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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Preconscious

by Melanie Anne Phillips
creator StoryWeaver, co-creator Dramatica

Here’s my response to comments from a writer (Tom) regarding the nature of Dramatica story element called the Preconscious. Tom'soriginal comments are quoted in the body of the article as appropriate.

I knew going into this that explaining the math model and the definitions would be a long and arduous task. Part of this difficulty arises from the huge number of specific instances which are called into question. We are dealing with two things here - the underlying math model upon which Dramatica is based, and each discrete part of that model. The Preconscious discussion deals with a part, the Dramatica Math thread deals with the whole.

So, as time allows, I will respond to as many of the parts as I can while trying to present documentation of the whole.

As for Preconscious, there are a number of points which Tom brings up in the post quoted below. One, he notes that "Dramatica wants to reduce everything a single word." This is correct. In the early days of development, it was determined by testing (asking people for their opinions) whether they were more comfortable with single or multi-word definitions. The responses indicated that people found multiple-word descriptions even more difficult to understand. Why? First, because most of the terms could easily be described by single words, only a fraction of the needed descriptions couldn’t be associated with a single existing semantic concept. As a result, the mixing of single and multi-word descriptions confused people. In fact, THEY were asking us why we couldn’t boil down the multi-word descriptors to a single word - the inverse problem of wondering why we have to stick with one!

Second the multi-word descriptions had an open-ended problem: All words used in Dramatica are not accurate by nature, so there is no end to the number of words needed to completely describe a concept. Let me explain. The structure of Dramatica contains no words. It is a math construct based on relative distances within a three dimensional matrix which is then driven through iterations which represent the dramatic impact of the linear progression of a story. As a math construct, meaning is determined by vectors. For example, comparing Types to to Classes, Past is to Universe as Memory is to Mind. That creates a vertical vector identity. There is also a horizontal identity. Looking at Types, Doing is to Obtaining as Being is to Becoming.

The relationship of any point on the model to any other point is identical to the difference in meaning between any other two points connected by an identical vector.

When considered from the top down, the model then presents a fractal nesting of quads, wheels within wheels, and not unlike the less practical "difference engine" which suffered due to its reliance on a physical, rather than programmatic realm.

Laterally (horizontally) a similar comparative relationship exists consistently throughout the model. But, rather than being fractal, the horizontal iterations describe the temporal nesting of equations. In other words, as each quad proceeds to the next, a similarity not-unlike fractals can be seen between them. But these relationships are not based on the "spatial record of the interaction of order and chaos" (as fractals are sometimes defined) but in the "temporal record of the interaction of order and chaos." The concept of comparing temporal records - two processes that bore a point to point correlation yet morphed from one to the next through a larger controlling process - was not named when we developed the Dramatica model. To differentiate this temporal record and iteration from the spatial, fractal equivalent, we coined the term "frictal." This is appropriate because the word, "fractal" was actually formed as a bastardized conglomerate of the words, "fraction" and "fratcure." In contrast, "frictal" is a conglomerate of "fraction" and "friction" - much more in keeping with the temporal nature of the items being compared.

This said, the Dramatica model then is a wordless construct in which vectors determine meaning. The vertical component of a vector carries a fractal meaning (like sub-dividing into greater detail) whereas the horizontal component of a vector carries a frictal meaning (like progressing into additional information).

Once constructed, choosing the words to position in the model so that both the vertical and horizontal components would be accurate became a hugely difficult problem. In fact, it took us just about 2 years to fill in the last of the words. Why should it take so long? Well, with each word having a vertical and horizontal component and having to relate to all other words in the model so that the difference in meaning was identical for any other identical vector, simply put... it took time! And, on top of that, we were hobbled by the need to keep each square in every quad to a single-word with which to represent it!

Ultimately, we arrived at the model you all know and love today.

