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MIT Media Lab | Cognitive Machines


(you might also be interested in The AI Programmer's Bookshelf)


'General Exams' refers to the milestone that precedes proposing a PhD thesis at the MIT Media Lab. The exams process takes roughly six months, and includes a paper, two written exams, and an oral exam where the student demonstrates the ability to integrate three selected research areas -- a main, contextual, and technical area. Below are my reading lists for the three areas.

Main Area:

Models of the Mind

Contextual Area:

Interactive Storytelling

Technical Area:

Discourse and Dialogue


Main Area: Models of the Mind

Examiner: Deb Roy, PhD


Cognitive Architectures

Anderson, Matessa, Lebiere (1997). ACT-R: A Theory of Higher Level Cognition and Its Relation to Visual Attention. Human-Computer Interaction.

Burke, Isla, Downie, Ivanov, Blumberg (2001). CreatureSmarts: The Art and Architecture of a Virtual Brain. Proceedings of the Game Developers Conference.

Gray, Breazeal, Berlin, Brooks and Lieberman (2005), Action Parsing and Goal Inference using Self as Simulator. Proceedings of Fourteenth IEEE Workshop on Robot and Human Interactive Communication (Ro-Man05), Nashville, TN. 202-209.

Hsiao, Tellex, Vosoughi, Kubat, and Roy. (2008). Object Schemas for Grounding Language in a Responsive Robot. Connection Science.

Isla, Burke, Downie, Blumberg (2001). A Layered Brain Architecture for Synthetic Creatures. IJCAI.

Isla, Blumberg (2002). Object persistence for synthetic creatures. Proceedings of the first international joint conference on Autonomous agents and multiagent systems.

Lehman, Laird, Rosenbloom (2006). A gentle Introduction to Soar: 2006 update

Minsky (1987). The Society of Mind, Simon and Schuster.

Minsky (2006). The Emotion Machine, Simon and Schuster.

Deb Roy. (2008). A Mechanistic Model of Three Facets of Meaning. Symbols, Embodiment, and Meaning, de Vega, Glenberg, and Graesser, eds.

Singh (2005). EM-ONE: An Architecture for Reflective Commonsense Thinking. PhD Thesis, MIT.


Aspects of Representation (space, time, actions, plans)

Allen (1983). Maintaining knowledge about temporal intervals. Communications of the ACM.

Badler, Bindiganavale, Bourne, Palmer, Shi, Schuler, (2001). A Parameterized Action Representation for Virtual Human Agents, Embodied conversational agents, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.

Bratman (1987) Intention, Plans, and Practical Reason

Drescher (1991) Made-Up Minds: A Constructivist Approach to Artificial Intelligence, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.

Hammond (1986). CHEF: A model of case-based planning. Proceedings of the Fifth National Conference on Artificial Intelligence.

Kolodner (1992). An Introduction to Case-Based Reasoning. Artificial Intelligence Review 6(1):3-34.

Kuipers (2000) The Spatial Semantic Hierarchy. Artificial Intelligence.

Lynch (1960). The Image of the City. MIT Press.

Mataric (1994). Interaction and Intelligent Behavior. PhD Dissertation, MIT.

Schank (1972). Conceptual Dependency: A Theory of Natural Language Understanding. Cognitive Psychology.

Schank (1983). Dynamic Memory: A Theory of Reminding and Learning in Computers and People

Schank (1999). Dynamic Memory Revisited.

Ullman (1987). Visual routines. Image Understanding 1985-86. Intellect Books.

Sutton, Barto (1998) Reinforcement Learning: An Introduction. MIT Press


Social Cognition

Gal (2006). Reasoning about Rationality and Beliefs. PhD Dissertation, Harvard.

Kautz (1986). Generalized plan recognition. Proceedings of the Fifth National Conference on Artificial Intelligence.

Searle (1970). Speech Acts: An Essay in the Philosophy of Language. Cambridge University Press.

Tomasello (1986). Joint attention and early language. Child Development.

Vygotsky (1980). Mind in Society.


