Charles Chang earned his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2016, was elected as the 2016-2017 Postdoctoral Fellow in Chinese Studies at Stanford, and served as Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Center on Religion and Chinese Society at Purdue in 2017-2018. His research focuses on political communication in contemporary China.
With the rise of the internet, smartphones, and social media, social science is becoming increasingly computational and often involves the collection and analysis of massive data. One type of study he has undertaken is to see how Chinese internet users, who number more than 700 million, respond to an unprecedented political event, for example, the most recent announcements of corruption at the highest level of government. Chang pioneered a method of graphing such that he could follow citizen response to each official announcement of the political event at a micro-spatial granularity and, time wise, from day to day and even from moment to moment.
Another type of study required him to solve the problem of scarce or inaccessible data in China, an authoritarian state that holds information close to its chest. Starting with maps that offered little useful information, Chang pioneered techniques that enabled him to fill in the gaps and show urban land in considerable detail, including the location, size, and compactness of different communities, which in turn gave him the means to gain knowledge of the social status of the people within each, how they communicate and behave.
At Stanford, he taught a seminar on the methods of “computational social science” and “digital humanities” to graduate students in which he explored how its methods can be used to study China. As to his present and future projects, they include a book that introduces computational social science to a broader social science public, and, more specifically, the use of its methods to the understanding of religion in China, a project that takes him closer to the humanities.
Chang will teach the seminar “Digital China: Using Computational Methods to Illuminate Society, Politics, Culture, and History” in Spring 2019.
EAST 403, ANTH 405, SOCY 309
Digital China: Using Computational Methods to Illuminate Society, Politics, Culture, and History
In the humanities and social sciences, those who study China face a vast volume of disparate information that ranges from historical archives and maps to the news and social media posts of our time. Such abundance and variety of data can seem daunting, quite beyond an individual’s capacity to digest, and yet, with appropriate concepts and methods, the data can be accessed and sorted out in such a way as to allow the researcher to address questions, hitherto neglected or insufficiently analyzed, in Chinese history, politics, society, and culture. The course has two components: seminar and workshop. In the seminar, we discuss the ideas and concepts behind the collection of data, which could be temporal, spatial, or textual; this is followed by an introduction to network analysis and visualization. In the workshop, students gain hands-on experience in the full actualization of a project. Note that although the course’s title is “Digital China,” its ideas and methods are applicable to other non-Western countries. Students whose research interest lies in, Southeast Asia, Central Asia, or Africa are welcome.