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2016 Code Camp on Computational Creativity

The 2nd PROSECCO Code-Camp was held in Antwerp from April 6th to 8th, 2016

After the success of the first code-camp held in Coimbra, Portugal in 2015, PROSECCO organized a second international code-camp on Computational Creativity in the city of Antwerp, Belgium in April 2016. The local organizers of the camp were Lucas Nijs of the Sint Lucas School of Art and Walter Daelemans of the CLiPs Natural Language Processing group of the University of Antwerp. As in the previous event, scholarships were made available for students to participate in the camp. All students were expected to have reasonable coding abilities in a language such as Java or Python, though some students participated in a non-technical capacity, by bringing their knowledge of aesthetics or literature to bear on the development work of their team mates. Substantial data/knowledge resources were provided to students so as to undertake the main coding challenge of the camp. This challenge concerned the development of automated story generation systems to produce original stories at the level of plot (the fabula) and surface rendering (idiomatic English). These resources built-upon and expanded the knowledge sources created for the first PROSECCO code-camp in Coimbra in 2015. They included:

  • The NOC list: The Non-Official Characterization List.

    This is a knowledge-base providing detailed information on many facets of over 800 popular figures from pop-culture, fiction and history. Read more about it in this blog post. Visit the GitHub repository to download the NOC.

  • ScĂ©alextric: A Path-building Story Generation System and Knowledge-base

    This is a comprehensive knowledge-base of action triples and logical connectives for building plots as interconnected action sequences. Read more about it in this blog post Visit the GitHub repository to download Scéalextric.

Participants formed groups to build their own autonomous software systems that can generate original and interesting stories. Much of the camp thus involved intense coding in groups, but brainstorming sessions and tutorials were also scheduled, in addition to a lively social programme that allowed participants to mingle and establish new connections. Student participants were formed into teams of four people each, using a tiered approach that aimed to distribute technical abilities evenly amongst the groups. Thus, strong programmers were distributed amongst the teams so that every team had at least one experienced programmer to anchor the development work. Teams were named after Bond Villains, in the hope that participants would be inspired to seek out their inner wicked genius. (Students voted to reject team-names based on famous Dwarves and famous Reindeer). The eight teams were:

  • Blofeld
  • Drax
  • LeChifre
  • Jaws
  • OddJob
  • Stromberg
  • Dr. No
  • Goldfinger

Teams were encouraged to live-blog during their design and development work, and you can read many of their postings on the BestOfBotWorlds blog. Teams were also encouraged to write a closing summary of their approach to story telling, and these posts show the diversity of the topics that were tackled during the camp. For instance, teams explored the role of Jungian archetypes in story-telling, the role of sentiment and dramatic tension, and the humorous potential of national stereotypes.