Welcome to my home page! My name is Yingdan Lu; I am a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Communication at Stanford University, advised by Professor Jennifer Pan. I am currently on the academic job market for a faculty position starting 2023.

My research focuses on digital media, political communication, global communication, and Chinese politics. 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 two important questions: How do authoritarian governments like China use digital media and technology 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, Human-Computer Interaction, International Journal of Press/Politics, Mobile Media & Communication, Computational Communication Research, and Journal of Quantitative Description: Digital Media. Ten internal and external sources have funded my theory-driven computational research.

My first line of research uses digital data to explore the roles of digital media and technology in authoritarian governance, with a special focus on how the Chinese government strategically leverages social media for political propaganda. In two publications, I apply computational text analyzes to large-scale social media data to identify new propaganda strategies like clickbait, attention-eliciting video features, and the production of non-propaganda content used by the Chinese government. Going beyond identifying government strategies, in my latest leading-author publication, I develop a semi-automated deep-learning framework to explore the consequences and limitations of censorship on transnational information flows in China.

My second line of research examines individuals’ experiences with digital media and technology and their effects through new data collection methods and computational analyzes. I have collaborated with an interdisciplinary team at Stanford developing the Screenomics framework for understanding how individuals experience widely varied digital experiences on smartphones through capturing moment-by-moment screenshots. Using the Screenomics framework to compare mobile phone use among individuals in China, Myanmar, and the United States based on millions of screenshots, we find that smartphone use reflects both localization and homogenization in the three radically different media environments. Combining quantitative analysis and qualitative digital ethnography of influencer-generated data, my working paper, currently being revised for resubmission to New Media & Society, explores how social media reproduces racial inequality as a consequence of media experiences.

Methodologically, my past and ongoing research has been advancing computational methods through developing new frameworks to analyze multimodal data, extended the application of natural language processing to analyze cross-lingual digital communication, and promoted mixed-method research. In my working projects, I am advancing my multimodal analysis to expand our understanding of how propaganda strategies evolve in the digital age, and to study multimodal content in combating information manipulation and social inequality.

I am also committed to diverse, equitable, and inclusive education through my teaching and services. I founded COMputation Island (计传岛COMputation), an online platform followed by more than 10,000 Mandarin-speaking scholars and students, to share cutting-edge computational communication research, and promote resource exchanges to students and scholars in Asia. I have given talks in various U.S. and Asian institutions, and I organised two panels at ICA’s annual conferences to bring together scholars across the world to discuss new pathways to integrate computational methods into the advancement of communication theory and analysis.

I obtained my M.A. degree from the Center of East Asian Studies at Stanford University and a B.A. degree from the School of Journalism and Communication at Tsinghua University, advised by Professor Larry Diamond and Professor Jianbin Jin, respectively. Prior to my Ph.D. study, I have worked as a visiting scholar or research intern at institutes such as School of Public Policy and Management at Tsinghua University, JICA Research Institute, and Center for the Digital Future. Besides academia, I have been a journalism intern and public relations intern in China News Agency, Bloomberg Businessweek China, Bayer China, and Ruder Finn Asia.