Kevin Brooks, Ph.D.
My academic research evolved over the years into the area new media.
I wanted to synthesize a dream out
of fragments of memory, pieces of beliefs, sections of personal
mythology and theology, and parts of me which I delight in discovering
anew. It represents a period of my life during which I irreversibly
changed, evolved, improved and deteriorated - all at the same
time. But such is the life of a storyteller.
As an undergraduate and masters student I studied traditional linear written and cinematic narrative. The bulk of my doctoral work focused on non-linear narrative and evolved into what I eventually referred to as metalinear story systems. My major research project, entitled Agent Stories, is a story design and presentation environment for metalinear, multiple point-of-view cinematic stories. A 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 which sequences the story pieces. Thus, a metalinear story is not one story, but a a collection – a community of stories designed to be recombined from different points of view. The Agent Stories research endeavored to find new ways in which computational processes can assist in the development and presentation of stories and how user input can feed into these processes. Designed for the writer interested in building stories of multi-variant cinematic playout, the Agent Stories tool promoted the structuring and rewriting of metalinear narratives before and as they are realized in video and audio. My dissertation entitled Metalinear Cinematic Narrative: Theory, Process, and Tool, was completed in May of 1999.
I wrote a paper on the project called Do Agent Stories Use
Rocking Chairs: The Theory and Implementation of One Model for
Computational Narrative (pdf). It is published in the proceedings for ACM
Multimedia '96 and won best student paper.
Behind the Scenes of Agent Stories
For those interested, at one time I was developing this system using an object oriented icon based visual programming language called Prograph CPX. Some people called this type of programming "icons on strings" - though pejorative, it also seems appropriate. I called it cool. Instead of spending a lot of words explaining the pros and cons of Prograph, I'll simply say that it is most unfortunate that the company that developed Prograph went down the tubes. Somewhere out there I hope there is still a visual programming community in which Prograph's ideas will live on and evolve.
Being ever the revolutionary and interested more in telling
stories of culture and insight than spinning my wheels becoming a C++
or Java programmer, I switched to yet another software development
on the margins
of computer science.
mTropolis, which was first developed by mFactory and later bought out by Quark
(not a good thing and mFactory should have seen it coming)
was a cross platform object oriented multimedia authoring tool.
mTropolis was easier than C++ and in many ways better than Director.
It wasn't as strictly visual as Prograph, but was visual enough to really appeal
to visual thinkers and artistic programmers like myself. After owning it for
less than a year, Quark killed Prograph. For more information on visual
programming languages, see the Journal
of Visual Languages and Computing.
I've written a related paper about the Agent Stories project, reframed in the context of visual languages. The paper is framed around the notion that Agent Stories is not just developed with a visual programming language, but it also addresses the issue of using visual representation for designing story. That paper, called Programming Narrative (pdf), was published in the proceedings from Visual Languages '97.