Professor Timothy R. Tangherlini´s lecture dedicated to Professor Walter Anderson on September 6, 2019
Professor Timothy R. Tangherlini (University of California, Los Angeles) will give a lecture dedicated to the founder of the Department of Estonian and Comparative Folklore and the first Professor Walter Anderson on September 6 at 14.15, Ülikooli 16-212.
Timothy R. Tangherlini (UCLA) Kaiser und data: Folkloristics in an algorithmic age Walter Anderson’s ideas, from his innovative notion of the “law of self-correction” (Das Gesetz der Selbstberichtigung) proposed in his landmark study Kaiser und abt, to his discussions of comparative methods for the study of folktales and legends, to his experiments with transmission, were not only broad in scope but also forward looking in methodology, anticipating advances in computation and data accessibility. In this brief lecture, taking Anderson’s work as a helpful and necessary starting point, I explore a series of experiments in computation and folkloristics that address some of the challenges raised by Anderson. Using the Evald Tang Kristensen collection of Danish folklore from the late nineteenth to early twentieth centuries as a target corpus, I explore how computational methods allow us to explore aspects of a large folklore corpus. Taking inspiration from the Historic Geographic method, I propose a data driven computational turn. A data driven analysis of a large folklore collection offers a basis for addressing how stories and places influence each other, how individual innovation is constrained by the conservative demands of group driven traditions and network-based transmission, and how cultural expressive forms flow on and across these social networks. As a means for illustrating these points, I discuss a series of three broad experiments. One experiment identifies the geographic distribution of topics across Denmark, including identifying regions by the topics that the storytellers ascribed to those regions as well as identifying regions based on the stories people in those regions told. A second experiment helps us understand the correlation between places mentioned in stories and the places where those stories were told. A third geographic experiment traces the stability and variation in phrases used across narrative genres, linking phrase reuse and stability to formal features of the genres, individual storyteller repertoire, and region. The paper concludes with a consideration of the opportunities for folklorists working both archivally and with “born digital” folklore—such as that found on social media—to explore concepts such as “self-correction” and aspects of network transmission, stability, propagation, and distribution.
Timothy R. Tangherlini is a Professor at UCLA. He holds a joint appointment in the Dept. of East Asian Languages and Cultures and the Scandinavian Section. A folklorist and ethnographer by training, he is the author of Danish Folktales, Legends and Other Stories, and has also published widely in academic journals, including The Journal of American Folklore, Western Folklore, Journal of Folklore Research, Folklore, Scandinavian Studies, Danske Studier, PlosOne, Computer and Communications of the Association for Computing Machines. He is currently a co-PI on an international team developing ISEBEL: Intelligent Search Engine for Belief Legends. His current work focuses on computational approaches to problems in the study of folklore, literature and culture. He is a Fellow of the American Folklore Society and the Royal Gustav Adolf Academy (one of Sweden’s Royal Academies). A producer of three independent documentary films, he has also consulted on films for Disney Animation, National Geographic Television, National Geographic Specials and PBS. His research has been funded by the NEH, the NSF, the NIH, the Mellon Foundation, the Nordic Council of Ministers, the Korea Foundation, the American Scandinavian Foundation, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, and Google.
All are welcome!
Information: Department of Estonian and Comparative Folklore, Liilia Laaneman, liilia.laaneman [ät] ut.ee
Video recording of the lecture is available at the UTTV video server.