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Learning from Experience: Viterbi News Features Andrew Gordon’s Narrative Work

April 16, 2014

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A story on the Viterbi website highlights Andrew Gordon’s narrative research. It also includes a video on his Heider-Simmel Interactive Theater project.

Gordon’s goal is for computers also to learn from experiences—experiences people share when they narrate and interpret the events of their lives. Driven by a desire to develop machines that can think like people, he is identifying, collecting and studying stories in order to give computers knowledge they can apply in new situations.

His narrative research intersects with many of the multidisciplinary topics explored at the 15-year-old ICT, a research center established at USC by the U.S. Army to advance the state of the art in simulation and training. Story is a common thread throughout the institute, which specializes in the creation, study and use of believable characters and scenarios.

“Soldiers swap war stories for a reason,” said Gordon, whose current work is funded by the Army, Navy and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, also known as DARPA. “They help people explain why things happened and predict what will happen next. They serve to pass on knowledge of things that people didn’t go through themselves.”

USC, home of top art and communication schools, is a natural fit for someone interested in narrative. What is unusual is to find this focus in a department of computer science, where Gordon’s research ranges from basic science analyzing the structure of stories to the development of training video games that incorporate real-world lessons. He has turned the Internet into a living laboratory by collecting and analyzing millions of personal accounts posted on blogs. He even developed a documentary about the bloggers he studied.
Gordon’s overarching challenge is to understand the processes that produce stories and program computers with the same interpretive powers. Read the full story here.

Can Computers Tell Stories? from USC Viterbi on Vimeo.