Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Media Studies


Nick Dyer-Witheford



Digital game development, seeking opportunities to extend its reach and augment its capabilities in a competitive global market, requires the institutions around it to respond and reconfigure to its needs. In Canada, collaborations between digital game industries and educational institutions coalesce around the need to identify and draw students into a tailored educational stream where narrowly defined forms of creativity and knowledge maintain a fluidity amenable to the needs of capital. Provincial and federal government endorsement, supplemented with targeted policy measures, presides over a repurposing of the relationship between post-secondary education, business, and society as a whole, translating monopolies of labour and knowledge into monopolies of power. For educational institutions however, this process of adaptation is necessarily an incomplete one.

Using document data, along with interviews of administrators and professionals who negotiate the space between industry and education, the dissertation targets three regions of Canada with idiosyncratic industrial ecosystems, institutional networks, administrative imperatives, and specific demands for skilled game development labour. In Vancouver, Montréal, and Southern Ontario, the disciplining of students as ideal neoliberal subjects magnifies class divisions, unevenly addresses struggles around gendered working conditions in a male dominated industry, and exacerbates ongoing tensions regarding labour in digital media industries. This dissertation contends that the further intensification of the flexibility of educational institutions and their attempt to adapt to the speed of digital capital is a moment of high risk: in negotiating their adequacy and legitimacy in a neoliberal mode of capital, educational programs and their students are exposed to rapidly changing market conditions, competing agendas, and economic crises. The contingencies and contradictions present within administrative subjectivities generate spaces to establish the terms of a recomposition of post-secondary education that requires new arrangements of affinity within educational networks.