[Freebase-discuss] The Many Lives of Fictional Characters
paul at ontology2.com
Tue Jan 19 17:40:30 UTC 2010
The representation of Fiction is a topic that's dear to my heart.
It's clear that we need some ability to separate out fictional words
from the real world, yet that separation shouldn't be 100%. For
instance, people often use analogies with fictional characters and
events to describe things in the real world. This is true both in
general ("Hamlet", "Darth Vader", and "The Terminator" are references
that you can trust people to understand) and in specific communities
(we've been watching "Get Smart" and "Macross F" in our house and both
of those provide references that are used analogically in conversations
all the time.)
The Microtheory concept used in Cyc and described in Guha's thesis,
see http://www-formal.stanford.edu/guha/ is the most advanced approach
to these issues that I've seen. I'm currently thinking a lot about how
to extend Named Graphs in RDF to support microtheories and other useful
Something interesting about fiction [and real life] is the multiple
versions of stories. There's a Japanese word "densetsu" which means
"legendary"; one of the characteristics of a "legend" in the Japanese
sense is a story that has an archetypical element that's told in
different ways. There are two Japanese religious texts, the "Nihonji"
and the "Kojiiki" that are quite a lot like the old testament of the
Bible: both are full of lists of who begat whom, what Emperor ruled
from what year to what year, etc. The two books basically tell the same
story, but the details are different: for instance, the exact reigns
of the emperors.
In fairy tales there's a fairly extreme version of this: many
versions of "Jack and the Beanstalk" are circulating. There's certainly
an archetypical core, but there's a range of variation about that.
And of course, continuity reboots are part and parcel of modern
visual fiction: for instance, the recent "Star Trek" movie paints a
somewhat different version of the young James Kirk than one would get
from the earlier "Star Trek". The live action version of "Sailor Moon"
tells essentially the same story as the first season of the anime, but
just a bit different.
You should also take a look at the excellent
these are based around the idea that characters and situations are
decomposable into common memes, or "tropes." This is probably the best
ontology of fiction I've seen so far.
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