Narrative in the Real World: Anticipatory Targeting of Data Gathering Resources (Part 1)

From Melanie Anne Phillips, Owner of

Here’s the beginning of an article I wrote back a few years ago when I was a consultant for the CIA and the NSA on narrative psychology and its application for counter-terrorism. I eventually finished the article, but am cleaning out my hard drive and this initial draft is the first thing I found and figured it was still worth publishing as an insight into the process:

Anticipatory Targeting of Data Gathering Resources

By Melanie Anne Phillips, Co-creator, Dramatica Theory

The Problem

The ability to assess a current situation and accurately predict its course is perhaps the paramount requirement for the security of an individual or a nation. To that end, we have developed ever more sophisticated systems for gathering and analyzing information to both understand the dangers of the present and to be prepared for emerging dangers in the future.

Current systems are largely based on a marriage of statistical databases and a variety of algorithms ranging from influence networks to hub theory to fluid dynamics and even models of the progression of infectious diseases. Increasingly, advancements in artificial intelligence have provided additional capability through the application of machine learning, group mind theory, and hierarchies of intelligent agents.

Despite these enhancements, our technology is rapidly approaching a limit as to how much more accurate and predictive it can become, regardless of further developments based on the same fundamental approaches. As a result, though our capacity to gather data has increased explosively, our ability to understand predictive patterns and employ them in a feedback loop to redirect our data gathering resources has lagged behind.

The problem behind this limitation is that there remains a missing piece in our analytic capacity: the ability to definitively model and predict the human element in terms of motivations and responses. While we can create algorithms to describe patterns of human movement and can assess individuals and organizations through psychological profiling, these approaches are largely built upon probability based on historic observation.
What is lacking is a unifying paradigm of human behavior based not on statistics, but on the underlying dynamics and interaction of mental processes, both cognitive and affective – essentially, a model of the mind itself.

Historically, attempts to model the mind have proven insufficient, but recently a much more functional system, which has been employed successfully in the field of narrative science for nearly twenty years, has emerged as a viable solution to the problem.
What follows is a description of this system and how it might be incorporated into to the existing framework of our data gathering resources.

The Solution

The Method

The Basis

The concepts in this article owe their roots to our Dramatica Theory of Narrative Structure.  You can read our entire book explaining the theory here in PDF or on Amazon, and you may wish to demo our Dramatica narrative construction and analysis software based on our model of narrative psychology for use in fiction and the real world.

I’ll publish the complete article, if and when I find it as I plow through the archives…

This entry was posted in Narrative in the Real World. Bookmark the permalink.