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narrative construction and generative substrate

from Wikipedia’s entry on Jerome Brunner:

In 1991, Bruner published an article in Critical Inquiry entitled “The Narrative Construction of Reality.” In this article, he argued that the mind structures its sense of reality using mediation through “cultural products, like language and other symbolic systems” (3). He specifically focuses on the idea of narrative as one of these cultural products. He defines narrative in terms of ten things:

1. Narrative diachronicity: The notion that narratives take place over some sense of time.
2. Particularity: The idea that narratives deal with particular events, although some events may be left vague and general.
3. Intentional state entailment: The concept that characters within a narrative have “beliefs, desires, theories, values, and so on” (7).
4. Hermeneutic composability: The theory that narratives are that which can be interpreted in terms of their role as a selected series of events that constitute a “story.” See also Hermeneutics
5. Canonicity and breach: The claim that stories are about something unusual happening that “breaches” the canonical (i.e. normal) state.
6. Referentiality: The principle that a story in some way references reality, although not in a direct way; narrative truth can offer verisimilitude but not verifiability.
7. Genericness: The flip side to particularity, this is the characteristic of narrative whereby the story can be classified as a genre.
8. Normativeness: The observation that narrative in some way supposes a claim about how one ought to act. This follows from canonicity and breach.
9. Context sensitivity and negotiability: Related to hermeneutic composability, this is the characteristic whereby narrative requires a negotiated role between author or text and reader, including the assigning of a context to the narrative, and ideas like suspension of disbelief.
10. Narrative accrual: Finally, the idea that stories are cumulative, that is, that new stories follow from older ones.

Bruner observes that these ten characteristics at once describe narrative and the reality constructed and posited by narrative, which in turn teaches us about the nature of reality as constructed by the human mind via narrative.

from Craig Lindley’s “Narrative Structure in Trans-Reality Role-Playing Games: Integrating Story Construction from Live Action, Table Top and Computer-Based Role-Playing Games”:

Structural theories of textual and verbal narrative posit a generative substrate (a cultural space of possible stories) underlying the diegesis or specific objects and events of a particular narrative.

from Craig Lindley’s “The Semiotics of Time Structure in Ludic Space As a Foundation for Analysis and Design”:

Beneath the simulation level is the level of the generative substrate, the system of functions, rules and constraints constituting a space of possible worlds of experience created by the designers of the game.

Whatever the overall approach to narrative adopted by a game’s designers, it is the performance of game moves that consumes most of a player’s cognitive resources. Game moves provide a version of what Mackay (2001) refers to as fictive blocks, basic fragments or units of fictional/narrative significance that may be strung together to form a larger scale narrative. Mackay takes fictive blocks divorced from their original context to be equivalent to Schechner’s strips of imaginary behavior, patterns that constitute a repertoire of potential behaviours that are performed by an actor in new arrangements in ways that may appear spontaneous and unrehearsed. Fictive blocks derived from popular culture sources (films, television, literature, etc.) are understood to circulate broadly within a culture, where they are available for reappropriation by its participants for the creation of new narratives (novels, movies, role playing game sessions, etc.).

from Craig Lindley’s “Story and Narrative Structures in Computer Games”:

Structuralist narrative theorists have also sought general structures underlying the formulation or generation of stories. Vladimir Propp’s [30] pioneer work Morphology of the Folktale presents an analysis of the structural generative system underlying a genre of Russian folk tales. Within this system, a typical folktale is built around seven types of character (or more specifically, spheres of action corresponding to performers), namely 1) the villain, 2) the donor, 3) the helper, 4) the princess (and her father), 5) the dispatcher, 6) the hero and 7) the false hero. The names of the characters containing these functions differs from tale to tale, but the type of actions they perform are always the same. A function can be “understood as an act of a character, defined from the point of view of its significance for the course of the action” [30]. Propp presents the system as having a fixed number of thirty-one possible plot functions. Not all of the functions are necessary in any given story, but where they occur they always have the same sequential order.

This level of generative substructure is analogous to Saussure’s language level. From the generative substrate it is possible to create a great many stories. Each story can be the source for many plots, and each plot can be expressed in many narratives. Viewing this as a hierarchy, it can be seen that, beginning with the narrative level and going down to the structural substrate, each level down has an increasing generative potential in terms of the number of actual narratives that it facilitates and by which it is expressed. Propp’s specific model has been applied within other narrative genres and analogous systems are plausible for forms of narrative that it does not obviously account for.

from the absract of Shigeki Amitani & Ernest Edmonds’ “Generative Website: Visualising Possible Stories”:

This paper presents our on-going project called "Generative Website Project". We design and develop generative systems that visualise possible contexts, that is, possible sequences of information out of existing information in order to stimulate human creative thinking. Possible sequences of information segments, usually called storytelling, scenarios, narratives, or, have been used as a tool for exploring and stimulating thinking about possible events, assumptions relating to these events, and courses of actions for a broad range of information designers from public audiences searching on the internet to analysts and policy makers.

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