The DEW Lab


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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. Questions/comments? steve[at]


SSHRC Storytellers Award 2013 [Link]

W.K. Thomas Award [Link]

Papers (Presented)

SSHRC – Imagining Canada’s Future | Nov 2013

Feed-Forward Scholarship (invited as guest speaker to represent next generation of scholars) [Video]

Congress – SSHRC | June 2013

Pattern Recognition And Games (PRAGmatic) Project

Congress – CGSA | June 2013

Feed-Forward Scholarship: Why Games Studies Needs Middle-State Publishing

Congress – CCA | May 2012

Simulating the Revolution: Military Applications of Virtual Reality and McLuhanist Media Theory

SAGE: De/Centering the Human Subject | May 2012

Autopoiesis & Antienvironments: How Posthumanism Informs Media Theory

McLuhan 100 | Nov. 2011

Decoding the Virtual Body: Marshall McLuhan and the Disembodied Posthuman

SLSA | Sep. 2011

The Dialectics of Digital Media: Marshall McLuhan, Katherine Hayles and Pattern-Recognition

Web Publications

Diegetic Webdesign on OXP [Link]

First Person Scholar (of which I am co-founder and editor-in-chief)

Feed-Forward Scholarship [Link]

Interview with Jesper Juul [Link]

Ludic Topology: Serres, Linear Time, and the Ethics of Game Design [Link]

Persuasive Processes: Procedural Rhetoric and Deus Ex [Link]


First Person Scholar [Link]

The Bureau [Link]

Legacy System [Link]

Division Pixel Suppliers [Link]

Web Design

First Person Scholar [Link]

The Bureau

The Bureau is an interactive website that mimics a live video-feed of Agent Michael Kim’s desk. Through a browser window visitors follow Kim’s investigation into a series of gruesome murders by interacting with the devices and documents that have accumulated on top of his desk. From crime scene reports and key pieces of evidence to a tablet PC and Kim’s personal phone, visitors examine the evidence as it emerges in real-time, piecing together the mystery as it unfolds over several weeks. It is for this reason that The Bureau is not so much a story told as it is a story waiting to be built.


IndieGames Browser Game Pick:

“What makes The Bureau so immersive, however, is not the variety of actions you can perform or even the fact that things happen in real-time (autopsies will take a few days, etc) but the superflous details. On the character’s iPhone, there’s everything from important discussions to Amazon’s apology about a late package.”



Legacy System

Legacy System is a creative re-purposing of Golden Age comics (those out-of-copyright strips from the 1930s – 1950s). I use the comics to play on the deeply weird culture of North America in the mid-twentieth century in a way that exposes the even weirder culture that is North American in the early 21st-century. Legacy System is updated every Monday & Wednesday.


Sequential Comics:

“It’s pretty smart stuff, sort of an academic take on internet censorship, video games, and the place where politics and new technology meet. Some times it makes me realize how many brain cells I’ve lost since university but mostly it’s just funny.”

Division Pixel Suppliers


This arcade-cabinet project was collaboratively developed for a course on embodiment in digital environments.  What we wanted to explore with Division Pixel Suppliers is the connection between codes, languages, and kinetic movements. The end result is a Flash game running through a PC that is embedded in an arcade cabinet. Players use the controls to execute a specific ‘colour-pattern’–an arbitrary language based on left and right movements of the joystick. For example, each primary colour has a fixed code that is repeated twice. Players can combine colours by mixing the primary colour codes and any colour can be made lighter or darker by holding down the corresponding buttons.

Each play-through involves colouring 24 ‘pixels’ within a set time limit (per pixel). The resulting mosaic is then printed off as a 4×6 photograph. Players can then read the image as a transcript of their movements, demonstrating a form of literacy attained in just a short period of time that involves symbol recognition, kinetic movements, and basic colour-blending techniques.

The project currently resides as an installation in THEMUSEUM in Kitchener, Ontario.

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