Notes on the Kinder-Manovich debate A long section of Future Cinema is devoted to work by USC’s Labyrinth Project, with a theoretical overview by Marsha Kinder and shorter essays on each of the projects included in the show. In her essay, Kinder contrasts her work with Laybrinth to that of Lev Manovich, another theorist-turned-practitioner, whose Soft Cinema project came about in the course of writing his book The Language of New Media. Kinder quotes Manovich as saying that databases exist in opposition to narrative – new media, he argues, are “the new battlefield for the competition between database and narrative.” In contrast, Kinder claims that virtually all stories – like language itself – derive from combinations of narrative elements within a given set of parameters, which is very much in keeping with the way databases function. “ Database narrative refers to narratives whose structure exposes or thematizes the dual processes of selection and combination that lie at the heart of all stories…particular data (characters, images, sounds, events) are selected from a series of databases or paradigms, which are then combined to generate specific tales.” For his part, Manovich claims that the logic of the computer has become the logic of culture at large, arguing that the database should be accorded the stature of a symbolic form on the order of cinema or the novel. For Manovich, there is something more at stake in creating database art than mere narrative. In particular, his work with Soft Cinema attempts – not entirely successfully – to question the ways computers can be used to represent contemporary subjectivity. Manovich argues that this is necessary because of the dissolution of boundaries between the psychological interior and social exterior of today’s distributed subjects. With our “selves” continually scattered across multiple government and corporate databases and surveillance systems, he views the networked computer as a much more powerful metaphor for understanding contemporary identity than the cinematic narrative. Ultimately, I think they are both right and I would suggest that the debate may ultimately be a false one, with both positions hindered by the overinscription of film history in their respective positions. Where Manovich bears an unhealthy attachment to Vertov’s Man With a Movie Camera as the ur-text of new media, Kinder claims to find examples of database narratives throughout cinema history, while clearly drawing her primary inspiration from European modernists such as Bunuel and Marker. As a lover of cinema myself, I am similarly tempted to use film and video as a way of thinking about new media – but I sometimes wonder if, when doing so, we gain certain kinds of insight at the expense of others and ultimately risk anchoring ourselves to the critical frameworks of the previous century.
Artists are supposed to be control freaks about the content of their work, copyright, distribution, etc.
From Switching booklet, Oncotype 2003 http://01sj.org/content/view/843/52 “ Frida and Simon lives together, but something has changed. They can't really communicate any more. One night, Frida turns on the light in their bedroom to try and understand what is wrong. Frida starts the difficult process of creating a new story around herself and Simon. A process in which we often feel that ourselves and others are adversaries. As a user of the film, you are drawn into this game. The process - the creation of a story - is therefore an important part of the experience. The interactive form is used to create a fragmented narrative structure that resembles the chaotic narrative form our dreams. The user of this film enters a narrative labyrinth simultaneously unfolding and disrupting the story. It is more a state of mind - a symbol of consciousness as a multidimensional, never-ending thought process.”
