Keywords of research interest:
Science & Technology Communication
Public Engagement, Public Deliberation
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 Data Science Institute, the UW-Madison Robert & Jean Holtz Center for Science and Technology Studies, the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, the Wisconsin Energy Institute, the Institute for Diversity Science, the Center for East Asian Studies, and the African Studies Program. Starting in 2022, I serve as the elected International Liaison and the chair for the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Taskforce at the Computational Methods Division, the International Communication Association (ICA). I also serve as the elected Secretary of the Communicating Science, Health, Environment and Risk Division at AEJMC. I am grateful to be the recipient of the AEJMC Lillian Lodge Kopenhaver Early Career Woman Scholar Award.
My research is driven by the questions of How can we empower publics to have thoughtful deliberation about science and political issues? What are the effective communication processes to engage diverse social groups 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 civic dialogues 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 draws 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. These work have led to my recent investigation on equity in conversational AI systems.
My ongoing work investigates 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 identity politics and misinformation. On the other hand, my work revealed how social inequalities can be amplified on digital platforms in content creation and sharing.
My work also contributes 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 from Fudan University. My work is supported by the US National Science Foundation, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and American Family Insurance. My work was published in flagship journals across disciplines, including American Political Science Review, Journal of Communication, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, New Media & Society, Public Opinion Quarterly, Public Understanding of Science, 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 U.S. and China implement and analyze innovative practices of engaging and responding to communities. 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 Palo Alto Weekly in California and Dane County Office of Energy and Climate Change Blog in Wisconsin. I strive to be the professor that turns the ivory tower knowledge to solutions for addressing street-level problems. I keep my humility and compassion to learn from the communities I work with.