Specifically now, for Preconscious, Tom writes that "Preconscious is in the middle of a quad with other well-established terms from psychoanalysis /neuroscience with their normal definition. "Innate responses" is what it is about. If they absolutely must have a single word REFLEX would do well. "

I have a few things to offer here. First of all, you have all probably already noted that in many quads, three of the four items seem familiar and like a "family" but the fourth one is often something that seems quite out of left field. This is due to the "frictal" progression. If the model were only obligated to represent vertical fractal information, then the choice of words in each quad would actually be different than it is. But with the added mandate that each quad represent an equidistant progression of meaning from one item in a quad to the next, then the final temporal item in a quad will, in fact, be closer to the "semantic weight" of the item in the next quad than to the "average semantic weight" of items in the quad in which it actually occurs. (The reason you compare an item to the next in line but the average of what came before is representative of the mental process to only think forward in time. Although we "recall" and "relive" things, the past carries an average weight favoring the most recent whereas the new item becomes a first impression. One must consider both the Primacy effect and both retrograde and anterograde interference, and these are represented in the semantic choices made for each item in every quad.)

In any event, Preconscious" does not really mean "innate responses," even though that is our own definition in the dictionary. The Preconscious does not have to be "innate." Conceptually, the Preconscious represents responses of both a physical and mental nature, both a logistic and emotional nature, both specific and generalized which occur BEFORE the conscious mind becomes involved. AND, it is not like subconscious because Preconscious functions like a filter which "absorbs" and "amplifies" the information coming in from observation of both the physical world and the mental world so that the information actually received by the conscious mind is "colored" and selectively enhanced, with other information completely removed and even added.

It is the Preconscious where prejudice exists. This is why prejudiced people are not stupid or stubborn. In fact, due to their previous external and internal experiences the Preconscious "rewrites" what is observed so that it appears to match expected patterns, including the removal of data that might violate those expectations. This is also true if one looks within - one does not see certain aspects of oneself, sees others that aren’t there, and overall observes a tempered view of oneself which is hardly accurate, yet the best we can do.

Unlike the common psychological term, "selective filter," Preconscious differs in that it also ADDS information.

Now, I must apologize for using the words, "innate responses" in the definition. There was a reason it was worded that way, however. If we didn’t define words at all (which we originally intended) it would be much easier for us. But, when we discovered that we needed to "redefine" some words to limit the number of new words we coined, but we also did need to coin completely new words here and there to get close to the feel of the meaning, then we decided a dictionary was necessary. And I can tell you that writing it was a bitch!

But, even then, we couldn’t really describe what was ACTUALLY going on in several cases, or the definitions would be more confusing than the words they were trying to define! So, it was determined (in several long, arduous discussions) that we should use the definitions not to be completely accurate if that was counter-productive, but to simply try to INCREASE the accuracy of understanding. This dictated that on the most unfamiliar terms, the definitions were written as touch points to the familiar, but worded in such a way that other more accurate understandings remained implicit in the definition for those who sought greater meaning.

This, of course, is why the word, "Reflex," would not do at all. It smacks WAY too much of a purely physical response. We considered that word and quickly discarded it. "Innate responses" comes closer, but they are not really innate (as indicated above). But "responses" without "innate" makes it seem possible that these might be consciously considered responses, which they are not.

Finally, as for the other three items in the quad with "Preconscious," which are indeed common psych terms - note the relationship by position of the other three words with Preconscious. Conscious is vertical to (and therefore mutually dependent with) Preconscious. In other words, that which we consider consciously is dependent upon our Preconscious filter/amplifier, and the manner in which the Preconscious filter/amplifier iterates is dependent upon our Conscious considerations.

Subconscious and Preconscious are in the diagonal (diametrically opposed) relationship, indicating that each works against the other either to limit the other or to create a synthesis between them as a result of that friction (the definition of all dynamic pairs - negative tears each other down, positive builds a synthesis).

Memory and Preconscious are in a horizontal or "Companion" relationship indicating that without directly interacting, Preconscious will ultimately influence what Memory will recall and conversely, Memory will exert an influence as to how Preconscious will filter/amplify.

In conclusion, trying to address a single part of the overall model requires (unfortunately) a description of all the factors that are at work at that particular point. Since the overall math model is about relative distances, virtually every point is acted upon or at least related to all others to some degree.

As I indicated at the beginning, I’ll try to address as many of these points as I can while documenting the math model of Dramatica as a whole.