadowpox: The Antibody Politic.

I'm hugely grateful to Linda Jansma of the Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Zainub Verjee of the Ontario Association of Art Galleries, and everyone else who worked to create such an inspiring meeting of minds.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Viral art at the exhibition Public Notice

Toni Hafkenscheid took some beautiful official installation shots of the exhibition Public Notice, curated by Sonya Jones at The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, where Shadowpox: The Antibody Politic is showing until January 19, 2019. Here's the full exhibition catalogue:

And here are a few of my favourite images:

Abraham Anghik Ruben, The Right of Passage
Abraham Anghik Ruben, The Right of Passage; Ruth Cuthand, Trading

Saturday, August 4, 2018


You know that feeling when... you suddenly realize your doctoral research may have been influenced by a comic book you read when you were sixteen?

(This post is a not-yet-coherent collection of thoughts and extended quotes bouncing between a 34-year-old superhero storyline and a raw, recent theatre controversy, by way of the design of the Shadowpox virus. One day it may yield a succinct essay, but for the moment I'm ruminating out loud as an academic experiment.) 

Artist Bill Sienkiewicz's brief but legendary run collaborating with writer Chris Claremont on the X-Men spinoff comic book The New Mutants (issues #18-31) had two highlights. The second was the introduction of the character Legion, who is currently enjoying a mindbending television adaptation by Noah Hawley.

The first was the 1984 Demon Bear Saga (currently in production as a feature film). In these three issues (#18-20), according to Jay Edidin and Miles Stokes of the podcast Jay and Miles X-Plain the X-Men, "you’re watching the definition and scope of superhero comics change and stretch. We are – literally and figuratively – off the map."

It’s worth remembering, as you flip through these, that you’re watching the definition and scope of superhero comics change and stretch. We are–literally and figuratively–off the map. (New Mutants 

That's the "literal" map, up there in the left-hand corner. (New Mutants #20) 
New Mutants #20, "Badlands", brought our heroes to a climactic battle on an astral-Plains. The shadowy Demon Bear, which the team originally believed was a figment of their leader Danielle Moonstar's nightmares, had attacked her and left her in hospital fighting for life.