Scripts and Routines

Abelson (1981). Psychological status of the script concept. American Psychologist.

Bates (1979). The Emergence of Symbols: Cognition and Communication in Infancy. Academic Press.

Fillmore (1968) The Case for Case. In Bach and Harms (Ed.): Universals in Linguistic Theory. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston

Fleischman, DeCamp, and Roy. (2006). Mining Temporal Patterns of Movement for Video Content Classification. Proceedings of the 8th ACM SIGMM International Workshop on Multimedia Information Retrieval.

Minsky, A Framework for Representing Knowledge, MIT-AI Laboratory Memo 306, June, 1974.

Ratner & Bruner. (1978). Games, social exchange and the acquisition of language. Journal of Child Language, 5, 391-401.

Schank and Abelson (1977). Scripts, Plans, Goals and Understanding. Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ.

Schank (1995). Tell Me a Story: Narrative and Intelligence

Wittgenstein (1969). The Blue and Brown Books.


Semantic and Episodic Memory

Hassabis, and Maguire (2007). Deconstructing episodic memory with construction. Trends in Cognitive Science, 11, 299–306.

Schacter (2002). The Seven Sins of Memory: How the Mind Forgets and Remembers. Mariner Books.

Tulving (1972). Episodic and semantic memory. In E. Tulving & W. Donaldson (Eds.), Organization of memory, (pp. 381–403). New York: Academic Press.



Contextual Area: Interactive Storytelling

Examiner: Nick Montfort, PhD


Narrative Theory

Abbott, H. Porter (2008) The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative.

Aristotle (334 BCE) Poetics.

Bal, Mieke (1997) Narratology: Introduction to the Theory of Narrative. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Chatman, Seymour (1978) Story and Discourse: Narrative Structure in Fiction and Film. Ithaca, NY: Cornell.

Gervás, Pablo, Birte Lönneker-Rodman, Jan Christoph Meister, and Federico Peinado (2006) Narrative Models: Narratology Meets Artificial Intelligence. In Proceedings of Satellite Workshop: Toward Computational Models of Literary Analysis, 5th International Conference on Language Resources and Evaluation, eds. Roberto Basili and Alessandro Lenci, 44-51. 22nd May, Genoa, Italy.

Prince, Gerald (1982) Narratology: The Form and Functioning of Narrative.


Storytelling in Games

Adams, E. (1999). Three Problems for Interactive Storytellers. Designer's Notebook Column, Gamasutra.

Adams, E. (1999). It's Time to Bring Back Adventure Games. Designer's Notebook Column, Gamasutra.

Juul, Jesper. (2005) Half-Real: Video Games between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds.

Laurel, B. (1986) Toward the Design of a Computer-Based Interactive Fantasy System. Ph.D. thesis.

Montfort, Nick (2003) Twisty Little Passages: An Approach to Interactive Fiction. Cambridge: The MIT Press

Montfort, Nike and Stuart Moulthrop (2003) Face It, Tiger, You Just Hit the Jackpot: Reading and Playing Cadre's Varicella. Digital Arts and Culture, Melbourne, Australia.

Montfort, Nick (2007) Generating Narrative Variation in Interactive Fiction. Ph.D. Thesis.

Morningstar, Chip and F. Randall Farmer (2003) The Lessons of Lucasfilm's Habitat. The New Media Reader, eds. Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort, Cambridge: MIT Press, 664-677.

Nelson, Graham (1995) The Craft of Adventure: Five Articles on the Design of Adventure Games.

Old Man Murray (2001). Who Killed Adventure Games?.

Ryan, Marie-Laure (2004) Narrative across Media: The Languages of Storytelling.

Ryan, Marie-Laure (2006) Avatars of Story. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Smith, Sean and Joseph Bates (1989) Towards a Theory of Narrative for Interactive Fiction. Carnegie Mellon University Technical Report CMU-CS-89-121.

