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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Theory and technology for computational narrative : an approach to generative and interactive narrative with bases in algebraic semiotics and cognitive linguistics

  • Author(s): Harrell, Douglas Alan
  • et al.

This dissertation presents theoretical and technical support for, and implementations of, narrative computational media works with the following characteristics: generative content, semantics-based interaction, reconfigurable narrative structure, and strong cognitive and socio-cultural grounding. A system that can dynamically compose media elements (such as procedural computer graphics, digital video, or text) to result in new media elements can be said to generate content. The GRIOT system, a result of this dissertation, provides an example of this. It has been used to implement computational poetry that generates new narrative poems with varying particular concepts, but fixed themes, upon each execution. This generativity is enabled by the Alloy system, which implements an algorithm that models key aspects of Gilles Fauconnier and Mark Turner's theory of conceptual blending. Alloy is the first implementation of Joseph Goguen's algebraic semiotics approach to blending. (Fauconnier & Turner, 2002; Goguen, 1998) This research also contributes to the theory of algebraic semiotics by developing a blending-based notion of style. Semantics- based interaction means here that (1) media elements are structured according to the meaning of their content, and (2) user interaction can affect content of a computational narrative in a way that produces new meanings that are constrained by the system's author. "Meaning" in this case indicates that the author has provided formal descriptions of domains and concepts pertinent to the media elements and subjective authorial intent. Meaning can also be reconfigured at the level of narrative discourse. The formal structure of a computational narrative can be dynamically restructured, either according to user interaction, or upon execution of the system as in the case of narrative generation. Strong cognitive and socio- cultural grounding here implies that meaning is considered to be contextual, dynamic, and embodied. The formalizations used derive from, and respect, cognitive linguistics theories with such notions of meaning. Furthermore, the notion of narrative here is not biased toward one particular cultural model. Using semantically based media elements as a foundation, a cultural producer can implement a range of culturally specific or experimental narrative structures

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