SoGES Principal Scientist Pat Keys Uses Computer Text Analysis to Create Science Fiction in the Arctic Region Based on Scientific Facts

The process

Keys said his team took a decade of news stories and opinion pieces written in English – more than 2,000 in total – and performed computer text analysis that identified 10 keyword patterns. These 10 themes have been transformed into stories.

“I didn’t necessarily want to exclude opinion, partly because the point of it all was, ‘What are people talking about regarding the future of the Arctic??.“It’s largely opinion, and that’s OK,” Keys said. “What I wanted to do in this project is take something very quantitative – this computer analysis of text – and see if we could take the result, which is these themes and topics, and use them as a starting point for something very creative.”

Keys and his then-undergraduate assistant, Alexis Meyer, wrote the stories using a story-based script and sci-fi prototyping. A video describes the process.

“My future colleagues like it,” Keys said. “My non-future (computational text analytics) colleagues are like, ‘What are you doing?’ Those two groups of people almost never mix, and so one thing that I think that does is that it helps provide a topic of conversation that connects two communities, two disciplines, two groups of people who think about the future, who do not see each other very often.