Keywords of research interest:
New Media and ICT
Identity and Group Process
Comparative Media Studies
Computational Social Science
I am an Assistant Professor in Computational Communication at University of Wisconsin-Madison, Department of Life Sciences Communication. I am also a faculty affiliate at the Department of Political Science, the UW-Madison Robert & Jean Holtz Center for Science and Technology Studies, the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, the Center for East Asian Studies, and the African Studies Program. Starting in 2022, I will be the elected International Liaison for the Computational Methods Division at the International Communication Association (ICA).
My research is driven by the broad questions of How can we empower citizens to have thoughtful deliberation about science and political issues? What are the effective communication processes to engage diverse publics in science & technology policymaking from climate justice, to fairness AI?
Specifically, I use data science and machine learning methods as well as interviews to study to what extent digital media and technologies hold politicians accountable for public well-being and how deliberative designs improve the quality of public discourse and mitigate misinformation and misperception. My work is comparative and I have studied these questions across nations (U.S., China, Ghana) and across platforms. My work is interdisciplinary and I draw from theories in communication, political science, and computer sciences.
Under the first research line, I examine the strategies politicians use to manage and respond to online citizen requests in democratic and authoritarian countries. I demonstrated how the promise of digital technology to empower citizens’ voices can be compromised by political interests and information overload. Under the second research line, I explore how to empower the lay publics, especially vulnerable populations, to engage in thoughtful discussion on complex policy issues when they are exposed to deliberative communication environments vs organic digital platforms. I demonstrated that a deliberative process can foster people’s thoughtful discussion on well-being issues including food security, sustainable agriculture and environment, and public health. This thoughtful discussion can further increase civic participation in community development.
My ongoing works study the role of social and group identity in public deliberation and engagement with controversial science issues and misinformation. On one hand, I showed that social media posts that use in-group and out-group language fuel the spread of misinformation. On the other hand, my work revealed how social inequalities can be amplified on digital platforms in content creation and sharing.
My works also contribute to the methodology of studying communication topics by illustrating how to use text as data, visual as data, and social media as data. My works demonstrated how to integrate qualitative and computational content analyses to examine public discourse, how to synthesize social media discussions with surveys and public deliberation forums to study public opinion, how to use various research tools to collect, analyze and assess Twitter data, and how to combine visual and text data to identify science misinformation.
I received Ph.D. in Communication from Stanford University in 2019, MPA from SIPA, Columbia University, and bachelor in political science and economics (second major) from Fudan University. My work has been supported by the National Science Foundation and was published in flagship journals across disciplines, including American Political Science Review, Journal of Communication, New Media & Society, Public Opinion Quarterly, Public Understanding of Science, Journal of Science Communication, Harvard Kennedy School Misinformation Review, International Public Management Journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), among other peer-reviewed journals.
I am also a civic engagement practitioner, with my continued passion to help local governments and communities in US and China implement and analyze innovative practices of engaging citizens throughout policymaking. These experiences are highlighted in my award-winning dissertation where I examined mini-public deliberation and digital crowdsourcing. My practices were covered by local media such as The Palo Alto Weekly. I strive to be the professor that turns the ivory tower knowledge to solutions for addressing street-level problems. I keep my humidity and compassion to learn from the communities I work with.