Interactive Narrative


The GRIOT Platform


Living Liberia Fabric Loss, Undersea Generative Visual Renku The Griot Sings Haibun The Girl With Skin of Haints and Seraphs Memory, Reverie Machine

Advanced Identity Representation

Lab Projects

Define Me: Chimera Chameleonia


Avatar Breeder Abstract Avatar

Gallery Overview

Research Agenda

Our work can be roughly divided into two long-term research agendas.

The first is developing new interactive narrative platforms, models, genres, and works. Our interactive narrative research and development, more precisely called "multimedia interactive and generative imaginative discourse," practices centralize the following three concerns:

(1) Story Construction: Cognitive Science-Based Approaches,

(2) Story Analysis: Culturally Diverse Models, and

(3) Story Use: Community Deployment of Expressive Technical Practices.

The second, executed under the umbrella of the "Advanced Identity Representation Project" investigates the construction of social identity in computational media as it arises cognitively, narratively, and through infrastructures for classification and navigating diverse community memberships.

The following computing research threads enable and inform our approach to computational narrative and identity and the related technologies we develop. A brief account of several research threads we pursue follows:

A) Subjective Computing Subjective meaning and computation are usually seen as completely separate issues. We develop technologies and theoretical tools that allow authors, programmers, and artists to (1) enable digital media authors/artists to "technically embed subjective meaning to within media," i.e. construct ontologies (formal descriptions of knowledge structures) as metadata for their media elements (graphics, animation, text, etc.), (2) generate meaningful text and multimedia compositions dynamically, and (3) blend multimedia structures to generate new content dynamically for use in interactive narratives and related works. These tools use the models of imagination from cognitive semantics to represent these "meanings" as formalized concepts and their composition and generation as blending and mapping operations. In this area, joint work with Ph.D. students has also investigated issues such as how intentionality and animacy are conveyed via computational media forms such as AI systems or interactive animation.

B) Cultural Computing Our research approach advocates the grounding of computing practice in diverse cultural traditions. We are open to serving the needs of communities with values other than those that are privileged in computer science and engineering currently (which are often driven by "Western," logocentric, and productivity-oriented modes of thought). For example, I have explored the notion of orature (oral literature) as it has been theorized and practiced across the African diaspora as a grounding for new technical practices implementing computational discourse generation and interaction. As another example, I have developed a generative multimedia discourse project informed by an account of the interplay between iconicity (e.g. in the Japanese language) and conceptual metaphor by Masako Hiraga and C.S. Peirce's semiotics.

C) Social Identity Computing Our research results in theory and technology to enable social identity models for deployment in social networking, computer supported cooperative work (CSCW), digital media arts and games, and educational technologies. These new models are dynamic, integrated across applications, sensitive to social context, empowering for diverse and underrepresented groups, and ethically engaged. Such broad applicability of the models developed are enabled by (1) methods that invoke the shared cognitive mechanisms for categorization that undergird human construal of socio-cultural identity classifications, and (2) computer science approaches to multimedia semantics that address algorithmic and data-structural reciprocities between two dominant models of digital self-representation: avatars/player characters (mediating proxies for action in digital environments) and user profiles (informational surrogates in digital applications). The models also apply to AI identity representations such as software agents and characters.

D. Fox Harrell, Director

Associate Professor of Digital Media