Welcome to my home page! My name is Yingdan Lu; I am an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies in the School of Communication at Northwestern University. I received my Ph.D. in Communication at Stanford University in 2023, advised by Professor Jennifer Pan, where I also earned a Ph.D. minor in Political Science.
My research focuses on digital technology, political communication, and information manipulation in authoritarian and democratic contexts. As a computational social scientist and a mixed-method researcher, I use large-scale digital data and cutting-edge computational methods like computer vision, along with qualitative methods such as ethnography into the advancement of social scientific theory and analysis. My research explores the following questions: How do authoritarian governments like China use digital media and artificial intelligence strategically to maintain their rule and what are the resulting downstream effects? How do individuals experience digital technology and what are the impacts? My work has been published in peer-reviewed journals, including Political Communication, New Media & Society, Human-Computer Interaction, International Journal of Press/Politics, Mobile Media & Communication, and Computational Communication Research. Ten internal and external grants have funded my research.
Methodologically, my past and ongoing research has focused on advancing computational methods through the development of new frameworks analyzing multimodal data such as videos and smartphone screenshots, the extension of natural language processing methods to analyze cross-lingual digital communication, and the promotion of mixed-method research. In my current projects, I am developing ways of analyzing multimodal data (where visuals, text, and/or audio are combined) to expand our understanding of how propaganda strategies evolve in the digital age, as well as ways of addressing multimodal content in combating information manipulation and social inequality.
I am committed to diverse, equitable, and inclusive education through my teaching and service. I founded COMputation Island (计传岛COMputation), an online platform of more than 10,000 Mandarin-speaking scholars and students that facilitates the sharing of cutting-edge research in computational social science and the exchange of resources to students and scholars in Asia. I have given invited talks at various U.S. and Asian institutions and have organized three panels at ICA’s annual conferences bringing together scholars around the world to discuss new pathways to integrate computational methods into the advancement of social science theory and analysis.
I obtained my M.A. degree from Center of East Asian Studies at Stanford University and a B.A. degree from the School of Journalism and Communication at Tsinghua University. I have interned and worked at the School of Public Policy and Management at Tsinghua University, Japan International Cooperation Agency Research Institute (JICA-RI), and the Center for the Digital Future. Outside academia, I have worked as a journalism intern and public relations intern at the China News Agency, Bloomberg Businessweek China, Bayer China, and Ruder Finn Asia.