Professor Tim Tangherlini calls himself a computational folklorist. Like many fields of research lately, folklore is a field where both the tools and objects of study are being profoundly reimagined by AI. I came across Professor Tangherlini's work after reading a research paper that he and his team published on using AI to study the structure and dissemination of conspiracy theories. Their research points the way to strategies that might defeat fake news by explaining how the elements of a conspiracy narrative come together and how they can also quickly fragment if some key parts are removed or challenged.
Professor Tangherlini is currently in the Department of Scandinavian at UC Berkeley, where he also serves as graduate advisor in the Folklore program. He has worked on computational approaches to stories and storytelling over the past three decades. Under the auspices of the NSF's Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics, he co-directed a program on Culture Analytics, as well as an NEH Institute on Network Analysis for the Humanities. He is the author of several books, and dozens of articles. He has done extensive fieldwork on storytelling among paramedics, and shamanism in South Korea, as well as archival work on rural 19th century Denmark. His current work focuses on generative models of common story genres such as legend, rumor, personal experience narratives, and conspiracy theories.
In this episode, you will learn
- How has technology is changing the way we think about stories, mythology, and culture (00.06)
- What Tim and his team learned from using AI to study the Pizzagate and Bridgegate conspiracies (09:40)
- Why crowdsourcing and conspiracy may be two sides of the same coin (21:11)
- The dangers of using AI to weaponize misinformation (23:41)
- The future of culture analytics, computational folkloristics, and how algorithmic feeds shape our consensual reality (25:31)