From Aristotle to Gabriel: Narratology for Story Technologists

Just published is this report from the Storymaking Project by KMi student Joanna Kwiat:

Kwiat, J. (2008). From Aristotle to Gabriel: A Summary of the Narratology Literature for Story Technologies. Technical Report KMI-08-01, Knowledge Media Institute, The Open University, UK. Available at:

Anyone working on story technologies or annotation will find this of interest. Details below.


This purpose of this report is to provide a practical guide for story technologists. The report is organised in two parts. In the first part we explore, more or less chronologically, past and contemporary story models and in the second part we look at more recent theories and implementations examined in a story-making context.

In recent years there has been resurgence of interest in the both the medium and message of the story. However, we shall confine our discussion to structural theories and models because we assume firstly, that the main concerns for the story technologist are: story generation, annotation and organisation; secondly, we also want to offer the interested reader, a basic introduction to the still emerging discipline of narratology.

One reason for concentrating in Part 1 on past and contemporary story models is that it provides us with a vocabulary just in order to discuss this most familiar form of human communication; secondly it will help us identify whether and how originating theories have influenced those that are more applied which we shall discuss in Part 2.

In order to confine the search, we tend in Part 1 to disregard more abstract models and to concentrate solely on originating theories but which are described in concrete structural terms. Thus we are able to identify three broad research domains: literature, culture and cognition, each of which can be subdivided into three phases of development. Starting with the Aristotelian argument that the story to be appreciated as such, must meet certain structural criteria we follow an almost inevitable path from what we call the grammatical models to a period when the story was regarded as having a structure that could be paralleled to the linguistic structure of the sentence and, moreover, could be generated from a similar rule set. A powerful counter argument was that perfect syntax does not guarantee a story product and that matters of discourse are just as important to consider. Beyond the story grammars, there is a very active period and a diversity of theories but one thing most of them have in common is that the plot, no longer regarded as paramount, gives way to such things as narrator motive and audience response. We have in our own research used these more sophisticated models to identify and lift out stories from general online discussion threads; in addition they are informing our design and development of markup schemas for digital storybases.

Whereas Part 1 follows the rise and development of narratology, Part 2 brings our review of the literature up-to-date. Here, however, we are less concerned with the origin of ideas and more concerned with how they have informed contemporary applications. The concept of story-making offered by Harvey and Martin (1995) allows us to examine these later models from four perspectives: construction, recall, understanding and telling. We use these four perspectives as a basis for making judgements about which models are principally oriented towards, address or succeed in each of these areas.

CONTACT: Jkwiat {at}

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