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Master's Thesis Abstract & Summary

Narrative Systems Modeling: Techniques for Classifying, Databasing, and Mapping Narrative Systems



Many classification systems exist for media artifacts, each system existing within a distinct field. Filmmakers classify films, fine artists classify fine art, and so on. And they do so using different core principles. Filmmakers classify films by visual, temporal, and thematic qualities. Pieces of fine art are classified foremost by their material make-up (e.g., ink on canvas). Video games are classified by ludological, thematic, mechanical, and other largely interactive features.



In my thesis, I argue that all media are narrative media, and that the features of interactivity and immersion (such as those proposed by Gee and Bulitko), in communication with psycho-narratological principles (such as those proposed by Jung, Campbell, Aristotle, Vonnegut, and many others), can be quantified in any media artifact regardless of form or function, and therefore a descriptive system that is cross-utilitarian can be created. For new media makers, such a system may help to break complex media into constituent parts that can then be rearranged, combined, and reconstituted to create new media forms and expressions. For new media scholars, such a system may help to improve, guide, and streamline a complex process by which we can examine diverse media artifacts alongside one another.



Since there existed no translational classification system to inform the cross-utilization of media between and among diverse fields—and since such a system may prove useful in inspiring new combinations of materials and interactive features that may result in yet-undiscovered new media experiences—I created such a system first by holistically examining diverse media formats, materials, and qualities, and then by creating a novel classification system with which diverse fields may describe and manipulate them. This methodology is principally descriptive and will lead to far more complex quantitative analyses in the coming years.



A final classification system took the form of a hierarchal system whose top-most tier was an artifact code (e.g., “performance”; how an artifact manifests as used by humans), followed by its classification (e.g., “dance”) and sub-classification (e.g., “integrated performance”). This system also incorporates a narrative trajectory for each artifact based in Vonnegut’s application of prosperity over time. Necessarily, all artifacts are coded for their immersive qualities, incorporating all allowed iterations of interactivity, such as touch, sight. Allowing for intelligent systems and artifacts that are designed to sense and respond to human input, counter-immersive tags were added (e.g., “be seen”).