Andrew Piper


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Computational Narrative Understanding: A Big Picture Analysis
Andrew Piper
Proceedings of the Big Picture Workshop

This paper provides an overview of outstanding major research goals for the field of computational narrative understanding. Storytelling is an essential human practice, one that provides a sense of personal meaning, shared sense of community, and individual enjoyment. A number of research domains have increasingly focused on storytelling as a key mechanism for explaining human behavior. Now is an opportune moment to provide a vision of the contributions that computational narrative understanding can make towards this collective endeavor and the challenges facing the field. In addition to providing an overview of the elements of narrative, this paper outlines three major lines of inquiry: understanding the multi-modality of narrative; the temporal patterning of narrative (narrative “shape”); and socio-cultural narrative schemas, i.e. collective narratives. The paper concludes with a call for more inter-disciplinary working groups and deeper investment in building cross-cultural and multi-modal narrative datasets.


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The predictability of literary translation
Andrew Piper | Matt Erlin
Proceedings of the 2nd International Workshop on Natural Language Processing for Digital Humanities

Research has shown that the practice of translation exhibits predictable linguistic cues that make translated texts detectable from original-language texts (a phenomenon known as “translationese”). In this paper, we test the extent to which literary translations are subject to the same effects and whether they also exhibit meaningful differences at the level of content. Research into the function of translations within national literary markets using smaller case studies has suggested that translations play a cultural role that is distinct from that of original-language literature, i.e. their differences reside not only at the level of translationese but at the level of content. Using a dataset consisting of original-language fiction in English and translations into English from 120 languages (N=21,302), we find that one of the principal functions of literary translation is to convey predictable geographic identities to local readers that nevertheless extend well beyond the foreignness of persons and places.

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The COVID That Wasn’t: Counterfactual Journalism Using GPT
Sil Hamilton | Andrew Piper
Proceedings of the 6th Joint SIGHUM Workshop on Computational Linguistics for Cultural Heritage, Social Sciences, Humanities and Literature

In this paper, we explore the use of large language models to assess human interpretations of real world events. To do so, we use a language model trained prior to 2020 to artificially generate news articles concerning COVID-19 given the headlines of actual articles written during the pandemic. We then compare stylistic qualities of our artificially generated corpus with a news corpus, in this case 5,082 articles produced by CBC News between January 23 and May 5, 2020. We find our artificially generated articles exhibits a considerably more negative attitude towards COVID and a significantly lower reliance on geopolitical framing. Our methods and results hold importance for researchers seeking to simulate large scale cultural processes via recent breakthroughs in text generation.


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Narrative Theory for Computational Narrative Understanding
Andrew Piper | Richard Jean So | David Bamman
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Over the past decade, the field of natural language processing has developed a wide array of computational methods for reasoning about narrative, including summarization, commonsense inference, and event detection. While this work has brought an important empirical lens for examining narrative, it is by and large divorced from the large body of theoretical work on narrative within the humanities, social and cognitive sciences. In this position paper, we introduce the dominant theoretical frameworks to the NLP community, situate current research in NLP within distinct narratological traditions, and argue that linking computational work in NLP to theory opens up a range of new empirical questions that would both help advance our understanding of narrative and open up new practical applications.

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“Are you kidding me?”: Detecting Unpalatable Questions on Reddit
Sunyam Bagga | Andrew Piper | Derek Ruths
Proceedings of the 16th Conference of the European Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Main Volume

Abusive language in online discourse negatively affects a large number of social media users. Many computational methods have been proposed to address this issue of online abuse. The existing work, however, tends to focus on detecting the more explicit forms of abuse leaving the subtler forms of abuse largely untouched. Our work addresses this gap by making three core contributions. First, inspired by the theory of impoliteness, we propose a novel task of detecting a subtler form of abuse, namely unpalatable questions. Second, we publish a context-aware dataset for the task using data from a diverse set of Reddit communities. Third, we implement a wide array of learning models and also investigate the benefits of incorporating conversational context into computational models. Our results show that modeling subtle abuse is feasible but difficult due to the language involved being highly nuanced and context-sensitive. We hope that future research in the field will address such subtle forms of abuse since their harm currently passes unnoticed through existing detection systems.


