Research Expertise and Interest

folklore; Danish culture; Danish cinema; Danish literature; 19th and 20th century Scandinavian literature and culture; digital humanities; culture analytics; machine learning; networks; Korean culture

Research Description

Timothy R. Tangherlini is a Professor in the Dept. of Scandinavian. A folklorist and ethnographer by training, he is the author of Danish Folktales, Legends and Other Stories (2014), Talking Trauma (1999), and Interpreting Legend (1994). He 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. He is interested in the circulation of stories on and across social networks, and the ways in which stories are used by individuals in their ongoing negotiation of ideology with the groups to which they belong. In general, his work focuses on computational approaches to problems in the study of folklore, literature and culture. 

He has been deeply involved in the development of the field of Culture Analytics, co-directing a three-year long program at the NSF's Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics. He also led the NEH's Institute for Advanced Topics in Digital Humanities on Network Analysis for the Humanities. Currently, his work, in collaboration with colleagues at UCLA, focuses on automated methods for the detection of conspiracy theories from large social media corpora. Along with a colleague at Stanford, he is developing a search engine for dance movement in K-Pop using deep learning methods.

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.

Prior to joining the Cal faculty, he was a Professor in the Dept. of Asian Languages and Cultures, and the Scandinavian Section at UCLA. He has held appointments at the Univ. of Copenhagen, the Univ. of Iceland, Harvard University. He has held guest appointments at the Univ. of Tartu (Estonia), and the Univ. of Gothenburg.

Featured in the Media

Please note: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or positions of UC Berkeley.
November 5, 2021
Michelle Shen
Bill Gates is planning to microchip the world through a COVID-19 vaccine. The 5G networks scattered around the world are causing people to catch coronavirus. COVID-19 was spread by Maine lobsters shipped to China. The COVID-19 pandemic has given birth to some outrageous conspiracy theories packed with misinformation like the ones above, and new research from UCLA sheds light on how these false narratives developed. One of the researchers on the project was University of California, Berkeley professor Timothy Tangherlini, who teaches a class on the application of social network analysis methods to the study of Old Norse sagas. "The narrative structures are of course the same – as humans growing up in cultural groups, we've become incredibly adept at telling stories that help explain how the world works, and why it looks the way it does."
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