I was joking when I entered on Google, “Where was my coworker yesterday?” After reviewing the responses that appeared from the search engine, I continued, “What did she eat for breakfast?” Sometimes the responses to my everyday questions seem insightful – on a certain level, interesting and intriguing. Usually the quality of the responses is quite poor. I assume therefore that the algorithms operating in the background don’t “understand” the sense of what I am asking. If I were to ask, “Was Shelly sick yesterday?” perhaps the most correct response would be something like, “Which Shelly do you mean?” A search algorithm might be able to provide a more intelligent response to questions expressed in the vernacular if webpages contain narrative code: e.g. perhaps embedded within <narrative></narrative>. I will be using this blog to describe the general concept.
I have my own coding system called BERLIN. I am not German. Nor have I ever visited the fine city of Berlin. The system was hammered out using German fairytales from the Brothers Grimm. BERLIN stands for Behavioural Event Reconstruction Linguistic Interface for Narratives. Language is designed for people. Narrative code is meant for computers. On a simple level, a “sentence” on BERLIN involves 1) an action; 2) somebody or something giving rise to the action; and 3) somebody or something receiving or implicated in the action. However, there are all sorts of elements as shown below to explain the details of the three main components. Readers will recognize that I use English, French, German, and Norwegian words for the elements. I don’t necessarily use them in the same sense as the native language. The meaning of the elements is implied or subject to interpretation unless it is explicitly defined using declensions – representing a more complex level of use.
Let us say there is a news article online about a woman being struck by a streetcar. (A streetcar is a train that runs on the same streets as cars.) The code might be as follows: <narrative>hit.of_vehicle=pedestrian~_by *streetcar*_de *crosswalk*_contra *woman*_contra *mother*_who *Samantha Weiss*_when *2017-02-28*</narrative>. A normal search algorithm such as Google might be able to make “some sense” of the underlying article written in the vernacular. However, the narrative code embedded in the article contains a breakdown of details that a computer can better “understand.” A person such as me could ask, “Who was struck by a streetcar yesterday?” The code combined with an interfacing algorithm to handle word variations, tense, and context should be able to say that the following individual was struck: a woman who is a mother named Samantha Weiss. If the interface is given an expanded mandate, it should be able to suggest that a mother was possibly injured or died at a crosswalk in a vehicular accident. This isn’t artificial intelligence. It is really more like bookkeeping. (Then again perhaps artificial intelligence is more like bookkeeping. I haven’t given the matter much thought.)
Narrative code could also provide internet users an alternative to direct-language translation. Rather than attempt to translate French to English for example, the interface could instead convert the French narrative code to English and at that point form sentences in English. I don’t consider the conversion of code into sentences in a particular language too difficult. Converting from any language into code (symbolization) seems a bit challenging for a machine: this is because the machine “doesn’t know” the meaning. A machine with enhanced bookkeeping skills can deal with the situation if it is given the meaning, which it wouldn’t have to understand itself. A machine can use that meaning to create sentences in any language (symbolic expression). I don’t know if the terms in brackets exist in the same context that I use them here; but they seem like reasonably good terms for my purposes, in any case.
Everything in the Abstract Tense
Code in BERLIN contains no tense. Everything is in the infinitive – or for me in English the first-person present: e.g. (I) walk, (I) run, (I) jump, and (I) sit. I throw the conjugation of verbs out the window. By inference, if it is needed, the later sentence occurs after the previous sentence. However, it is possible to define reference points and explicitly indicate whether a sentence occurs before or after the point: I call this “relative time.” During a police investigation, the death of a victim is an important reference point; and so there might be many sentences surrounding that point. Another option is to define a point in “cycle time.” Cycle time involves a repetitive process that might be found in production environments: e.g. loading a bundle of labels into a canister labeling machine. Another form of time is “real time” such as 1:30 PM. Then there is the time that I think many of us use frequently – the rather imprecise “general time” – e.g. last week, yesterday, last night, this morning. With such an abundance of options available, there isn’t a need to express verb tense, at least form the standpoint of narrative code. This means that verb-to-verb conversion between languages can occur with great ease.
