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Narrative Science And Phil Dick's Homeostatic Newspaper

Narrative Science is a tech start-up based in Evanston, Ill. that can take data from a wide variety of sources and turn that data into newspaper and magazine articles.

Narrative Science transforms data into high-quality editorial content. Our technology application generates news stories, industry reports, headlines and more — at scale and without human authoring or editing. Narratives can be created from almost any data set, be it numbers or text, structured or unstructured.

Whether you maintain your own proprietary database, or cover subjects supported by broadly available data including public data sources, our technology cost-effectively turns facts and figures into compelling stories in real time.
(Narrative Science)

The Big Ten Network actually started using Narrative Science technology in the spring of 2010 for short summaries of baseball and softball games.

[Articles] were posted on the network's Web site within a minute or two of the end of each game; box scores and play-by-play data were used to generate the brief articles. (Previously, the network relied on online summaries provided by university sports offices.)

As the spring sports season progressed, the computer-generated articles improved, helped by suggestions from editors on the network's staff, says Michael Calderon, vice president for digital and interactive media at the Big Ten Network.

The Narrative Science software can make inferences based on the historical data it collects and the sequence and outcomes of past games. To generate story "angles," explains Mr. Hammond of Narrative Science, the software learns concepts for articles like "individual effort," "team effort," "come from behind," "back and forth," "season high," "player's streak" and "rankings for team." Then the software decides what element is most important for that game, and it becomes the lead of the article, he said. The data also determines vocabulary selection. A lopsided score may well be termed a "rout" rather than a "win."

"Composition is the key concept," Mr. Hammond says. "This is not just taking data and spilling it over into text."
(NYTimes)

SF great Philip K. Dick foresaw this development in the 1960's. In his short story If There Were No Benny Cemoli, he describes a vast underground computer system called a homeostatic newspaper or a homeopape. Dick described it as "a vast complex electronic organism buried deep in the ground, responsible to no one, guided solely by its own ruling circuits."

"The structure," the minor CURBman said, "was once a great homeostatic newspaper, the New York Times. It printed itself directly below us... We haven't located the newspaper yet; it was customary for the homeopapes to be buried a mile or so down..."

"...the entire network of newspaper communication and news-creation has been idle since [the Misadventure]...

Early the next morning the report from the corps of engineers reached Hood in his temporary office. The power supply of the newspaper had been totally destroyed. But the cephalon, the governing brain structure which guided and oriented the homeostatic system, appeared to be intact... (Read more about Philip K. Dick's homeostatic newspapers)

From Narrative Science and NYTimes.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 9/9/2011)

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