Call For Participation: Narrative Intelligence


While narrative has long been a theme in AI (see, for example, [8]), it has recently experienced a surge of popularity. Researchers in various subfields, including story generation and understanding [9], agent architecture [5] [15], and interface agents [11], have taken independent forays into narrative, finding it a fruitful way to rethink some basic issues in AI. The goal for our symposium, Narrative Intelligence (NI), is to bring researchers from these disparate perspectives together to talk about what we have learned about narrative and its application to AI.

The term "Narrative Intelligence" was developed by Michael Travers and Marc Davis to describe work at the confluence of AI and narrative studies. David Blair and Tom Meyer [2] use this term to mean the specifically human ability to organize experience into narrative form. We would like to work at the confluence of these two usages, exploring the issues surrounding the construction of systems --- whether story systems, agents, or in other forms --- that produce behavior that humans can interpret as narrative.

Narrative Intelligence

At its most fundamental, NI is concerned with narrative as a way of understanding the world. Turning experience into a story is considered by many NIers a fundamental mode of sense-making. This idea has a long tradition in narrative psychology [3] as well as in AI [14].

In various strands of NI work, several themes emerge:

(1) Narrative as a system design principle: If humans often make sense of the world by assimilating it to narrative, then it makes sense to design our systems so as to allow people to use their well-honed narrative skills in interpreting these systems. In building systems whose primary purpose is to tell a story [6, 9], this seems obvious. But narrative may also be useful to structure the visible behavior of any autonomous agent [11, 15], even if the primary function of the agent is not to tell a story. Narrative design in this sense becomes a general principle when building any interactive system. Such ideas have also been discussed in the human-computer interaction (HCI) literature, such as in the work of Don [7] or Laurel [10].

(2) Narrative as a way of structuring agents: Conversely, since humans make sense of the world via narrative, perhaps artificial systems should also employ narrative in understanding the world. Thus, for example, two artificial agents may want to organize their experience as stories they can share [5, 13]. Narrative can be viewed as a structuring device for organizing an agent's memory.

(3) Narrative as cross-disciplinary: If narrative is indeed, as many argue, a fundamental organizing principle of human experience, then it is unsurprising that many different fields have an interest in narrative. Work in NI has drawn on conceptions of narrative from many of these sources: art, in which narrative is understood as a form of representation; psychology (especially narrative psychology), in which narrative is thought of as a way in which humans make sense of the world; cultural studies, in which narrative is studied as a way in which a culture structures and propagates knowledge. This last notion of narrative as the carrier of knowledge opens new possibilities for transformation within the field of AI when applied reflexively to AI itself. That is, an analysis of the narrative structures and metaphors used to tell the story of progress within AI can illuminate systematic problems caused by these narratives and point the way to new research approaches [1].

Scope and questions of the symposium

One of the major goals of this symposium is to bring together participants from different areas both within and without AI who share a common interest in the intersection of narrative and AI. Within AI, this symposium solicits work from, but not limited to, the following areas: In addition, because NI researchers have drawn deep inspiration from concepts of narrative from other disciplines, we hope to broaden and solidify our understanding of narrative by including several participants from other research traditions, including: Submissions from outside AI will be selected according to their relevance for illuminating the connections between narrative and AI.

This symposium hopes to address questions such as the following:

Submission Information

Potential participants should submit a short paper (3 to 5 pages) describing their work in this area. The paper should make clear which approaches to narrative are being drawn on and how they apply to AI. All submissions should be sent via electronic mail, in plain ASCII format, to Michael Mateas at

Submission Dates

Structure of the Symposium

One of the goals of the symposium is to create a lively, interactive setting in which group discussion can take place. This means that the symposium will not consist solely of talks, but will consist of a mixture of talks, posters, panels, and possibly breakout groups. The final decision of the mix of panels, talks and posters will be made by the organizing committee in response to the submissions received.

If you have a narrative system that you would like to demo, please indicate this in your submission. If there are enough people with systems to demo, a demo time will be set aside during the symposium.

