I'm Stephen Yang,
a UX and HCI researcher
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Who's Stephen?
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I'm Stephen Yang, a communication, human-computer interaction (HCI) and user experience (UX) researcher studying how new forms of AI-powered communication technologies, ranging from writing assistants to conversational agents, reshape the ways we foster trust and relationships in our personal, professional, and civic lives.

I'm currently a research intern at the Social Media Collective at Microsoft Research New England. I'm applying to PhD programs in Communication and Information Science in the 2022-2023 application cycle.

For my (future) PhD research, I plan to study the ways content creators establish their authenticity and expertise as they adopt AI-powered tools for audience engagement and content generation. I'm curious about the parallels and differences of the practices across journalists, domain experts, influencers, activists, social media professionals, ordinary people, and communities on the margins. This research agenda is driven by my interest in the shifting nature of knowledge, creative, and relational labor in an AI-infused media landscape. My goal is to reimagine a more inclusive, equitable, and trustworthy media ecosystem.

In the past, I have explored how people foster trust and relationships through their use and appropriation of communication technologies across a variety of sociotechnical contexts, from AI development, urban design, clinical decision-making, youth c, to networked activism.

Trained in communication and human-computer interaction, I have 4 years of experience in qualitative research; I have facilitated 100+ in-depth interviews, hosted 5 co-design workshops, and conducted ethnographic fieldwork in New York City, upstate New York, and Taipei, Taiwan.

In May 2022, I received my Bachelor's degree in rom Cornell University, graduating as the Degree Marshal of the Cornell Ann S. Bowers College of Computing and Information Science and a Merrill Presidential Scholar.
Recent Updates
  • May 31, 2022 -  I started my internship at Microsoft Research New England this summer! I'm working with Nancy Baym, Mary Gray, and Tarleton Gillespie at the Social Media Collective.
  • May 28, 2022 -  I graduated summa cum laude with distinctions in research from Cornell University as the inaugural Degree Marshal for the Cornell Ann S. Bowers College of Computing and Information Science!
  • May 9, 2022 -  My project, "“Secrecy as Self-Making: Mobile Media Tactics in Underground Electronic/Dance Music Scenes," has been accepted to the 23rd annual meeting of the Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR). See you in Dublin!
  • May 2, 2022 -  I  presented my honors thesis, “Secrecy as Self-Making: Mobile Media Tactics in Underground Electronic/Dance Music Scenes,” at the Communication Colloquium Series of the Department of Communication at Cornell University!
  • April 28, 2022 -  I  presented a workshop paper, "Examining Proxies for Stakeholder Participation in AI Design: Participating Via Stand-ins, Advocates, and Algorithmic Proxies," at the Proxies, Warm-ups, and Stand-ins  Virtual Symposium based on my collaborative project with Fernando Delgado, Michael Madaio, Qian Yang.
  • March 23, 2022 -  I am selected as a Merrill Presidential Scholar at Cornell University. Merrill Scholars are graduating seniors  with outstanding scholastic achievement, strong leadership ability, and demonstrated potential for contributing to society.
  • January 12, 2022 - A conference paper I co-wrote with Emily La, “The Role of Hashtags and Mobile Media in Shaping Discourse During the #IChooseFish Environmental Movement,” has  been accepted to the 72nd annual conference of the International Communication Association!
A growing number of AI researchers and practitioners agree that AI needs greater stakeholder participation, yet there's a lack of consensus regarding the specific goals, scope, and methods required for achieving meaningful participation in AI system development. By developing a conceptual framework for analyzing participatory approaches to AI design. I seek to provide recommendations to aid AI researchers and practitioners in thinking through how to increase stakeholder agency in AI design projects.
In light of privacy and surveillance concerns, countercultural communities often repurpose information and communication technologies (ICTs) to navigate the tension between maintaining their secrecy on the margins and growing their community through self-promotion. This project investigates how participants of underground dance scenes navigate such tension through their mobile social media practices. I'm interested in  how mobile social media remediate the communication, social and spatial practices of communities on the margins.
Following the series of controversies surrounding he ecological catastrophe along the north-central Vietnamese coast that begin in April 2016, the hashtag #IChooseFish serves as the proxy through which the Vietnamese public shared information on upcoming protests, emergency relief for residents in fishing villages, as well as fundraising efforts to conduct independent research in the contaminated area. This project seeks to contribute to an empirical understanding of how the adoption of hashtags and mobile social media has reshaped civic participation in the contemporary one-party state of Vietnam.
Diversity and Inclusion
As a queer person of color that didn't grow up in an English-speaking household., I often sit in between marginality and privilege. To put my commitment to diversity and inclusion in practice, I actively seek ways to reduce barriers to success for those coming from marginalized backgrounds. This often translates to sharing tacit knowledge I acquired from prior experience and from my position of privilege.

To help foster a space of inclusivity in the classroom, I have served a a teaching assistant for 6 classes throughout my college career.  In addition, as part of the International Students Union (ISU), I curated the International Student Survival Guide to help international students adjust to life at Cornell. Furthermore, I served as a peer mentor for the Cornell Undergraduate Research Board and the COMM-Unity Project under the Department of Communication at Cornell.