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Ontobrands as prototypical stories attract stigmergic narrative mediation and swarming

January 12, 2010

As part of one paper An ontospacial representation of writing narratives in hybrid ecosystem I try to explain narrative behaviors in hybrid ecosystem using the ontospacial method.

I suggest that if as part of our interaction with the world the new social software environments would be combined with the actual locations where we live, it would allow new forms of storytelling and new type of hybrid stories to appear.

In this environment new storytelling conceptualization may be applied based on dynamic ontospace representation. It enables to view stories as emergent prototypes or ontobrands in ontospace and allows stigmergic co-construction and action upon individual stories.

I assume that using ontospacial representation of hybrid ecosystem, the individuals may be provided with the means of enacting with this hybrid ecosystem more efficient ways, such as being involved into emergent co-construction and action.

Hybrid ecosystem components

Social media environments together with geographical locations can be conceptualized as a “hybrid ecosystem”, provided that participants of social media have ecological dependence of the particular set of mediators that they use as their niche for taking action. Artifacts (eg. digital narratives, images, real-world objects), software (eg. social software tools), language (eg. user-created ontologies such as tags), other actors, and geographical locations all serve as mediators of action.

“Narrative mediation” is a concept that suggests that we enact with the world through telling stories in which we seek to establish coherence for ourselves and produce lives, careers, relationships and communities (Winslade & Monk, 2000).

Individual and community places and -stories may be made visible on the representations of the hybrid ecosystem, for example using ontospace methods.

This metadata approach enables participants to dynamically define descriptive feature dimensions (ontodimensions) that altogether constitute a dynamic ontological space (ontospace) (Kaipainen et al., 2008).

A perspective is a personal priorization of shared dimensions of an ecosystem. People actualize certain meaningful parts of the hybrid ecosystem by narrative mediation of places.

Ryden (1993) includes four essential qualities that contribute in making sense of a place: personal memory, community history, physical landscape appearance, and emotional attachment.
The augmented concept of place not only refers to a geo-position, but to the holistic conglomeration of events, objects, emotions and actions of an individual in the place, and includes both virtual and natural, e.g. geographical elements. For example, as part of writing individual narratives individuals may define places by associating artifacts such as impressions, historical content, images etc. with geographical locations.

Individual entities (e.g. places) occupy ontospace, and each of them can be identified by its position in the ontospace.

The ontospatial formalism allows the identification of niches as community-specific and community-determined subspaces of an ontospace, an optimally meaningful regions for the communities. The ontocoordinate system allows us to define a niche as the n-dimensional hypervolume delimited by the range of each ontodimension that is optimal for meaning and action sharing.

The dynamic hybrid ecosystem shapes its participants and itself, and allows the evolution of the community ‘habitat’ for community actions and meanings. Visualizations of more favored community places in the community niche would serve as maps for individual community members in narrative mediation.

We can separate the following aspects of interacting with the hybrid ecosystem:
a) Defining ontodimensions and taking personal perspectives while narrating the hybrid story evokes meaningful places in ontospace and contributes to the formation of the community niche;
b) Social surveillance as a participatory monitoring, empowering and subjectivity building practice in hybrid ecosystem allows dynamic awareness of the state of the ontospace;
c) Social navigation in ontospace, as a behavior of considering narrative actions and incorporating the story contents of some other individuals into their own narratives, orientates each narrator’s enactment with the ontospace;
d) Social information retrieval such as semantic navigation by community browsing, actualizing some ontospace dimensions and using the found contents to guide their own perspectives allows individuals to focus their meaning building and action into the community niche;
e) Stimergy and swarming refers to an uncoordinated interaction of autonomous agents with the dynamic ontospace (b-d), and leaving feedback to this system (a) which at macro-level causes the emergence of global coherent behaviors such as collaborative agglomeration of stories. Stigmergic narrative action may initiate swarming phenomena in ontospace.

