A couple of years ago I came up with a concept that in my opinion represents a new paradigm of media creation: Synthetic Content.
This will probably change the world in a more dramatic way than social media did. In this post I will tell you how I arrived at such a concept although for the moment I will not expand on its many implications.
The concept of Synthetic Content can be understood with relative sufficiency in a few words: it is the development of content for media by artificial means.
I will go in parts.
The Character Method
When you're someone unfortunate little disciplined like me, arming yourself with an efficient system of work is critical.
I had understood in a category-shaping phase that the character was the real builder of the story (the Story). Even so, I understood that the character needed a minimal base of functioning. The minimums, I must say, resolved much of the assumptions of the Method of Character (#MdP) as they started from my own need to avoid too much prowling before getting into creative writing mode.
The need for minimums stems from what is known as the Principle of Simplicity, any semantic structure can be quickly understood if it is separated into minimums, that is, into small, easily understandable portions. So I needed a system that could be understood. I needed a system that I could use without resorting to supplementary information in the midst of the multitude of ideas that I usually produce in a very short period of time.
From other paths previously walked, I also knew that names have the function of reifying ideas. That is why before a character -or many characters- a name was needed. The name par excellence of a story is the title (the Title). So, it seemed to me, it should start there.
I will not dwell on this, for the moment.
I will only state that to begin with a title is to force oneself to concentrate, like a white dwarf, all the energy that will hatch into the red giant that will be the story, if I may use the astronomical simile. It forces the writer to understand with a name what the story is about.
Next, I understood that a theme had to be established. It is another of the great discoveries of #MdP. The theme (the Theme) is the ideological substratum of the story (the Story). Put this way (the Title, the Theme, the Story, etc.) they are categories of the #MoP, although for ease of reading I will keep them in lower case.
The theme is expressed with a value - a single value - in order to give internal coherence to the story.
After a title and a theme, one can then articulate an idea (the Idea) which has according to the #MdP a structure based on three components. The elaboration of the idea is based on the character who initiates, develops and concludes the story. This character is the bearer of the theme.
I can say that each of these discoveries provoked a leap in the #MdP and a certain gradation in its evolution.
Over the years, always on the Principle of Simplicity, the #MoP acquired an unusual density until it reached what I believe are full-fledged sociological discoveries and which have brought me some uncomfortable confrontations with some students, especially when they assume that in fifteen days they can understand a fifteen-year research.
Almost a decade ago I developed in ActionScript 2.0 a small interactive gadget that allowed me to reduce to five minutes the explanation of the #MoP that normally with a marker on a whiteboard took me forty. The Method is very graphic and structurally simple, so I was saving myself a lot of explanations in order to get my students to write a script as soon as possible. After all, in a private company, time is tight with tightly packed courses.
Unfortunately the evolution of ActionScript was going faster than my ability to update myself and on the other hand, the evolution of #MdP itself was leaving an unsuspected trail of conceptual developments with potential technological derivations that could no longer be solved with a minimum knowledge of programming.
Part of what makes #MoP funny is that it relies, as I mentioned, on simple structures. That's the case of the Triad of Character (TdP) one of the functional discoveries of #MoP that establishes that the story can only be developed with a minimum of three characters with specific and correlative characteristics (this instead of one or several protagonists as established by classical dramaturgy). This discovery has three brutal implications: 1) it finally destroyed the Deus ex machina, 2) it generated what I call a Sociology of Character and 3), suddenly for me the most interesting, it provoked demonstrable implications of human behavior. If I dare I will talk about all this in another post at some length because, at the very least, it represents a true revolution in media dramaturgy.
For what concerns here, the ToP, as the engine of the story, suggested at the time a potential computer application that would allow a neophyte to clearly understand how it (the story) is articulated from its fundamental characters, without the imperative of an arduous learning of contemporary methodologies that still fail to get rid of the classical ballast (and consequently, of an immanent complexity).
In addition to the ToP and its interdependence with other triads that I call subsidiary, the #MoP has other components of structural character in terms of the story itself such as the division into quarters and thirds of time, as well as rises and falls in a graph of tension (dramatic) versus time (narrative).
As you can understand, the #MoP is structural, functional and graphical. As I say, very amenable to being turned into a computer tool.