Wardrip-Fruin and P. Harrigan. (Eds.), First Person: New Media as Story, Performance and Game. Cambridge MA: The MIT Press

Young, R. Michael (2007) Story and discourse: A bipartite model of narrative generation in virtual worlds. Forthcoming in Interaction Studies 8, 2:177–208


Story Generation

Kantrowitz, Mark (1990) GLINDA: Natural Language Text Generation in the Oz Interactive Fiction Project. Technical Report CMU-CS-90-158, School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University.

Lang, R. 1999. A Declarative Model for Simple Narratives. In M. Mateas and P. Sengers (Eds.), Working notes of the Narrative Intelligence Symposium, AAAI Spring Symposium Series. Menlo Park: Calif.: AAAI Press

Rafeal Perez y Perez. Mike Sharples (2004) Three computer-based models of storytelling: BRUTUS, MINSTREL and MEXICA, Knowledge-Based Systems. 17(1).

Ryan, Marie-Laure (1992) Possible Worlds, Artificial Intelligence, and Narrative Theory.


Drama Management

Cavazza, M., Charles, F., and Mead, S. J. 2002. Sex, Lies and Videogames: an Interactive Storytelling Prototype. In Forbus, K., and El-Nasr, M. S. (Eds.), Proceedings of the AAAI 2002 Symposium on Artificial Intelligence and Interactive Entertainment, 13-17.

Galyean, T. 1995. Narrative Guidance of Interactivity. Ph.D. Dissertation, MIT Media Lab, MIT.

Mateas, Michael (1997) Computational Subjectivity in Virtual World Avatars. Working notes of the Socially Intelligent Agents Symposium, AAAI Fall Symposium Series. Menlo Park, Calif.: AAAI Press.

Mateas, Michael (2002) Interactive Drama, Art, and Artificial Intelligence. Ph.D. Thesis. Technical Report CMU-CS-02-206, School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University.

Mateas, M and Sengers, P (Eds.). 2002. Narrative Intelligence. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Szilas, Nicolas (2001) A new approach to interactive drama: From intelligent characters to an intelligent virtual narrator. Proceedings of the AAAI Spring Symposium on AI and Interactive Entertainment, 72-76.

Young, R. M. 2001. An Overview of the Mimesis Architecture: Integrating Intelligent Narrative Control into an Existing Gaming Environment. In The Working Notes of the AAAI Spring Symposium on Artificial Intelligence and Interactive Entertainment.


Interactive Fiction (IF) playlist

Barlowe, S. (1999) Aisle.

Cadre, A. (1999) Varicella.

Cadre, A. (2003) Narcolepsy.

Plotkin, A. (2000) Shade.

Short, E. (2000) Galatea.

Short, E. (2006) Bronze.



Technical Area: Discourse and Dialogue

Examiner: Candy Sidner, PhD


Theory of Discourse and Dialogue

Asher, N. and Lascarides, A. Logics of Conversation, Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Bunt, H. (1995) Dynamic Interpretation and Dialogue Theory. in M.Taylor, D. Bouwhuis & F. Néel (eds.) The Structure of Multimodal Dialogue, Vol. 2.

Grosz, Barbara J. and Candace L. Sidner. 1986. Attention, intentions, and the structure of discourse. Computational Linguistics, 12(3):175-204.

Grosz, B., Joshi, A., and Weinstein, S. Centering: A Framework for Modeling the Local Coherence of Discourse. In Computational Linguistics 2(21), pp. 203-225, 1995.

Lochbaum, K. E., A Collaborative Planning Model of Intentional Structure, CL, 24(4):525-572, 1998.

Mann, William C. and Sandra A. Thompson. 1988. Rhetorical structure theory: Toward a functional theory of text organization. Text, 8(3):243-281.

Marcu, D., The Rhetorical Parsing of Unrestricted Texts: A Surface-based Approach. CL, 26(3):396-448, 2000.

Traum, D. and Larsson, S. (2003) The Information State Approach to Dialogue Management. In Smith and Kuppevelt (eds.): Current and New Directions in Discourse & Dialogue, Kluwer Academic Publishers. (pp. 325-353).

Webber, B., Stone, M., Joshi, A., Knott, A. Anaphora and Discourse Structure, CL 29(4):545-587, 2003.