A person’s path in an in hybrid ecosystem from one place to another may be described as a “trajectory” in an ontospace. When writing hybrid narratives, each person moves along personal trajectory in the ontospace, creating particular personal places. This trajectory is not predetermined with the story plot but emerges during enaction with the ecosystem. The trajectory as a storyline is determined by and combined from a limited set of dimensions that the person highlights, and a small number of hybrid places where the person stays during activities. Thus, the trajectory usually fluctuates between the limited amounts of closely situated positions in the hybrid space.

Niches in the community are dynamically changing. They serve as “attractor basins” for the community members in ontospace. An attractor concept signifies a point, or region – set of points – in ontospace. The attractor governs the motion through the space – any individual trajectory passing close to that point/region will be sucked in it if it reaches to the basin of attraction (an area of attractor influence) (Beer, 1995). Attractors may constitute individual or community-cultural preferences.

Beer (1995) describes that the boundaries between different attractor basins can be reshaped in case if certain space dimensions are changed, which will happen when people take perspectives during narrative mediation.

The new view to storytelling focuses on the places in ontospace that serve as attractors for community’s stigmergic action.

Churchland (1989) depicts connectionist networks as essentially embodying knowledge structures organized around prototype-style representations. The prototype in his framework is a point or small volume in an abstract state space of possible activation vectors. In dynamical terms, the prototype position is called an attractor (ibid). Such attractors in the multidimensional semantic space may represent the meanings of words such as tags. As another approach, Nello Barile (2009) has used the term ontobrand to describe the process by which personal places would arise in narrated mediation process in hybrid ecosystem. He assumes that if the traditional branding was just a tool in the hands of companies to build their own image and positioning in the collective mind, the self-branding approach demonstrates how the marketing thought is a state of mind that produces an existential positioning.

I suggest that ontobrands are story prototypes, which emerge if a person continuously takes closely related perspectives in an ontospace. They serve as attractors for the storyteller himself and for the other storytellers, constraining and guiding their enactment in this ecosystem.

For the dataset i used one participant’s weekly blog postings (http://uits.wordpress.com). The Ontospace Explorer (OSE) tool (http://kerg.tlu.ee/demos/multi-perspective-exploration) was used for visualizing the ideas.

I extracted the tags from blog posts and additionally categorized posts by three perceived story dimensions (story prototypes) that the narrator suggested. Each story dimension associated with certain tags, thus, the stories could be positioned into the tagspace as attractor basins. This personal tagspace did not represent the whole hybrid ecosystem, since the dimensions mapped with geotags and content coordinates in software were not considered.

Figure presents the trajectory of the story mapped in the ontospace from one attractor area to another. It appeared that certain perspectives served constantly as attractors as the storyteller moved on in the daily activities. While the narrator herself perceived the three story-dimensions as attractor basins and constantly took perspectives in ontospace that were in their proximity, for the other actors in hybrid ecosystem mainly the social surveillance behavior allowed them to be attracted by stories.

It became evident that individual storytellers would act largely as autonomous agents, aligning their narratives according to story prototypes that they perceive.

Swarming actions took place around perceived stories as attractor areas in ontospace. Many storytellers were autonomously contributing to the emerging shared stories.
For example:
a) dedicated contents that were suggested for other stories;
b) composing mutated versions of the story content; and
c) joint agglomeration for the same story prototype.

Churchland, P.M. (1989). A Neurocomputational Perspective. MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Barile, N. (2009). From post-human consumer to the ontobranding dimension: mobile phones and other ubiquitous devices as a new way in which reality can promote itself Presented at Mobile Communication and Social Policy Conference conference October 9-11, 2009 
Center for Mobile Communication Studies, Rutgers University 
New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA.

Winslade, J. & Monk, G. (2000). Narrative Mediation: A New Approach to Conflict Resolution. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Ryden, K.C. (1993). Mapping the invisible landscape: folklore, writing, and the sense of place (p. 94). Iowa City, IA: University of Iowa Press.

Kaipainen, M., Normak, P., Niglas, K., Kippar, J., Laanpere, M. (2008). Soft ontologies, spatial representations and multiperspective explorability. Expert Systems, 25(5), 474-483.

Beer, R. (1995). A Dynamical Systems Perspective on Agent-Environment Interactions. Artificial Intelligence, 72, 173-215.

I have also some ideas about the ecological competition of ontobrands in ontospace.