How about, better, a videogame for writers? That's the initial idea of TRIADWRITER.
As a videogame it involved the interactions of simple figures on a touch screen at the player's will. Each figure would correspond to a character and the game consists of taking one of them, representing the main active dramatic force of the story, to the end of the screen according to the logic provided by the #MdP. When this happens, the game restarts with three other figures (three other characters). That for a preset number of levels.
At a certain point, text would be allowed to be entered. The purpose of the "video game" is the production of an effective script in terms of media communication for film, television or any other media including social media. This implied the use of new functionalities of a certain sophistication especially from the final level onwards where the game starts to function as a professional tool.
In 2021, after a relatively complicated process, I won the right to a venture fund that allowed me to do some collateral and consolidation studies of this project.
It had been at least two years since I had understood the opportunity represented by emerging technologies. Among these, one that sooner rather than later would jump to the proscenium of audiovisual production: Artificial Intelligence (or AI).
I had considered AI as a case study tool for validating human behavior according to the workings of dramatic forces. Through a friend who was working on a banking application based on Watson, IBM's AI, I understood the potential for my project.
The most recent developments based on Deep Learning and other related technologies would allow to develop within TRIADWRITER content production mechanisms that would simplify a bit the life, for example, of a filmmaker without resources (any resemblance to real life is pure coincidence). What if he could solve a complete production team with a camera and a tablet? This idea unsettled some of my colleagues, while I thought it was inevitable.
By mid-2021 I knew perfectly well that TRIADWRITER could go much further, infinitely further, than I had envisioned in my little head as a filmmaker without resources and a Creative Writing teacher. I understood that it could become a content simulator.
Content simulation, as strange as it sounds, is a concept that came after synthetic content and that I still think has its place in TRIADWRITER for reasons that are not relevant here. I still see it as a powerful concept that will change the rules of the market in an intermediate way between manual production and synthetic content production.
As for the synthetic content, conceptually it is situated at an intermediate point in the development of the TRIADWRITER idea. Initially, the TRIADWRITER proposal included the development of hard technologies (hardware), a proposal that today I would consider rudimentary if I believed that manual production (e.g. development, pre-production, production and post-production of a film) would disappear altogether. This is why, hidden among the powerful soft technology (software) developments proposed for TRIADWRITER, there is an important development path towards specific new type of devices oriented to content generation.
TRAIDWRITER takes unmistakable shape from the overwhelming evolution of AI, especially in terms of content creation, which has occurred in the last year almost every fortnight where it is worth mentioning the GPT-3 (Generative Pre-trained Transformer third generation), natural language processing that can generate arguments in written language indistinguishable from what a human being would do. It hit the market in 2020 thanks to Open AI, hatching a myriad of applications (about three hundred so far).
Based on the Deep Learning model, GTP-3 has been trained with one hundred seventy-five thousand automated learning parameters.
This type of technology opens up a world of possibilities that I had foreseen since I learned that Watson could already predict in real time a person's emotional state based on what they post on their social networks.
It's scary, no doubt about it.
As far as my project is concerned, what I have been waiting for are the image production capabilities. For example, there has been for some time now a quest to improve the quality of a film or video that had been shot or recorded with standard definition (SD) technologies. My graduate thesis was done with what was known as lossy generation. The copy of copies I own needs to be recovered in a way that only an application based on a Deep Learning model could. I have been desperate for a technology at my fingertips that would allow me to recover it. The one I consider my film teacher, a well-known director who gave me, among others, the opportunity to direct him as an actor in my graduation film, went to infinity before I could make it happen.
Technologies are already at hand and there are companies that are integrating them into a single product and more or less within reach.
Research such as IBM's Watson, Open AI's Chat GPT and Dall E or Deep Mind's Alpha Code, as flashpoints, have alerted me to the speed, power and revolution that is on the way.
TRIADWRITER is a program that would allow thanks to several integrated technologies, to write a script according to a proven methodology, transform it into images with a simulator in order to test its communicative effectiveness and end up turning it into a commercial product with custom designed characters, color palette and visual and sound styles included, with intellectual property protection based on blockchain in real time, all this without human intervention. (In practice TRAIDWRITER would allow much more than that but it is matter for investors).
That would be synthetic content.
Photo by Tara Winstead on Pexels
Author Said Orlando