Some dead ends

I said I would have a closer look at the papers that came up when I googled for documents containing both the terms "narrative intelligence" and "method actor". One was Actor-Role Analysis: Ideology, Point of View, and the News, the MS thesis of Warren Sack, written in 1994. Sack was a member of the Narrative Intelligence Group at MIT, where the monicker "Narrative Intelligence" was coined in the early 90s. Regarding my query, the paper was a blind alley: the abstract contains the sentence "A version of the method, actor-role analysis, is encoded in a computer program, SpinDoctor, which can automatically detect the point(s) of view represented in some news stories", and Google concluded that "method, actor" would probably suit me just as well as "method actor". "Narrative Intelligence" is mentioned only on the Acknowledgments page. I didn't read the rest; 118 pages about a program that could detect the point of view in some news stories eleven years ago are a bit much.

Sack is currently an Assistant Professor in the Film and Digital Media Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz. If he does anything with the word "narrative" in it these days, I couldn't find it. I've been a subscriber to the Narrative Intelligence mailing list (ni@media.mit.edu) for the last four years; I recieved something like 15 messages during that time, the last one more than two years ago. It looks to me like the originators of the NI meme have pretty much written it off in the meantime.

The other lead my query got me consisted of two papers coming from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain, describing another attempt to solve what they call the "Interactive Dilemma": the "inevitable conflict between author’s determinism and interactor’s freedom". They chose pencil-and-paper Role-Playing Games and their Game Masters as a real-life model for their conception of Interactive Storytelling, which results in another one of those man-in-the-middle software architectures that I don't really believe in. It turns out that "Narrative Intelligence" appears only in the References, and "Method Actor", in this case, refers to one of the player types in RPGs, as defined by one Robin Law, who seems to be an authority on that subject. The Spanish researchers let the player choose a type in the beginning of the interaction with their system: "It is hoped that interactors of a specific model will under such conditions choose the type of character most related to their preferences in acting." Seems like they've re-invented the concept of character classes as it is known in MMORPGs.

Nothing to see here, move along, move along...
noahwf - 22. May, 05:13

Warren Sack

Well, signing up to comment took a lot more effort than I thought it would.

Anyway, Warren Sack may not be currently doing projects that match "narrative" -- but he's doing at least one that matches "stories." Check out the projects page from his lab:
http://hybrid.ucsc.edu/SocialComputingLab/projects.htm

scheuring - 22. May, 13:31

Re: Warren Sack

I'm really sorry about the difficulty to comment on this site; I chose the provider because I wouldn't have to include ads or "I Power Blogger" messages with my page, and didn't think of looking at how the comments would work, which was a big mistake. I've been told now that I can't even have a registration page in English, which is odd, and unexpected, since you can select English as your blogging language here. Maybe I should the blog to another provider while I'm still low on content and links; suggestions would be much appreciated (if you don't like to register, please send a mail to scheuring_att_gmail_dhot_com).

As for the "Street Stories" project, I can't make heads nor tails of it really: the "progress report" website gives me a File Not Found message, and the project site features some aerial photos with squiggly lines on them, but no explanations. Google brings up a handful of hits, but no publications courtesy of Sack or is co-developer, Michael Dale. The networked performance blog at turbulence offers a short description:
The proposed technology is a digital, networked device (built using a wireless technology, global positioning system, and a handheld computer) that will allow visitors (or locals) to record and leave their own stories at any geographically specified location they desire.
netzwissenschaft.de has this:
traversing the geographical area of the map with the ipaq, one can listen to the audio stories associated with one's current position simply by running the application while one walks.
So from what I can tell, the idea of the project is to let people wander around an area armed with GPS-enabled PDAs and record stories they associate with various locations, which other people wearing the devices and walking the area later get to listen to when they reach those locations. The impulse behind "Street Stories" seems similar to that of Geist, an attempt at location-based storytelling that was situated in the city of Heidelberg. But with the current status of the project being so unclear, I'm not sure that it counts as an example of a member of the Narrative Intelligence group still sticking to his guns.

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