Facade is an artificial intelligence-based art/research experiment in electronic narrative ﾐ an attempt to move beyond traditional branching or hyper-linked narrative to create a fully-realized, one-act interactive drama. Integrating an interdisciplinary set of artistic practices and artificial intelligence technologies, we have completed a five year collaboration to engineer a novel architecture for supporting emotional, interactive character behavior and drama-managed plot. Within this architecture we have built a dramatically interesting, real-time 3D virtual world inhabited by computer-controlled characters, in which the player experiences a story from a first-person perspective. Fa 溝 de was publicly released as a freeware download / cd-rom in July 2005. You, the player, using your own name and gender, play the character of a longtime friend of Grace and Trip, an attractive and materially successful couple in their early thirties. During an evening get-together at their apartment that quickly turns ugly, you become entangled in the high-conflict dissolution of Grace and Trip ﾕ s marriage. No one is safe as the accusations fly, sides are taken and irreversible decisions are forced to be made. By the end of this intense one-act play you will have changed the course of Grace and Trip ﾕ s lives ﾐ motivating you to re-play the drama to find out how your interaction could make things turn out differently the next time. This work is unlike hypertext narrative or interactive fiction to date in that the computer characters actively perform the story without waiting for you to click on a link or enter a command. Interaction is seamless as you converse in natural language and move and gesture freely within the first-person 3D world of Grace and Trip ﾕ s apartment. AI controls Grace and Trip ﾕ s personality and behavior, including emotive facial expressions, spoken voice and full-body animation. Furthermore, the AI intelligently chooses the next story ﾒ beat ﾓ based on your moment-by-moment interaction, what story beats have happened so far, and the need to satisfy an overall dramatic arc. An innovative text parser allows the system to avoid the ﾒ I don ﾕ t understand ﾓ response all too common in text-adventure interactive fiction. The process of building Fa 溝 de has involved three major research efforts: designing ways to deconstruct a dramatic narrative into a hierarchy of story and behavior pieces; engineering an AI system to reconstruct a real-time dramatic performance from those pieces that integrates the player's moment-by-moment interactions; and understanding how to write an engaging, compelling story within this new organizational framework. Along the way we have learned hard lessons about what works and what doesn't in the design and engineering of interactive stories, and developed a deeper understanding of what it will require to create even more generative story systems in the future.
functional relation- - - - - - interesting relation - - - - - - - - - no relation ---- On the left are systems that do what they're told. (I press 'a' and an 'a' appears on the screen. I don't imagine any special extra layers of meaning in between my pressing 'a' and the 'a' that comes up. ) On the right things just don't make sense. Whatever I do, the system doesn't seem to notice me. It just does as it pleases. (I press 'a' and a 'q' appears, or no letter at all, and the next time I press 'a' something different happens. I can't decide whether there exists a relation between what I do and what happens at all.) In the middle of this scale, the system reacts to us with some kind of flavour of its own. We are able to project some kind of character or intention in it. This where the dramatic possibilities of the interactive experience lie.
NEH Vectors Korsakow workshop
Interactive and computational narrative The Korsakow System NEH Vectors Institute 7.23.09
USC IMD USC School of Cinematic Arts Interactive Media Division
Godard “ A story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end... but not necessarily in that order.” -Jean-Luc Godard Interactive narrative provides an opportunity to think about storytelling along multiple axes (i.e., we are not shackled to a three-act structure)
Kinder-Manovich debate Kinder-Manovich Debate Lev Manovich: database is the opposite of narrative “ [new media], are the new battlefield for the competition between database and narrative.” Marsha Kinder: all narrative is database narrative “ virtually all stories – like language itself – derive from combinations of narrative elements within a given set of parameters, which is very much in keeping with the way databases function.”
Ludology vs. Narratology Ludology vs. Narratology Ludology: interactivity is the opposite of narrative; we should not impose the critical apparatus of linear-based narratology on games; we need new models for thinking about game mechanics, social dynamics of gaming, etc. Narratology: both narrative and interactivity take many forms; even traditional linear narrative has elements of (emotional, cognitive) interactivity; narrative can be emergent, algorithmic, dynamic, etc.
What’s the problem? Designing narratives in an interactive structure means releasing a degree of control into the hands of two seemingly unreliable entities: 1. the user 2. the computer Releasing authorial control goes against cherished beliefs about artistic production: creativity, originality, authenticity, authority, etc.
Ian Flitman, Hackney Girl (generative / random) http://www.blipstation.com
Andrea Flamini: Melodrama 8 (generative / ambient)
Lev Manovich & Andreas Kratky: Soft Cinema (2005) (generative / algorithmic)
Barbara Lattanzi, HF Critical Mass http://www.wildernesspuppets.net
Personal ad Keywords describe a SNU and express preferences for other SNUs I am a man / woman ISO man / woman I am a cat / dog person ISO a cat / dog person I am a smoker / nonsmoker ISO a smoker / nonsmoker
Interactive sweet spot Functional relation (click left, go left; type an “a,” see an “a”) Interesting relation (non-trivial, reflective, algorithmic response) No relation (lack of agency: random results to user input)