Katherine Elkins is director of the Integrated Program in Humane Studies and co-director of the KDH Collaboratory. She teaches and writes about consciousness, aesthetic experience, language, and storytelling. 

Over the past ten years she and her collaborator, Jon Chun, have developed news ways of bringing computation and Big Data to the humanities and social sciences. Courses focus on natural language processing and natural language generation, as well as the ethical challenges of artificial intelligence, which holds increasing power over our daily lives. 

Her books include "Proust's 'In Search of Lost Time:' Philosophical Perspectives" (Oxford UP) and "The Shapes of Stories: Sentiment Analysis for Narrative" (Cambridge UP). In the latter she demonstrates how to leverage the latest AI to explore the unique shape of a story. 

Areas of Expertise

Artificial Intelligence, Philosophy and Literature, Digital Humanities


2002 — Doctor of Philosophy from Univ. of California Berkeley

1990 — Bachelor of Arts from Yale University

Courses Recently Taught

Centered on the big questions emerging from the rise of big data and AI, this course offers an interdisciplinary, humanities-centered introduction to programming and data analysis. As part of the new data humanities movement, our focus is on telling the stories we find in data, exploring how to count what counts and critically quantifying issues of bias and representation. With hands-on projects like analyzing Netflix data and exploring the Twitterverse, we also build the foundation for topics covered more fully in intermediate courses: natural language processing, social network models, and machine learning and artificial intelligence. No prerequisite.

Cultural analytics is the study of culture using diverse sources and data-driven methods. We analyze language from texts to tweets and social networks from film to the Twitterverse. In this project-based course, students code ways to explore phenomena like the social networks in "Game of Thrones" and the classification of tweets as Trump or Trudeau. They apply what they have learned for a final project of their choice. Students new to coding should contact the instructor for information on how to complete a self-paced mini coding course before the start of the semester. This course does not count toward the completion of any diversification requirement. No prerequisite. Offered every other year.

This course is an interdisciplinary, humanities-centered coding course that explores the philosophical and ethical questions raised by AI. Ethical questions include issues of bias, fairness and transparency, as well as AI-human value alignment. We explore AI as a mirror of both our best and worst natures: how it can surveil, disemploy and police, but also play games, write text, create images and compose music. Prerequisite: any IPHS course.

This course, designed as a research and/or studio workshop, allows students to pursue their own interdisciplinary projects. Students are encouraged to take thoughtful, creative risks in developing their ideas and themes. Those engaged in major long-term projects may continue with them during the second semester. This course does not count toward the completion of any diversification requirement. No prerequisite. Junior standing.

Individual study in the Integrated Program in Humane Studies is reserved for juniors and seniors who have completed at least one course in the program. Individual study projects are designed to offer the opportunity for directed reading and research in areas not generally covered by the regular offerings of the program, or by the regular offerings of other programs or departments. Alternatively, such projects may offer the opportunity for more advanced research in areas already addressed in program offerings. In some instances, they may offer the possibility of studying languages not otherwise available, or not available at an advanced level, in the College curriculum (e.g., Old Icelandic, Old English). Students undertaking an individual study project are expected to meet with their advisors on a regular basis, ordinarily at least once a week. Individual study projects are expected to embody a substantial commitment of time and effort, which, at the discretion of the project advisor, may result in a major essay or research report. Students wishing to undertake such a project should first gain, if possible a semester in advance, the permission of a potential advisor or mentor and then submit a written prospectus of the project for the approval of both the prospective advisor and the program director. Because students must enroll for individual studies by the end of the seventh class day of each semester, they should begin discussion of the proposed individual study by the semester before, so that there is time to devise the proposal and seek departmental approval. This course does not count toward the completion of any diversification requirement.