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Measuring the Effects of Bias in Training Data for Literary Classification
Sunyam Bagga | Andrew Piper
Proceedings of the 4th Joint SIGHUM Workshop on Computational Linguistics for Cultural Heritage, Social Sciences, Humanities and Literature

Downstream effects of biased training data have become a major concern of the NLP community. How this may impact the automated curation and annotation of cultural heritage material is currently not well known. In this work, we create an experimental framework to measure the effects of different types of stylistic and social bias within training data for the purposes of literary classification, as one important subclass of cultural material. Because historical collections are often sparsely annotated, much like our knowledge of history is incomplete, researchers often cannot know the underlying distributions of different document types and their various sub-classes. This means that bias is likely to be an intrinsic feature of training data when it comes to cultural heritage material. Our aim in this study is to investigate which classification methods may help mitigate the effects of different types of bias within curated samples of training data. We find that machine learning techniques such as BERT or SVM are robust against reproducing the different kinds of bias within our test data, except in the most extreme cases. We hope that this work will spur further research into the potential effects of bias within training data for other cultural heritage material beyond the study of literature.


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The Scientization of Literary Study
Stefania Degaetano-Ortlieb | Andrew Piper
Proceedings of the 3rd Joint SIGHUM Workshop on Computational Linguistics for Cultural Heritage, Social Sciences, Humanities and Literature

Scholarly practices within the humanities have historically been perceived as distinct from the natural sciences. We look at literary studies, a discipline strongly anchored in the humanities, and hypothesize that over the past half-century literary studies has instead undergone a process of “scientization”, adopting linguistic behavior similar to the sciences. We test this using methods based on information theory, comparing a corpus of literary studies articles (around 63,400) with a corpus of standard English and scientific English respectively. We show evidence for “scientization” effects in literary studies, though at a more muted level than scientific English, suggesting that literary studies occupies a middle ground with respect to standard English in the larger space of academic disciplines. More generally, our methodology can be applied to investigate the social positioning and development of language use across different domains (e.g. scientific disciplines, language varieties, registers).


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The More Antecedents, the Merrier: Resolving Multi-Antecedent Anaphors
Hardik Vala | Andrew Piper | Derek Ruths
Proceedings of the 54th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

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Annotating Characters in Literary Corpora: A Scheme, the CHARLES Tool, and an Annotated Novel
Hardik Vala | Stefan Dimitrov | David Jurgens | Andrew Piper | Derek Ruths
Proceedings of the Tenth International Conference on Language Resources and Evaluation (LREC'16)

Characters form the focus of various studies of literary works, including social network analysis, archetype induction, and plot comparison. The recent rise in the computational modelling of literary works has produced a proportional rise in the demand for character-annotated literary corpora. However, automatically identifying characters is an open problem and there is low availability of literary texts with manually labelled characters. To address the latter problem, this work presents three contributions: (1) a comprehensive scheme for manually resolving mentions to characters in texts. (2) A novel collaborative annotation tool, CHARLES (CHAracter Resolution Label-Entry System) for character annotation and similiar cross-document tagging tasks. (3) The character annotations resulting from a pilot study on the novel Pride and Prejudice, demonstrating the scheme and tool facilitate the efficient production of high-quality annotations. We expect this work to motivate the further production of annotated literary corpora to help meet the demand of the community.


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Mr. Bennet, his coachman, and the Archbishop walk into a bar but only one of them gets recognized: On The Difficulty of Detecting Characters in Literary Texts
Hardik Vala | David Jurgens | Andrew Piper | Derek Ruths
Proceedings of the 2015 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing