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Maps, Networks, Ghosts and Witches: Experiments in Computational Folklore
Timothy Tangherlini, Professor, UCLA
date:4:00PM   US Central (GMT −0500)
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
location:McMurtry Auditorium, Duncan Hall
sponsor:Ken Kennedy Institute for Information Technology | Technology, Cognition & Culture Lecture Series

Folklore, which can be defined as informal communication across social networks, has always highlighted the connection between culturally expressive forms and geography. Folklorists ask not only who tells what kind of story to whom, but also how storytelling influences our understanding of the local environment, and how storytelling influences decision making. Do certain types of stories cluster around certain geographic areas? Are these story clusters related to contemporaneous ideological or political debate? Can we discern an ideological bias in a folklorist's field collecting routes? Using a nineteenth century corpus of Danish folklore comprising a quarter of a million stories told by 6,500 named individuals to one individual over the course of fifty years, I explore how the application of various computational techniques, including historical GIS, machine learning and network analysis, to a large Humanities corpus can help reveal patterns in the data that in some cases contest and in some cases confirm existing orthodoxy. This approach is based in part on Franco Moretti's theoretically rich concept of "distant reading". At the end of the presentation, I explore some recent folkloric phenomena, including Twitter networks and the Iranian uprisings of 2009, the narrative response to Hurricane Katrina, and the propagation of stories on Facebook of the rogue trader who typed 1b instead of 1m leading to massive losses on Wall Street in 2010.

Biography of Timothy Tangherlini:
Timothy R. Tangherlini teaches folklore, literature and cultural studies at the University of California, where he is a professor in Scandinavian Section, and the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures. He is also an affiliate of the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, the Religious Studies Program, and a faculty member in the Center for Korean Studies and the Center for European and Eurasian Studies.

He has published widely on folklore, literature, film and critical geography. His main theoretical areas of interest are folk narrative, legend, popular culture, and critical geography. His main geographic areas of interest are the Nordic region (particularly Denmark and Iceland), the United States, and Korea.

His current work focuses on computation and the humanities. His research has been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Fulbright Foundation, the Nordic Council of Ministers, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, The Henry Luce Foundation, the American Scandinavian Foundation, and Google.

more info:Ken Kennedy Institute for Information Technology
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