What makes Stories Similar?

What makes stories similar?

Research project at the Universität Hamburg
funded by the John Templeton Foundation (20565)

People Dr. Bernhard Fisseni
Prof. Dr. Benedikt Löwe (Principal Investigator)
Deniz Sarikaya
Mira Viehstädt
Postal Address Prof. Dr. Benedikt Löwe
Universität Hamburg
Fachbereich Mathematik, ML
Bundesstraße 55
20146 Hamburg
Collaborators Prof. Dr. Rens Bod (Universiteit van Amsterdam)
Aadil Kurji BA (University of Bristol)
Former collaborators Alexander Block BSc (2011-2012)
Dr. Carlos León (2011-2012)
Sanchit Saraf MSc

Project Goals

Human beings can debate and discuss structural similarities between narratives, stories, takes and myths. They can notice parallels in the Deluge Myths of the Bible, the Puranic story of Manu and the Gilgamesh epos and compare them; they can debate whether two movies have 'the same plot' or not.

It is part of the human intellect to see and compare structure; what structural properties of narratives make them resemble? This big question about human understanding was addressed by the structuralists, but the admirable AI research on Story Understanding got bogged down in the detailed and complicated analysis of natural language used to tell the stories.

Roughly, this distinction of the structure of a story versus the detailed account of the story corresponds to the narratological distinction of 'story' versus 'discourse'. In our project, we propose to return to the big question by means of comparatively simple, logic-based description languages that are developed in very close contact with an empirical basis of actual narratives.

The project is supposed to provide a formal background for comparing narratives and a first corpus that can be used to test the framework.

Project activities

4–6 August 2013 Workshop on Computational Models of Narrative 2013 in Hamburg, a satellite workshop of
CogSci 2013: The 35th meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, (Organizers from our project: BF, BL)

8–10 March 2013 Seminar „Formale Ansätze in der Erzählforschung“ (“Formal Approaches to Narrative Reseach”), organised by Deniz Sarikaya in the programme „StipendiatInnen machen Programm“ of the Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes. (Organiser: DS; Speakers from WMSS: AK, BF, BL)

July 2012 Digital Humanities 2012 in Hamburg: Panel Computational models of narrative structure (members: RB, BF, BL), later meeting with representatives of the Interdisciplinary Center for Narratology (AB, BF, AK, BL, DS)

May 2012 Workshop on Computational Models of Narrative 2012 at the International Conference on Language Resources and Evaluation (LREC) in İstanbul (Participants: BF, AK, BL). Papers:

February 2012 Work meeting at the Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences, Cambridge. (Participants: AB, BF, BL, DS)

January/February 2012 Intensive research meeting at the Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences, Cambridge (Participants: BF, CL, BL)

October 2011 Kick-off meeting at the Institute for Logic, Language and Computation in Amsterdam. (Participants: AB, BF, AK, CL, BL)

Project Papers

Bernhard Fisseni, Aadil Kurji, and Benedikt Löwe, Annotating with Propp's Morphology of the Folktale: Reproducibility and Trainability, Literary and Linguistic Computing 29 (2014), pp. 488-510 (full paper)

Bernhard Fisseni and Benedikt Löwe, Event mappings for comparing formal frameworks of narratives, Logique et Analyse 57 (2014), pp. 181-222 (full paper)

Rens Bod, Bernhard Fisseni, Aadil Kurji and Benedikt Löwe (2012): Objectivity and reproducibility of Proppian narrative annotations. In: Proceedings of Computational Models of Narrative 2012 in İstanbul. (Preprint, full proceedings)

Bernhard Fisseni and Benedikt Löwe (2012): Which dimensions of narratives are relevant for human judgments of story equivalence? In: Proceedings of Computational Models of Narrative 2012 in İstanbul. (Preprint, full proceedings)

Alexander Block, Bernhard Fisseni, Carlos León, Benedikt Löwe and Deniz Sarikaya (2012): Narrative summarization and its correspondence to Proppian functions.

Alexander Block, Rens Bod, Bernhard Fisseni, Aadil Kurji, Carlos León, Benedikt Löwe and Deniz Sarikaya: Objectivity and reproducibility of formal narrative representations or annotations: Propp's Functions and Narrative Summarization.

Rens Bod, Benedikt Löwe and Sanchit Saraf (to appear 2012). How much do formal narrative annotations differ? A Proppian case study. In: Charles Ess and Ruth Hagengruber (eds.): The Computational Turn: Past, Presents, Futures? (Proceedings IACAP 2011 in Aarhus), Münster: MV-Wissenschaft, 242–245. (Preprint)

Benedikt Löwe (2011). Methodological remarks about comparing formal frameworks for narratives. In Patrick Allo and Giuseppe Primiero (eds.), Proceedings of the 3rd Workshop in the Philosophy of Information. Brussel: Koninklijke Vlaamse Academie van Belgié voor Wetenschappen en Kunsten, 10–28. (Preprint)

Benedikt Löwe (2010): Comparing Formal Frameworks of Narrative Structures, in: Mark Finlayson (ed.): Computational Models of Narrative. Papers from the 2010 AAAI Fall Symposium, Menlo Park 2010 [AAAI Technical Report FS-10-04], 45–46. (Preprint)