Narrative Intelligence Reading Group (1990-1996)

As I begin (along with Aaron Zinman) to create the framework for a new reading group at the Lab (tentatively titled In Situ ) that will offer cross-, multi-, and inter-disciplinary analysis of technology, I’m encouraged by a previous experience of this sort over 16 years ago entitled the “Narrative Intelligence Reading Group”. An account of their experiences was presented in a paper in 1999: A Brief Overview of the Narrative Intelligence Reading Group :

As early graduate students in the Media Lab, we were faced with trying to synthesize an intellectual framework in which we could situate our work. The desire of the founders and early members of NI to create a common discourse and practice connecting artificial intelligence and literary theory also stemmed from a growing frustration with the limits of our respective disciplines in their ability to inform the analysis, design, and construction of computational media.

After several years of overcoming our disciplinary prejudices and habits, what did eventually emerge was a new type of interdisciplinary methodology for Narrative Intelligence. The primary breakthrough occurred in our developing ways to interleave and cross-pollinate theory (analysis of texts, people, and computational systems) with practice (creating new forms of computational media). By having read, discussed, and critiqued each other’s core texts, we were able to develop a common discourse that supported a dialectic between the theoretical frameworks we inherited from artificial intelligence and literary theory and our practical experience of analyzing and building computational media systems.

They offer a detailed list of readings covered, many of which we can probably use in our group as well. The list of people involved in the group, given as a set of acknowledgments at the end of the paper, includes many who are quite influential in media studies and AI today.

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