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[- Narrative Time and Machine Writing

Author: Judd Morrissey, Lori Talley, Lutz Hamel

Topic: automatic narrative evolution
Keywords: narrative, hypertext, machine learning, Lori Talley, Judd Morrissey, Lutz Hamel, The Jew's Daughter, fiction, generative text, generator, genetic algorithms, cybertext, e-literature

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Narrative Time and Machine Writing
Judd Morrissey, Lori Talley, Lutz Hamel

Our current projects examine the potential for complex temporal structures within digital narrative, and the role of machines in authorship. Next month, we will be collaborating with Lutz Hamel, an expert in machine learning and evolutionary computing, on a prototype of a software engine for automatic narrative evolution.

This generative engine is the second phase in an evolving experiment in online, interactive narrative now titled The Jew's Daughter. The work in its current incarnation, which has received substantial press, is a narrative that unfolds through subtle textual transformations within a fluid rectangular text-space. When a reader triggers a change in the story, new text is assimilated by the virtual page, which always remains syntactically and semantically intact. The story, which could be characterized by a non-linear, meandering structure, both in terms of its free movement through voices and scenes, and the elusive identities of central characters which are not fixed and have both contemporary and historical associations, is also visually unstable, constantly weaving itself together in response to the decisions of the user, an unusual reading-effect that is the result of careful simulations crafted by the author/arranger within a software environment.

The online form of The Jew's Daughter. has been the starting point for our narrative engine, which will both automate and extend the metamorphic activity of the text, allowing for infinite arrangement of narrative nodes, and implementing evolutionary algorithms to enable autonomous composition, creating a literary work without beginning or end, one that is a hybrid of experimental narrative and machine-writing.

As we finalize our design for the engine we’d like to pose a few general questions that our activities might provoke.

1. Does the knowledge that a text was generated by algorithms detract from a reading experience?

2. A text can be generated in fractions of a second whereas for a person to simply transcribe that text would take substantially more time. How do you feel about this?

3. How is craft and quality as we have known it in the tradition of writing and composition assessed within algorithm-assisted writing or are these terms applicable? If not, what is the new criteria for this form?

read an interview with Lori and Judd.

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Submitted by JMoLoT
Posted on Thu May 1, 2003 at 3:14 PM EURODISCORDIA TIME

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