Re: Levi-Strauss etc.

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Tue, 17 Jun 1997 13:14:04 -0500

From: <>
Date: Tue, 17 Jun 1997 13:14:04 -0500
Subject: Re: Levi-Strauss etc.


I want to thank you for your comments on story organization. I have been
hunting around for a framework to evaluate a 'story structure' tool I've
found called 'Dramatica,' by Screenplay Systems. It uses something of a
binary scheme for thematic elements. Their binary units are matter and
mind. The program was written by and for screenwriters. The program has
only be out a few years, but already seems to be having some success in
Hollywood (a few episodes of Pickett Fences and Star Trek, Next

I'm interested in 'story theory' because I suspect it is inextricably
linked with memetic interpretation. 'Story' seems have an instinctive
aspect. Dennett's recap of Geldard and Sherrick's 'cutaneous rabbit'
experiment demonstrates this:

"The subject's arm rests cushioned on a table, and mechanical tappers are
placed on two or three locations along the arm, up to a foot apart. A
series of taps in rhythm are delivered by the tappers, e.g., five at the
wrist followed by two near the elbow and then three more on the upper arm.
The taps are delivered with interstimulus intervals between 50 and 200
msec. So a train of taps might last a second, or as much as two or three
seconds. The astonishing effect is that taps seem to the subjects to
travel in a regular sequence over equidistant points up the arm - as if a
little animal were hopping up the arm." Consciousness Explained, pg 143)

Thus, it seems the brain instinctively creates the 'story' of a little
animal, synthesizing without conscious request, a set of rhythmic
experiences into a 'story' about a creature. This is certainly an
extensive elaboration upon the actual experiential sensations, perhaps
interpreted as a 'decoding' process. The taps are interpreted as 'code'
and the story is the 'uncoded' experience (meaning). There is also some
very interesting things happening with time and memes here, since there is
no way to know the 'story' of the bunny hopping up the arm until all the
sensations are available to the brain, but the conscious perception
involves a confirming sensation about a bunny hop at the beginning of the
sequence. Dennett suggests this represents a rewriting of the tapping
experience 'memory' to conform to the story synthesis. In other words,
the 'compressed' code (original memes) are replaced by 'decompressed code'
(meaningful memes) after a synthesis process. Thus, this is an example of
biased meme replication occuring within a few milliseconds of the
experience via subconscious processing.

I'd like to know if you have looked this aspect of story. I suspect our
musical appreciation takes advantage of this aspect of our brains.


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