Symposium Date and Location

November 5-7, 1999
Sea Crest Conference Center on Cape Cod
North Falmouth, Massachusetts

General information about the 1999 AAAI Fall symposium series can be found here.

Organizing Committee

Kerstin Dautenhahn (Department of Cybernetics, University of Reading, U.K.)

Clark Elliott (Institute for Applied Artificial Intelligence, DePaul University, USA)

James Lester (Department of Computer Science, North Carolina State University, USA)

Michael Mateas (co-chair) (Department of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University, USA)

Chrystopher Nehaniv (Interactive Systems Engineering, University of Hertfordshire, U.K.)

Phoebe Sengers (co-chair) (Center for Art and Media Technology, ZKM Karlsruhe, Germany)


[1] Agre, P. Computation and Human Experience. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 1997.

[2] Blair, David and Tom Meyer. Tools for an Interactive Virtual Cinema. In: Creating Personalities for Synthetic Actors: Towards Autonomous Personality Agents. Ed. Robert Trappl and Paolo Petta. Berlin: Springer Verlag, 1997.

[3] Bruner, J. The narrative construction of reality. Critical Inquiry 18, 1 (1991), 1-21.

[4] Dautenhahn, K. Story-Telling in Virtual Environments. Working Notes of the Intelligent Virtual Environments. Workshop at the 13th biennial European Conference on Artificial Intelligence (ECAI-98) Brighton Centre, Brighton, UK on 23-28, August 1998.

[5] Dautenhahn, K., and Nehaniv, C. Artificial life and natural stories. In International Symposium on Artificial Life and Robotics (AROB III) (Beppu, Oita, Japan, 1998), vol. 2, pp. 435-439.

[6] Domike, S., Mateas, M., Vanouse, P. The recombinant history apparatus presents: Terminal Time. Submitted to the Center for Twentieth Century Studies, Milwaukee, WI, for inclusion in a book.

[7] Don, A. Narrative and the interface. In The Art of Human-Computer Interface Design, B. Laurel, Ed. Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA, 1990, pp. 383-391.

[8] Dyer M.G., Wolf T.C., Korsin M.: Boris - An In-Depth Understander of Narratives, in Proceedings of the 7th International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, 1981.

[9] Elliott, C., Brzezinski, J., Sheth, S., and Salvatoriello, R. Story-morphing in the affective reasoning paradigm: Generating stories semi-automatically for use with 'emotionally intelligent' multimedia agents. In Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Autonomous Agents (New York, May 1998), K. P. Sycara and M Wooldridge, Eds., ACM Press.

[10] Laurel, B . Computers as Theatre. Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA, 1991.

[11] Lester, J., Stone, B. Increasing believability in animated pedagogical agents. In Proceedings of the First International Conference on Autonomous Agents, February 1997, W. Lewis Johnson, Eds., ACM Press.

[12] Nehaniv, C. L. What's Your Story? - Irreversibility, Algebra, Autobiographic Agents. In: K. Dautenhahn, ed., Socially Intelligent Agents: Papers from the 1997 AAAI Fall Symposium (November 1997, MIT, Cambridge, Massachusetts) FS-97-02, American Association for Artificial Intelligence Press, pp. 150-153.

[13] Nehaniv, C.and Dautenhahn, K. ``Embodiment and Memories - Algebras of Time and History for Autobiographic Agents'', In: Robert Trappl, ed., Cybernetics and Systems '98, Proceedings of the 14th European Meeting on Cybernetics and Systems Research Symposium on Embodied Cognition and Artificial Intelligence (Vienna, Austria, 14-17 April 1998). Austrian Society for Cybernetic Studies, volume 2, pp. 651-656, 1998.

[14] Schank, R. Tell me a story: A new look at real and artificial memory. Scribner, New York, 1990.

[15] Sengers, P. Narrative Intelligence. In: Human Cognition and Social Agent Technology. Ed. Kerstin Dautenhahn. John Benjamins Publishing Company, 1999 (Forthcoming).

[16] Sengers, P. Anti-Boxology: Agent Design in Cultural Context. PhD Thesis, Carnegie Mellon University. CMU-CS-98-151. August, 1998.