Use of Scents
I am encouraging the development and use of narrative code, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be my version of it described here. However, my version supports what I call “scents.” There is sense and then there are scents. A scent is an associative object: e.g. _with *gun*//_with *knife*//_by *thief*//_by *stranger* seems to be a violent robbery; _with *grenade*//_with *gun*//_with *rifle*//_by *militant*//_by *soldier* could be a terrorist attack. But no, this isn’t quite abstract enough for scent. A scent is more like “violent robbery” + “stolen merchandise” + “apparent abduction” = modus “John Smith.” (I apologize to John Smith for using his name in a blog example.) I might enter on a database containing embedded narrative: “Hunt John Smith” assuming his abstract modus exists. Scents are constructed by intelligent beings. A person at his death bed might say, “Let me tell you what a nice day means to me. I nice day is . . . .” Then for all eternity this person’s ontological conceptualization would persist; and another person wouldn’t have to define nice days. That having been said, the more ontological conceptualizations, the more colourful life becomes as we canvas far and wide for the meaning of all things to all people.
Alienation and the Mind-Body Separation
The mind is amazing in its ability to convince itself of things that might not be true. For example, a person being tortured can “escape” (so to speak) by being in a place other than in the body that it most certainly occupies. The mind can hear the body screaming – although the scream might seem like from another person. Not that I am an expert on this subject. However, the literature suggests that people can continue performing in environments that are physically demanding – and indeed harmful – well beyond the point of physical injury. Workers realize the long-term consequences of their activities perhaps long after their periods of employment. I have certainly worked in repetitive factory environments where just enough of the mind is present to maintain safe handling. I might be lifting boxes although mostly thinking about what to have for dinner. In the sense of narrative when documents are being coded, it is important to note that narrative belongs to somebody; and this ownership is sometimes in conflict. An executive might render a happy narrative for the company with dancing ponies and daisies; but this person is likely separated from the body – the organizational construct. His or her disassociation from clients and the realities of the market – the alienation – leads to mind-body separation; and so the narrative code is not only wrong but perhaps deceptive or even delusional. The computer doesn’t know the difference. For this reason, narrative code should if at all possible be rendered by those closest to the underlying events.
Narrative Code as the Base Construct for Organizational Phenomenology
For me, a “base construct” for an organization is like its primal data object – from which all other objects are derived. An object that is designed for a specific purpose probably cannot become a base construct; but a base construct can give rise to an object designed for a specific purpose. In this manner, methods of analysis pertaining to the base construct can be extended over the entire organization. An organization doesn’t have an awareness of self the way a human mind can have an awareness of self in relation to its body. Organizational awareness seems prone to social construction and fragmentation. But the use of narrative code in relation to an organization’s informational resources allows for organizational phenomenology premised on the base construct. For example, although on the surface I am responsible for a certain aspect of quality control, I am not aware of quality control as it relates to other departments. My awareness of quality cannot be extended to others – and it certainly should not be imposed on others. This means that to some extent, perceptions of quality can become a local phenomenon – although true enough it might conform to certain industry criteria thereby forming cohesion.
In order for cohesion to exist not just by external criteria but strategically for the organization, the multifarious assertions need to exist within a base construct. Now, if the base construct “defines” everything under it, as I described earlier, then all of the systems become defined. If there is a weakness in the construct, it might weaken every part of the organization: this is possible because the weakness cannot be perceived as such – the base construct does not allow for it. For example, if the base construct is insensitive to batteries exploding, then the department responsible for batteries might find itself unable to recognize, recollect, and convey details pertaining to exploding batteries. The base construct should not disable detection. Fortunately, narrative code allows for the free expression of phenomena. I often find myself being told about an “interesting situation”; and I give instructions for others not just to talk about it but to note it on their data submissions. Without codification, that interesting situation will soon cease to exist; and the data system will literally be disabled – that is to say, impaired in its ability to express the situation.
I am not aware of any company that uses narrative code. As far as I know, I am the only person with an interpretive compiler. Nonetheless, the conveyance of a localized “interesting situation” to other parts of the organization becomes more likely if the base construct does not impair expression. It is possible to use conventional methods to convey meaning. For example, a “dashboard” can be based on metrics that its designers consider important. The dashboard might be sensitive to declines in revenue but not to exploding batteries. “Oh dear, our revenues are declining!” Thanks for stating the obvious, right. A dashboard defines not just what is important but what is important enough to convey; and it would tend to devalue data or render discursive the meaning of data that falls outside the narrow mind-shaft. Narrative code allows for the survival of data falling outside the field of view of managers, giving value to all of the documents on the database. “Why did profits decline so significantly last March?” a manager might pose to the company’s local search engine. Hopefully in the future, the response will mean something.