Metalinear Cinematic Narrative:
Theory, Process, and Tool
Kevin Michael Brooks

Submitted to the Program in Media Arts and Sciences, School of Architecture and
Planning, on April 30th, 1999, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy

Media entertainment technology is evolving rapidly. From radio to broadcast television to cable television, from motion picture film to the promise of digital video disks, as the media evolves, so do the stories told over these media. We already share many more stories and more types of stories from many more sources than we did a decade ago. This is due in part to the development of computer technology, the globalization of computer networks, and the emerging new medium which is an amalgam of television and the internet. The storyteller will need to invent new creative processes and work with new tools which support this new medium, this new narrative form.

This thesis proposes the name Metalinear Narrative for the new narrative form. The metalinear narrative is a collection of small related story pieces designed to be arranged in many different ways, to tell many different linear stories from different points of view, with the aid of a story engine.

Agent Stories is the software tool developed as part of this research for designing and presenting metalinear cinematic narratives. Agent Stories is comprised of a set of environments for authoring pieces of stories, authoring the relationships between the many story pieces, and for designing an abstract narrative structure for sequencing those pieces. Agent Stories also provides a set of software agents called story agents, which act as the drivers of the story engine.

My thesis is that a writing tool which offers the author knowledgeable feedback about narrative construction and context during the creative process is essential to the task of creating metalinear narratives of significant dimension.



Thesis Advisor:
   Glorianna Davenport
    Principal Research Associate, Director of Interactive Cinema
    Program in Media Arts and Sciences

Committee Members:
    Janet H. Murray, Ph.D.
    Senior Research Scientist
    Center for Educational Computing Initiatives
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology

    Brian K. Smith, Ph.D.
    Assistant Professor
    Explanation Architecture
    Program in Media Arts and Sciences



To my children Stephan, Cara, and Kristoff


to Dr. David Morgan



 Acknowledgements .pdf (149K) .ps (248K)
 Table of Contents .pdf (182K) .ps (330K)
 1 - Introduction .pdf (248K) .ps (528K)
 2 - Background and Context .pdf (231K) .ps (726K)
 3 - The Problem .pdf (692K) .ps (6.7MB)
 4 - The Agent Stories System .pdf (941K) .ps (10MB)
 5 - Authoring and Evaluation .pdf (264K) .ps (446K)
 6 - Stories .pdf (479K) .ps (1.2MB)
 7 - Conclusion .pdf (198K) .ps (314K)
 Bibliography .pdf (264K) .ps (462K)


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