Language and AI: Theory Pillar

February 28, 2024

Featured Speaker: Tim Tangherlini (

Timothy R. Tangherlini, Professor, Dept of Scandinavian, Assoc. Director, Berkeley Institute for Data Science (He/him)

Tangherlini is professor in the Dept of Scandinavian at UC Berkeley, where he also directs the Graduate Program in Folklore, and acts as the associate director of the Berkeley Institute for Data Science. He has worked on computational approaches to stories and storytelling over the past three decades and has developed generative models of common story genres such as legend, rumor, personal experience narratives. His recent work focuses on conspiracy theories such as Pizzagate and QAnon, as well as language use in 19th century Danish fiction. 

Conversation Leader: Kent Chang (

Kent Chang, Berkeley School of Information (He/him)

Kent Chang is a PhD student in the School of Information and Berkeley Artificial Intelligence Research at UC Berkeley. His work explores natural language processing and empirical questions related to literature and culture, and is published in ACL, EMNLP, and Journal of Cultural Analytics, among other places.

Panelists: Catherine Flynn (, Ben Spanbock (, Kimberly Vinall (

Catherine Flynn, Associate Professor, Department of English (She/her)

Catherine Flynn works on Irish literature and culture in a European avant-garde context and on critical theory. She has published several works on James Joyce and hosts U22 The Centenary Ulysses Podcast.She is also at work with Kent Chang on a website to support her English Department class, AIrish, which uses machine learning and computational analysis to support the study of Irish drama.

Ben Spanbock, PhD; College Writing Programs (He/him)

Ben Spanbock teaches writing, research, and theory courses with UC Berkeley College Writing Programs. He is a 2020-2024 Berkeley Discovery fellow interested in multimodality and AI image creation as a translation practice, authenticity and the digital other, and wholistic pedagogical strategies for contemporary language and expression landscapes. 

Kimberly Vinall, Executive Director, Berkeley Language Center (She/her)

Kimberly Vinall (PhD, University of California, Berkeley) is the Executive Director of the UC Berkeley Language Center. Her research explores the potential of machine translation tools and other human-like technologies to support language/culture learning, the development of critical digital literacy skills, and understandings of digital citizenship.