Alison Humphrey

Alison Humphrey

Speaker Bio:

Alison Humphrey plays with story across drama, digital media, and education. After starting out as an intern at Marvel Comics, she produced one of the first alternate reality games for Douglas Adams's Starship Titanic, initiated one of the earliest transmedia in-fiction blogs in a TV series, and co-created interactive, live-animated theatre projects Faster than Night (Toronto) and The Augmentalist (Silicon Valley). A Vanier Scholar in Cinema and Media Arts at York University, her doctoral research explores how a science-fiction story world (, can help young people build scientific, civic and media literacy by exploring immunization and vaccine hesitancy through a superhero metaphor.

Presentation: Citizen Science Fiction: Imagining Immunity in the Shadowpox Storyworld

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. Using motion-tracked generative effects projection-mapped on the body, the Shadowpox storyworld re-imagines immunity as an acquired superpower, but one whose bearers are framed as villains as often as they're hailed as heroes. 

The project's first phase, the full-body videogame Shadowpox: The Antibody Politic, 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." In April 2020, a new, online version of the game, Shadowpox: #StayHome Edition (, shifted the focal decision from vaccination to physical distancing. 

The newest phase is a networked sci-fi narrative, Shadowpox: The Cytokine Storm, co-created with young artists in Europe, Africa and North America, and soon to be the basis for an undergraduate "courseplay" at York University, 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.

UPDATED: February 15, 2023

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