I am Professor of Digital Politics and Media at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin. My main research interests include digital governance, comparative politics with a specialization on China, public opinion and political communication, research design, and more recently digital methods, “big data,” and data science as an emerging field. Before joining the Hertie School faculty, I was Associate Professor of Political Science at Leiden University. I received my Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
My book, Media Commercialization and Authoritarian Rule in China explores the effects of media marketization on the production of news and media credibility among audiences. I argue that the consequences of media marketization depend on the institutional design of the state. In one-party regimes, such as China, market-based media promote regime stability, rather than destabilize authoritarianism or bring about democracy. In 2015 the book has won the Goldsmith Book Prize for the best academic book on media, politics, and public affairs by the Shorenstein Center at Harvard University.
Following up on this prior work, my current project “Authoritarianism2.0” explores the impact of social media on public opinion and political participation. In authoritarian regimes social media have often been described as “liberation technology” that may potentially destabilize authoritarian rule. What it is about social media that mobilizes people to act, and what kind of social media, such as blogs or Twitter, are more influential than others? This five-year project, funded by the European Research Council (Starting Grant), investigates these questions in the context of China. You can read more about this new project at www.authoritarianism.net.
Why China? I have been fascinated with China since I lived in Weifang, a small town in Shandong province famous for its kite festival, where I worked for a German Development Aid Project in 1998. Since then I visited Qingdao, Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Chongqing, Xian, Lanzhou, Xiahe, and Dunhuang. In 2005, an award by the Ministry of Education of the Republic of China on Taiwan made it possible for me to visit Taibei and Tainan, a trip that I enjoyed very much.