Title:Telling Stories: Procedural Authorship and Compelling Museum Databases
Authors:Steve Dietz
Publication:MW99: Museums and the Web 1999

In the 1930s, scholars concluded that Homer, one of the greatest storytellers of the Western canon, probably used stock phrases according to context, using a simple replacement strategy. This is not unrelated to the innovative work being pursued by many artists including Maurice Benayoun, Toni Dove, Rebecca Allen, Jane Prophet, Simon Biggs, Paul Vanouse, and others, who use databases to auto-generate complex and often compelling dramatic tales in a process that is sometimes called procedural authorship. After 20+ years of museum automation, we are nearing the ability for the public to easily access the information in our databases. But are they finding meaning there? Given the fact that we can only afford to create specialized narratives for a limited subset of the museum information universe, this paper looks at existing examples of artistic practice to speculate on how it might be possible to use databases to tell meaningful stories about the objects museums collect.