Last Saturday at SXSW Interactive Jon Lebkowsky and I curated a Core Conversation titled Machines That Tell Stories. I proposed the topic as a book project to Jon last year, and we put together this discussion as a stepping stone. Software storytellers are in the air. There were over a dozen sessions at SXSW this year on storytelling systems, and that kind of consensus usually heralds a new wave about to break. We’ve setup a twitter and tumblr for this project, if you want to follow along.
Our argument: Software is moving beyond raw data and into narrative. First it will help you weave the tales you want to spin, but soon it may be telling stories better than all but the best human storytellers.
The conversation was all over the place, and I don’t think anyone recorded it, but here are some notes and references that could be helpful…
- Lisa Cron’s Wired for Story: “A story is how what happens affects someone who’s trying to achieve what turns out to be a difficult goal, and how she changes as a result.”
- Wired For Story Takeaway: Story is about mechanics, the trappings that you think of as important aren’t as critical as hitting the right beats that resonate with the human brain.
- The Future of Storytelling Conference – Great speaker videos
- Dwarf Fortress’s Legends mode, Procedural Poetry Analysis (Leave the creative imagination up to the user. Provide concrete, easy to procedurally generate elements, and let the brain fill in the rest.)
- Weavrs as storytellers
- The Nest Home Report monthly email as a machine-generated story
- Collaborative human/machine storytelling at DARPA
- Machine data into text reporting at Automated Insights (1 billion articles for 1 person each, instead of 1 article for 1 billion readers) More at CNN
- Games by Angelina – Procedurally generated videogames, played through brute-force to see if they’re solvable. Potentially compare play throughs to known-pleasing physical interactions (progressively more complex button presses and movements)
- Mechanical Turk as a part of a story machine, using human filtering to produce more compelling procedural content
- Turing in The Imitation Game: The question isn’t whether machines will think like humans, it’s whether machines will think like machines.
- tmbotg – Random TMBG tweeting bot, sometimes interacted with by humans due to serendipity
- Why limit to text? Is software that generates a song based on your day’s quantified self data creating a story?
- Shadows of Mordor’s Nemesis System as a storytelling engine – characters continue to exist when you aren’t looking, maintain the thread without you
- Games as half-way points: PROCJAM’s The Inquisitor as procedural murder mystery
- NaNoGenMo – Software generated novels
- Eugene Goostman – Chatbot & Winner of the Loebner Prize. 13 year old Ukrainian boy personification: more constraints (space on twitter, language barrier with Eugene) result in increased credibility
- Deus Ex Machina interactive theater project in Austin, sms polling to a web UI to allow for story decisions
- Communal entertainment as a cultural touchstone: In a world where everyone gets personalized entertainment, does it become harder to relate to other people? (No more watercooler conversations?)
- Storium as a story generation human/software collaboration system
We had a great crowd for the conversation, and even managed to be “Hot” in the schedule. Thanks to everyone who was able to make it!