Yini Zhang


Yini Zhang headshot.

Yini Zhang


Yini Zhang


Scholarly Interests

Social media, emerging communication technology, media system, computational social science.


Dr. Zhang (PhD, University of Wisconsin—Madison) studies social media and emerging communication technologies. She uses computational methods to examine the processes and outcomes of primarily political communication within and beyond different corners of the evolving media landscape. Her research has been supported by funders like the National Science Foundation and the Knight Foundation and received media coverage from news outlets like the New York Times, BBC, and USA TODAY.

Educational Background

  • PhD, University of Wisconsin—Madison
  • MA, University of Wisconsin—Madison
  • MA, Renmin University of China
  • BA, Beijing Normal University

Recent Courses

Undergraduate courses:

  • COM 205: Research Methods
  • COM 240: Introduction to Mass Communication
  • COM 337: Communication Theory
  • COM 485: Social Media & Society

Graduate courses:

  • COM 504: Research Methods
  • COM 686: Social Media & Society

Current Research

  • A computational link analysis that reveals how social media users’ cross-media and cross-platform sharing practices, facilitated by social media affordances and driven by user psychology, underpin cross-platform information flows and shape platform interconnections within the social media system.
  • A multi-layered computational study of how AI is discussed across social media platforms, focusing on how political actors introduce political topics in the discourse.
  • A study of how engagement and algorithmic biases affect social media data collection, via a novel experimental design that uses a customized online web application to measure users’ attention vs engagement.

Selected Publications

Zhang, Y., Lukito, J., Suk, J., & McGrady, R. (2024). Trump, Twitter, and Truth Social: how Trump used both mainstream and alt-tech social media to drive news media attention. Journal of Information Technology & Politics. https://doi.org/10.1080/19331681.2024.2328156

Zhang, Y., Chen, F., Suk, J., & Yue. Z. (2023). WordPPR: A Researcher-Driven Computational Keyword Selection Method for Text Data Retrieval from Digital Media. Communication Methods and Measures. https://doi.org/10.1080/19312458.2023.2278177

Zhang, Y., Chen, F., & Rohe, K. (2022). Social Media Public Opinion as Flocks in a Murmuration: Conceptualizing and Measuring Opinion Expression on Social Media. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. https://doi.org/10.1093/jcmc/zmab021

Zhang, Y., Lukito J., Su, M.H., Suk, J., Xia, Y., Kim, S.J., Doroshenko, L., & Wells, C. (2021). Assembling the Networks and Audiences of Disinformation: How Successful Russian IRA Twitter Accounts Built Their Followings, 2015–2017. Journal of Communication, 71(2), 305-331. https://doi.org/10.1093/joc/jqaa042

Zhang, Y., Wells, C., Wang, S., & Rohe, K. (2018). Attention and amplification in the hybrid media system: The composition and activity of Donald Trump’s Twitter following during the 2016 presidential election. New Media & Society, 20(9), 3161-3182. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1461444817744390.