Performative Authoring

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Project Team

  • Project Lead: Sharon Lynn Chu
  • Dr. Francis Quek
  • Kumar Sridharamurthy, MS Student


This component mainly arises from the Grounded Creativity project. Based on our observes of the creative process of children in story authoring with different media, and from what we gathered from our teachers' interviews, the idea of 'painting' stories with motion arose. This work is currently in progress, and being conducted throughout Fall 2012.

Our primary aim is to investigate how children can express their creativity in storytelling with minimal technical barriers. During interviews with elementary school teachers on creative activities that children engage in, we found that storytelling play a significant role. Storytelling is used extensively to help students think, understand concepts, create mental images, and to make learning more fun. Currently, drawing and writing are used as primary means for children to create stories. With the rise of the animated medium, our goal is to enable children to tell creative stories using this medium of choice as transparently as possible. Many current animation authoring systems enable children to create animated stories using traditional input devices such as the mouse and keyboard. In our previous study investigating the use of different types of media for story creation by third and fourth-grade children, we found that conventional animation authoring systems (e.g. Frames) do not afford children to indicate qualitative details or styles of movement (e.g. the dog coming to save the crayons will just be a dog ‘gliding’ from left to right). On one hand, authoring systems that allow the child to select from a library of animation styles for different actions limit the expressive power of the child and hinder her creativity. On the other hand, systems that provide blank starting slates tend to induce the ‘writer’s block’ problem for the child. Software which can allow one to create such textured animations (especially 3D) as the child imagines employ techniques that require much technical knowledge and are typically not amenable for children to use (e.g. Maya). We posit that adopting an enactment-based approach to storytelling will enable the child to tell stories that are rich and creative with less difficulty. As of now, we are considering both the use of enactment through body movements and through the use of physical objects. Studies such as that of Hoysniemi et al. (2004) somewhat inform us on children's patterns and behaviors in gesture-based interaction. There is reason to believe that however manipulating physical objects help to trigger the child's imagination further, as it seems to happen in pretend play. We have little indication as to how objects should be designed to adequately serve the purpose of authoring stories creatively.


We approach the question of object design for story authoring by focusing on the iconicity of objects. The proposed study thus compares behaviors and patterns of use of the child with objects of three types of iconicity: cultural, physical and arbitrary, in terms of their enactment in storytelling. The study will also allow us to investigate the broader questions of whether and how an embodied approach (enactment-based) catalyzes creativity in children.

Object Design

We made all the three variations of all the three different objects chosen for the study (a frying pan, pickaxe and a lantern) from scratch by hand, so as to have maximum control over the physical shape that we give to an object. The pictures below show the actual objects used in the study, and the building process of each of the objects.


This work is partially supported by NSF grant EAGER: CREATIVE IT: Hyper Drama storytelling: engaging and nurturing creativity in k-12 students, IIS-0954048.