System Tools Based on Theory

Bohus, D., and Rudnicky, A. (2005) Error Handling in the RavenClaw dialog management architecture, in HLT-EMNLP-2005, Vancouver, CA.

Marcu, Daniel. (1999) A decision-based approach to rhetorical parsing. In Proceedings of the 37th Annual Meeting, pages 365-372, University of Maryland, June. Association for Computational Linguistics.

Rich, C., Sidner, C., and Lesh, N. Collagen: Applying collaborative discourse theory to human-computer interaction. AI Magazine, 22(4):15–25, 2001.


Dialogue Acts

Alexandersson, Jan; Bianka Buschbeck-Wolf; Tsutomu Fujinami; Kipp, Michael; Stephan Koch; Elisabeth Maier; Reithinger, Norbert; Birte Schmitz; Siegel, Melanie. Dialogue Acts in VERBMOBIL-2 - Second Edition.

Poesio, M., and Traum, D., Towards an Axiomatization of Dialogue Acts, In J. Hulstijn and A. Nijholt (eds.), Proceedings of the Twente Workshop on the Formal Semantics and Pragmatics of Dialogues (13th Twente Workshop on Language Technology), Enschede, pp., 207--222, May 1998.

Surendran, D. and Levow, G., Dialog Act Tagging with Support Vector Machines and Hidden Markov Models, Proceedings of Interspeech 2006, p. 1950-1953.


Dialog Coding

Bunt, H. 2006. Dimensions in dialogue annotation. In Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Language Resources and Evaluation (LREC 2006), pages 1444–1449.

Carletta, J., Isard, S., Anderson, A. H., Doherty-Sneddon, G., Isard, A., Kowtko, J. C. The Reliability of a Dialogue Structure Coding Scheme. Computational Linguistics, 23(1): 12-31, 1997.

Core, M. and Allen, J. Coding Dialogs with the DAMSL Annotation Scheme, Presented at AAAI Fall Symposium on Communicative Action in Humans and Machines, Boston, MA, November 1997, pages 28-35.

Discourse Structure Coding chapter in: The Report of The Third Workshop of the Discourse Resource Initiative, Editors: Mark Core, Masato Ishizaki, Johanna Moore, Christine Nakatani, Norbert Reithinger, David Traum, and Syun Tutiya, Chiba Corpus Project Technical Report No. 3 (CC-TR-99-1), Department of Cognitive and Information Sciences, Faculty of Letters, Chiba University, 1-33 Yayoi-cho, Inage-ku, Chiba, 263-8522, August, 1999.

Webb, N., Liu, T., Hepple, M. and Wilks, Y. Cross-Domain Dialogue Act Tagging. In Proceedings of LREC 2008.



Clark, H. H. (1996). Using language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sidner, C.L. An Artificial Discourse Language for Collaborative Negotiation. in Proceedings of the Twelfth National Conference on Artificial Intelligence , MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, Vol 1, pgs. 814-819, 1994.

Traum, D. A Computational Theory of Grounding in Natural Language Conversation, TR 545 and Ph.D. Thesis, Computer Science Dept., U. Rochester, December 1994.


More Statistical Approaches

Barzilay, R., & Lapata, M. (2005). Modeling local coherence: an entity-based approach. In Proceedings of ACL (p. 141-148).

Thomson, B., Schatzmann, J., and Young, S. (2008). Bayesian Update of Dialogue State for Robust Dialogue Systems. Int Conf Acoustics Speech and Signal Processing ICASSP, Las Vegas.


Interesting New Directions

Allen, J. F., N. Chambers, et al. (2007). PLOW: A collaborative task learning agent. National Conference on Artificial Intelligence (AAAI). Vancouver, BC.

Bickmore, T. and Picard, R. (2005) Establishing and Maintaining Long-Term Human-Computer Relationships. ACM Transactions on Computer Human Interaction (ToCHI), 59(1): 21-30.


Annotation Tools

Anvil 4.0 manual

Elan annotation tool manual