Another thought to be elaborated is the translation of ontobrands from one community niche to another during stigmergic narrative mediation.

—————

There is an interesting duality explained by A.Parsons about narrative environments. I believe that what he refers to the environmental end of the narrative supports my story conceptualization in ontospacial terms.

rhizomes,19 summer 2009
Narrative environments: how do they matter?
Allan Parsons

Narrative environment is both a narrative and an environment at once.
Following Ricoeur (1984), it might be said that narrative orients us in time; while environment orients us in space.

Ricoeur, P. (1984). Time and narrative. Vol. 1. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

We orient ourselves within those worlds and actively navigate those worlds temporally (through narrative) and spatially (through environment) and spatio-temporally through narrative environments.

The conjunction of the two terms ‘narrative’ and ‘environment’ suggests a number of alternative understandings, depending on whether the former term qualifies the latter or vice versa:

- The environment of the narrative (narrative as environment);
In this incision, narrative is ‘that which tells’ and environment is ‘that which
surrounds’.

- The narrative of the environment, “environmental discourse” (environment as narrative).
A narrative environment, then, could be defined as a situated narrative, or a site-specific narrative, like a piece of installation art, framed by the elements which establish place-hood or place-ness.

Narratives are both the telling (plot or emplotment, the sequence of events as
told, narrative discourse) and the tale itself (story or narrative structure, with beginning, middle and end).

Environments both surround (actively environ, enclose and condition) and are the surroundings (environmental structures, categories and entities).

‘Narrative’ and ‘environment’ could be seen as two ends of a single spectrum.

At the narrative end, the world is enveloped by culture, order established through material cultural artefacts.
At the environment end, the world remains beyond cultural order in its presumed innocent, natural and/or wild state, order as the state or states of nature.

Narrative environments impel, pervade and mediate our understandings of our everyday, experiential worlds.

A narrative environment, as an encyclopaedia entry, is a node of knowledge, but in the world, not in the pages of a book. It is part of a network of narrative environments. The sense that it makes is localised, contextualised, but also networked, globalised. Together, as encyclopaedia, as labyrinth, narrative environments encircle the world, but they form an inconceivable totality. It is in this sense that narrative environments enact order into the world, and orient us to the world, while the world as a whole remains an inconceivable totality.

Story, place, interaction and self are ways of making sense and order.

Spacial dimension of narrative is expressed by De Certeau (1984): Certeau, Michel de. 1984. The practice of everyday life. Berkeley, London: University of California Press.

In The practice of everyday life (1984), De Certeau dedicates a chapter to the working of spatial stories.
Spatial stories are everywhere according to De Certeau. Not only do we need them to make sense of everyday life; stories are the central organizing principle for all human activity and are especially important when trying to come to grips with spatial change: ‘[E]very day, they traverse and organize places. (…) They are spatial trajectories’ (De Certeau 1984, 115).

To understand how such spatial stories take shape, he makes the aforementioned distinction between space and place and map and tour.

The most important difference between place (‘lieu’) and space (‘espace’) is that the first term is about stability and an ordered configuration of elements, whilst the latter rather implies mobility and has a ‘polyvalent’ character. Place refers to the ‘proper’ order, to the way spatial positions are related in an objective account, whilst space is about how we deal with spatiality as ‘a practiced place’. To explain the difference, De Certeau gives the example of walking the streets of a city. The geometrical configuration of the streets he equates with place, while the act of traversing these streets changes them into space. Thus, place is set and univocal, while the notion of space has as many meanings as there are walkers (De Certeau 1984, 117).

De Certeau speaks of both terms as constantly influencing each other. He identifies place as having the purpose to create static and lifeless objects. Space, on the other hand, presupposes a subjective purpose. It implies movement and change. In stories, these two determinations should be understood as in constant fluctuation in which a lifeless, objective, abstract place can become an animated and changeable, concrete space. Conversely, space can also be consolidated into place (De Certeau 1984, 117-21).

