Wednesday, November 30, 2011

ICIDS Day 1 - Keynote: Keith Oatley

Keith Oatley – Stories as Simulation in Print Fiction, Movies, and Interactive Media

University of Toronto – Physiological psychology, HCI, novelist
Fiction: something that’s been carefully constructed to create a certain psychological outcome
Writers of fiction were continuing the play of childhood – all mammals play, but not lizards or birds (how sad!). Brian Boyd, in 2009, said play is the origin of stories.
Art in general is the more or less conscious externalization of metaphors – this thing is something that it isn’t. A banana is also a phone to a child in play.
Paint factory 100,00 years ago; beads from 82,000; flute from 43,000, ritual burial from 40,000; cave paintings from 31,000.
The power of fiction is that metaphor can apply to oneself, as well as the world.
Donald Winnicot – Playing and Reality
Throughout childhood, one learns to define oneself by conceptualizing the other (caregiver) as a comparison to what one is not. This is mentalization. We understand others as we understand ourselves.
Beatrice Beebe – mother-child interactions on a second-by-second basis – the prototype of play
Interactive fiction beings in infancy – it is indivisible from play.
“Fictional stories are simulations that run on minds.” (Oatley, 1999 – Why Fiction May Be Twice as True as Fact)
“Such Stuff as Dreams” – The Psychology of Fiction – Keith Oatley
Fiction has binocular vision – we see the surface level, but we also understand some of what happens beneath the surface, and all of this is based on what we see in others and in ourselves, within the interactive frameworks we’ve come to recognize throughout our lives.
Flint & bags – 2,500,000 years ago; conversation – 250,000 years ago; writing – 5,000 years ago; printed books – 500 years ago; computers – 50 years ago; iPhone – 5 years ago.
There is a scale of involvement from a roller coaster ride (passive) to a novel (active emotional involvement)
Play: interact with another; games: carry out (competitive) action; oral storytelling: engage with storyteller; theatre: engage with drama model; print fiction: identify, sympathise; film: identify with desire; video games: carry out action, visit scenes; digital narrative: choice of action
Reflection, skills, listening, audience/discussion, reflection/discussion, listening/audience, skills, reflection
“Stories are trajectories of desire.”
Patrick Hogan (2003) – three kinds of stories are human universals – love story, heroic story (anger & conflict), suffering & sacrifice for the community
Fiction isn’t description – the writer’s job is to offer cues/instructions – a metaphor that evokes an idea. In turn, the reader’s part is to mentally create the imagined world – to start up your simulation and keep it running. They need to bring alive a simulated world and take a personal part in it, otherwise it’s all just marks on paper.
Each technology has three parts – the external object, the skills required for use and the cultural conventions surrounding that use.
You only really need three objects to create a vivid scene – people took cues of 6 phrases that described a room, but brain activity decreased after the first three, to the point where it is possible to infer that the room is as vividly imagined as necessary at that point.
Demis Hassabis – rising star?
The brain takes clues and applies to them previous understanding – it follows models and then reapplies them to the current situation. (time-saving processes - semiotics)
Fiction piggy-backs on this ability of the mind to recognize cues and create something understandable.
Kuleshov effect – if you want to scare the audience, don’t have the actor look scared – have him look passive, then cut to the view of the object – this creates metonymy – feeling something that isn’t actually there.
Current rate of changing shots in movies is about one shot per 4 seconds
The real interface is not between us and the visual world, but between us and each other, primarily language.
Ilya Sutskever – neural networks for predicting upcoming text
“What relation would you like between understanding how to make things happen (computer programming) and understanding how to enable things that happen (writing simulations that run on minds)?
What you want to be able to do is enabling people to feel what they feel, to think what they think, not telling them when and what to feel and think and how.
Psychology of Fiction –
If using a flight simulator can make you a better pilot, reading fiction could make you better at socializing (simulating environments). Do people who read fiction have improved theory of mind?
The more fiction you read, the better you are at recognizing cues given by people’s eyes (Simon Baron Cohen’s test). The more non-fiction you read, you’re not necessarily better, but it’s an expertise factor. Reading about genetics will make you better at identifying genetics, so reading fiction about relationships will make you better at identifying relationships.
Maja Djikic  - reading Chekov’s story The Lady with the Little Dog and a non-fictional version
After reading, each person changed a little. More importantly, each person felt and changed in their own way, not in a uniform emotion or sense, but in a way that meshed with their personality.
“Art enables us to change, not in a way desired by others, but in our own way.” Chekov believed ‘stating a problem correctly’ was better for an artist than ‘solving a problem’.
Fiction is not making things happen, it is enabling things to happen. [Paraphrased] Fiction gives us the ability to read within ourselves.
Avril Thorne – narrative psychologist
“As a psychologist, I can tell you what to think in a given situations. As a novelist, I don’t want to do that – I want to say, “Here’s this situation, what do you think?”
Stories do not end – culminations occur to episodes of interaction.

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