English Language and Literature

Steve WIlcoxSteve Wilcox was a PhD candidate in the English department at the University of Waterloo where he studies empathy, videogames, comics, and rhetoric. He focused on the use of media for translating knowledge between bodies, communities, and cultures. He was also one of the 25 grad students across Canada to win a $3000 SSHRC award in the "Research for a Better Life: The Storytellers" competition.

Wilcox is currently researching the relationship between language, media, and normativity. More specifically, he is interested in how media defines and replicates a normative definition of reality and how this impacts what we think of as abnormal and disabled.

He is co-founder and former editor-in-chief of First Person Scholar, a middle-state publication on games studies. He also creates and distributes various digital media projects on his blog at TheDEWLab.com. Steve has also created Allergies and Allegories, a web-based game designed to raise awareness of food allergies as part of his dissertation.

Sample Projects

First Person Scholar

First Person Scholar home pageFirst Person Scholar (FPS) is a weekly web-based game studies periodical supported by the Games Institute at the University of Waterloo. As co-founder and former editor-and-chief of FPS, the site has become a highly-trafficked, internationally-recognized middle-state publication that has brought together scholars, graduate students, developers, and videogame enthusiasts in the interest of expanding the critical conversation on games and their study. Since December 2012 I have managed a team of graduate students at FPS as we continue to publish essays, commentaries, and book reviews every Wednesday for over two years. Our articles have been cited in GameStudies.orgThe New Yorker, and a curated selection of articles appeared in a recent issue of Loading…Journal of the Canadian Game Studies Association.


TheDewLab.com home page screenshot

The DEW Lab is the creative domain of Steve Wilcox, a PhD student at the University of Waterloo. Steve studies media philosophy in the English department at UW. There he extrapolates the work of Marshall McLuhan into the domains of linguistics, phenomenology, object oriented philosophy, and systems theory. The starting point for Steve’s research is that media function in fundamentally incommensurable ways. As Eric McLuhan once remarked, TV and radio are realities apart. And so he started The Distant Early Warning Lab – a site where he can create and deploy digital media texts that persuade through processes beyond print. Some of Steve’s projects include a browser game that takes place in real time, an arcade cabinet that teaches players a kinetic colour-coded language, and he currently runs a web comic that repurposes Golden Age comics to discuss contemporary issues. 

Allergies and Allegories

Allergies and Allergories starting page screenshot

Allergies & Allegories is a web-based game that utilizes multimodal rhetoric to train players to recognize the social, cultural, and emotional experience of life with a serious food allergy. The game constitutes a portion of my dissertation as it pertains to my research on using multimodal media to translate knowledges between audiences. But it is also a collaboration between myself and researchers at GET-FACTS (Genetics, Environment and Therapies: Food Allergy Clinical Tolerance Studies). GET-FACTS is a Canadian Institutes of Health Research-funded knowledge mobilization initiative that raises awareness of food allergies in Canada. More specifically, GET-FACTS scholars have produced patient-centered research on the practical, commonplace experiences of life in Canada with a food allergy. Allergies & Allegories translates that knowledge into an interactive, multimodal experience through which players can learn to perceive and recognize the environmental, social, and cultural challenges food-allergic children face. In order to ensure that this knowledge reaches the widest audience, Allergies & Allegories is being developed as an accessible website, open to any with access to a web browser.

Sample Publications and Presentations

Wilcox, Steve. “On the Publishing Methods of Our Time: Mobilizing Knowledge in Game Studies.” From Technical Standards to Research Communities – Implementing New Knowledge Environments Gatherings, Sydney 2014 and Whistler 2015. Scholarly and Research Communication Journal. October 2015. [Peer-reviewed].

Presented at Sustaining Partnerships to Transform Scholarly Production, 27 January 2015. As it currently stands, there is a considerable amount of academic and non-academic interest in the production and reception of videogames. Such interest has created an ideal scenario to mobilize scholarship on games through accessible platforms. In an effort to capitalize on this opportunity, members of the University of Waterloo’s Games Institute founded First Person Scholar (FPS), a SSHRC-funded middle-state publication, of which I am co-founder and editor-in-chief. FPS was established in December of 2012 and since that time we’ve embarked on a task to make games scholarship more accessible, timely, and practical. In this effort we’ve been driven by a philosophy that rethinks the role of the game scholar in the current cultural context. Historically, that context has involved industry-driven games production (i.e. large-scale game developers) and mainstream-media guided reception (i.e. industry-sponsored games magazines and websites). Within this dynamic, game scholars have traditionally had a very limited role. This leads one to ask, as Mitu Khandandaker does in her eponymous article, “Are Videogame Academics Irrelevant?” What FPS endeavours to do, then, is to “take responsibility for our culture’s sense of our irrelevance” (Fitzpatrick 14). As Kathleen Fitzpatrick suggests, through accessible online publications, we can “find a way to speak with that culture, to demonstrate the vibrancy and the value of liberal arts” (14). In this paper I outline the various challenges FPS has faced in demonstrating the value of game studies, including issues surrounding accessibility, audience, and the value of middle-state publications. Lastly, I make the case that FPS can serve as a case study for similar efforts to mobilize knowledge from within the academy to wider audiences.

“Mobilizing Knowledge in Game Studies.” Sustaining Partnerships to Transform Scholarly Production.Whistler, B.C. January 2015.

Presented at Sustaining Partnerships to Transform Scholarly Production, 27 January 2015. The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) has increasingly emphasised the need to enhance knowledge mobilization in all disciplines. In response to this, we suggest that games can offer a discipline-agnostic method for mobilizing knowledge. Through the SSHRC-funded projects of IMMERSe (Interactive and Multi-Modal Experience Research Syndicate) and the Games Institute, there are a number of initiatives underway that explore this hypothesis. This proposed presentation will recount some of those initiatives and their extensibility to various disciplines. For instance, one project currently underway is a cooperative undertaking between the Games Institute and GET-FACTS (Genetics, Environment and Therapies: Food Allergy Clinical Tolerance Studies). GET-FACTS is a Canadian Institutes of Health Research-funded knowledge mobilization initiative that is intended to raise awareness on food allergies in Canada. The Games Institute is collaborating with members of the GET-FACTS project to develop a web-based game that will communicate the practical, lived-effects of life with a food allergy, as documented by GET-FACTS researchers (Fenton). The game’s objective is to address a growing problem identified by those researchers: the recurrent misapprehension of the severity of food allergies amongst children and adults in Canada. In addition to the GET-FACTS project, other notable projects include collaborations with the Stratford Festival and the Quantum-Nano Centre. These initiatives offer a non-traditional approach to knowledge mobilization, providing a perhaps unexpected answer to Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s call for us to rethink modes of publishing by suggesting that digital games might provide “not just more texts, but better texts, not just an evasion of obsolescence, but a new life for scholarship” (14).

SSHRC award in the "Research for a Better Life: The Storytellers" competition

SSHRC - Imagining Canada's Future, November 2013: Feed-Forward Scholarship (guest speaker next to generation of scholars)

For more information and to contact him, see his personal website.

University of Waterloo