Griot System

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Griot is a computer program designed and written by Fox Harrell in joint work with Joseph Goguen. Its purpose is to generate interactive multimedia events, and its main component is a novel algorithm called Alloy, which generates new conceptual structures by integrating other conceptual structures, based on recent research in cognitive linguistics, computer science, and semiotics; in particular, Alloy uses the algebraic semiotics formalization of the cognitive linguistics theory of conceptual integration, also called "blending," which says that metaphors arise as side effects of blending (see Style as Choice of Blending Principles for details). The semiotic spaces of algebraic semiotics are used, rather than the mental spaces developed by Fauconnier for cognitive linguistics, because we need the greater generality given by n-ary relations, structure construcing functions, types, and axioms, for integration at the syntactic and discourse levels, as well as for generating novel metaphors; we also need the greater rigor in order to build computer algorithms. Our initial experiments have used Griot to produce "polypoems," which are a new art form, consisting of very large families of poems having a common theme and qualitative feeling, but varying structure and varying content, using novel metaphors from Alloy. Typical elements of two polypoem are given given below. The first uses Labov's structural theory of narrative (see Notes on Narrative) at the discourse level; however, there are many other possibilities, such as haibun, which was used in our The Griot Sings Haibun performance, a sample from which is also given below.


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Hannah Ackermans