BBC R&D

What we've done

This work is reviewing the literature on the many different forms of narrative that may provide useful structures for creating stories that can interact with and/or respond to the audience. Inspired by the work of Janet Murray this work has explored the pioneering study of oral storytellers by Milman Parry and Albert Lord along with the improvised theatre of Commedia dell’arte and compare these to the work of tour guides and the research at the University of Edinburgh on creating an AI museum guide. This initial study was published as a paper at IBC2018 titled "From Epic Poetry to AI: Discovering viable algorithms for creating responsive media."

The work has now shifted onto how the roles of storytellers and audiences have been renegotiated following the appearance of new technologies like printing, radio and television, taking in the study of narratology to provide a theory of narrative before exploring the roles that narrative plays in computer games and interactive fiction. One key author in this area is Walter J. Ong. In his book Orality and Literacy charts the transitions in culture and story forms following the introduction of writing and then printing. His essay The Writer's Audience is Always a Fiction is particularly useful in the way it describes the evolution of the role imposed on the reader by an author. This points the way towards audience roles that can be developed for forms of interaction and agency that work to make more engaging types of storytelling. The question of the audience's role is also a difficulty for producers working in 360 video, AR & VR where the distance provided by the frame of the video is now replaced with immersion.

This project is particularly focused on non-fiction narrative.  

Why it matters

There have been many attempts at creating interactive stories, but few of them have combined stories with interaction in a way that has had widespread appeal. The common trope of branching narrative has been rediscovered many times, but has several key disadvantages, not least in being expensive to produce, whilst many computer games contain embedded narrative, often in the form of chunks of story in cut scenes that interupt the gameplay. In some computer games the narrative is fixed and the player "wins" the game by working out the role of their character in acting out their part in the narrative

It is generally thought that giving meaningful agency to the audience can increase immersion and thereby enhance their engagement with the story. However, mainstream examples are few and far between. This may be because games developers and authors have focused on developing works of fiction rather than the documentary or feature form. Forms of interactive narrative have the potential to significantly increase the audience engagement with stories that matter to them so finding successful structures that enable their creation could be very valuable to public service organisations.

Our goals

This work is aiming to find ways of telling stories that naturally fit with interaction and then to create narrative templates that can be used to create responsive stories using our Object Based Media Toolkit. It is also helping shape the next steps in the Talking with Machines work.

How it works

Following on from the extensive literature review we will be looking to work with other parts of the BBC and university partners to develop working examples which can then be evaluated for their effectiveness.

This project is part of the Future Experience Technologies section

This project is part of the Stories work stream

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Project Team