Media Lab Helsinki

INICS – Interactive Narratives in Cross-media Systems

INiCS (Interactive Narratives in Cross-media Systems) explores and develops various interactive narrative concepts for multiple forms of digital media, including computer games, cinema, internet chatrooms, digital TV and soundscapes. The project proposes particular intelligent interaction concepts to be applied in managing interactive narrative structures across genres of interactive media art, based on experimental dramatic concepts. The Activation-based Recursive Self-Organizing Map algorithm is adopted as a means of representing narrative landscapes and trajectories, and as a technology to serve 1) as a nonlinear scripting concept allowing both conventional a priori authoring as well as dynamic online adaptivity to participants’ actions, 2) as a anticipatory control logic that puts the default linear narrative (director’s cut) into dialog with participants’ interactive choices, 3) maintains a continuous anticipatory drive, and 4) offers a spatial visualization for the basis of cognitively ergonomic interfacing the complex material.

The project builds on the theoretical premises of cognitive ecology or dynamism, claiming that the approach is commensurate with the character-driven narrative practice of the improvisation theatre Commedia dell’Arte. This approach allows us to investigate narrative systems that learn to anticipate certain sequences of events cross the narrative space.

For the design of interactive characters, the concept offers a rich technical platform to build dialogues on. Speech or actions can be programmed to react in relation to the direction on which the user-participant is moving in the narrative landscape while the narrative possibilities still remain in the control of the system and the author. The HCI domain offers methodology for standard information technology products, but methods for genuinely interactive and in particular anticipatory intelligence still remain to be captured.

The project’s research issues are closely related, contribute to and learn from several research productions (see Productions) in the Crucible Studio.

The research is financed by the Academy of Finland until 2006. Two degrees of doctor of art are expected to conclude at the end of the project.


The research team consists of

· Robert Ahonius, MA, doctoral student (human computer interaction)

· Leena Saarinen, MA, doctoral student (interaction design & cyber ethnography)

· Mika Tuomola, MA, artistic director, dramaturge/director (interactive and participatory drama)

· Mauri Kaipainen, PhD, professor, project coordinator (Research on complex adaptive systems, in particular the ARSOM algorithm)

· Rasmus Vuori, Researcher/System Designer (algorithmic and interface development)