Unfolding and Unwinding: A Perspective on Generative Narrative

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Presentation Title:

  • Unfolding and Unwinding: A Perspective on Generative Narrative

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Abstract:

  • Interaction with aesthetic artifacts produced by computational systems depends on processes of simulation that complement and expand human sensorial modalities but that are fundamentally intellectual processes. Therefore, anticipation, the validation of simulations and the violation of expectations, may play a significant role in the creation of narratives or of narrative-like experiences by humans. This paper proposes an approach to how the creation of narrative can be understood in the context of performance or interactive generative systems, in an attempt to study the perspective variable, originally proposed by Espen Aarseth in his study of ergodic texts.

    Intro

    Aesthetic artifacts produced by computational systems are characterized by how their computational traits and procedural nature become conceptual foundations and aesthetic focuses. These artifacts are strongly multimodal. The sensorial modalities through which they are formed and conveyed are more than aesthetic or communicational resources; they also mediate the logical and mathematical structures of the artifacts’ processes. The methods through which human cooperators in the aesthetic cybernetic aesthetic experience build an awareness of the processes within the artifacts depend on human perception and on processes of simulation that we can describe as an added, procedural, modality. This complements and expands those sensorial modalities on which it is dependent, but unlike them it is a fundamentally intellectual process. Reception happens sensorially, while perception is a cognitively developed epiphenomenon. The sensorium mediates the experience of the artifact and the brain fabricates perception, developing simulations of varying accuracy that through processes of “patternicity” and “agenticity” try to reduce the sensed complexity and to anticipate the outcomes of the witnessed processes. When we experience an artificial aesthetic artifact, we watch it perform while we simultaneously perform it. We probe its structure and draw the connections needed to participate and comprehend it. Even if unwillingly, we simulate its processes and create our own parallel sequences of probable events as the artifact unfolds. In the interaction with these systems, anticipation, the validation of simulations and the eventual violation of expectations, play a significant role in the creation of narratives or of narrative-like experiences. As with other aesthetic constituents of these systems, narrative and drama may either be hard-coded, much as they are in traditional or non-procedural media, or they may be emergent and procedural. This paper proposes an approach to how the creation of narrative can be understood in the context of performative or interactive generative systems, in an attempt to integrate in our analytical model of procedural systems the perspective variable, originally proposed by Espen Aarseth in his study of ergodic texts. The outputs of artificial aesthetic artifacts fundamentally differ from what we find in most non-procedural media because, much as nature, they weren’t necessarily created or even shaped by humans. These artifacts are rich with generative potential and have their own aesthetics, their unique patterns of desire, their ways of giving pleasure and creating beauty. They are inevitably mediated but also hyper-mediated, constantly confronting us with signs of what may be happening behind their modal expressions. It is this layer that marvels and allows the experience of the artifact as a symbolic drama in which we are the central protagonists.

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