De Certeau introduces the difference between the map and the tour as a means to distinguish the different modes of the interplay of space and place in one of the most basic travel stories, namely spatial descriptions. From a study of how residents experience their apartments, he learned that the majority of people describe their dwellings in terms of moving about, and that only a small minority uses terms of seeing to explain how their apartments look. De Certeau links the latter to the notion of the map. A map can be described as a static representation of the world we live in. It objectifies spatial relations. The moving mode he relates to the notion of the tour. Touring is a dynamic principle that is subjective, since the point of view of the traveler is central. According to De Certeau these two conceptions of spatiality are both incongruous dimensions of contemporary culture.

Just like place and space, maps and tours necessitate one another and come into being through a reciprocal movement. Even more so as a map always presupposes a tour; one first needs to go somewhere to give an objective spatial account of it (De Certeau 1984, 117-21).

Two other objects important to De Certeau’s definition of spatial story are the frontier and the bridge.

De Certeau argues that stories perform an important function in everyday life by setting limitations. By describing space, they arrange and order cultural domains. As such they not only set limits but also alter boundaries: ‘one can see that the primary function is to authorize the establishment, displacement or
transcendence of limits’ (De Certeau 1984, 123). To describe this paradoxical quality of boundaries, he distinguishes two narrative figures in every story that have the power to fix boundaries and to revise them, namely the frontier and the bridge, respectively.
In explaining the figure of the frontier, De Certeau takes his reader on an etymological tour to prove that stories are ways of creating borders. If more scattered now than before, the ‘primary role of stories’ has always been to function as a playground for actions after their formation as a delineated domain. Such actions can nevertheless also transgress the limits that are first set by the story (e. g. feudal conflicts in which set borders are contested). As such, boundaries are the prerequisite for any social practice. In this process the figure of the frontier and the bridge entertain a paradoxical relationship (De Certeau 1984, 118).

The frontier has a mediating or ‘bridging’ quality because it is the point of contact between the two entities it separates. In itself it does not belong to either entity (De Certeau 1984, 126-28). Frontiers are in that sense twilight zones.

Because the player is able to draw and transcend boundaries and can be interactively involved in creating a spatial story, the emphasis lies on the passing of borders. Players become enactors instead of tellers of spatial stories, trying to develop a story by pushing spatial limits.

Burkitt, I. (2005). Situating auto/biography: biography and narrativity in the times and places of everyday life.
Auto/Biography, 13, pp.93-110.

Not all narrative environments operate as ecological niches, or ‘lived places’.
narrative environments are ‘thin environments’ in some sense, in that they lack existential significance.

In place as ecological niche, the organism/person relies on the environment for survival in practice and on the continuing viability of the organism-environment relationship. In some narrative environments, the organism/person may be more or less well informed or entertained, but their survival does not depend, in any ongoing sense, on a continuing viable relationship between organism/person and narrative environment.

If narrative environments were to work as ecological niches, there would have to be a plurality and a diversity, of different levels and different types, not just a multiplicity of, and within, the same, and such a diversity, given the unpredictability of the entire field of interaction, would be difficult to design or plan, or to know in advance.

Place and self are intrinsically inter-related.
Narrative environments are places themselves. They do not simply depend on the existence of other places.

A lived place is open-ended, an inconceivable globality, constantly being revised in terms of its localised, but networked, narratives and goals.

Narrative environments are not just sets of representations (signs), however polysemous or paradoxical, but also sets of performatives (acts); they are signs-acts.

Narrative environmental space is a space of practice: spatialisation taking place and making place.

The ‘economies of experience’ are organised around embodied selves, the production, enaction and alteration of subjectivity (subjecthood and subjection).
Narrative environment needs to be extended semiotically and bodily (from linguistic to non-linguistic, embodied forms of inter-action) as well as contextually (from linguistic-discursive environment to the designed, architected, shaped material-cultural environment).

Stories are the means by which one understands one’s place in the world: habitat or niche (ecological place); interpersonal roles (familial and communal place); societal roles (political and economic place); and place); interpersonal roles (familial and communal place); societal roles (political and economic place); and sense of embodied self (individuated place and imaginary place).

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One comment

  1. [...] Anyway, i think this idea is wonderfully well in line and inspiring to my own spatial storytelling experiments in hybrid ecosystem. [...]



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