Linda Cheng

Black & white image of Linda Cheng



Linda Cheng

DPhil in Sociology

Thesis: Dismantling Patriarchy, One iPhone At a Time? The Real World Impacts of Digital Gender Gaps

Supervisors: Professor Ridhi Kashyap and Dr Charles Rahal

Linda Cheng is a Clarendon Scholar at Nuffield College, affiliated with the Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science (LCDS) and International Max Planck Research School for Population, Health and Data Science (IMPRS-PHDS).

Linda’s interests broadly encapsulate novel applications of computational social science (machine learning, agent based modelling, NLP, etc.) to analyses of colonial-patriarchal gender disparities, social inequalities, social demographic trends, and contentious politics. Her DPhil research is affiliated with the Digital Gender Gaps project and looks at the impacts of digital gender gaps on offline inequalities. 


Linda is particularly interested in decolonial applications of machine learning methods within the social sciences. Her most recent work, forthcoming in the Oxford Handbook of the Sociology of Machine Learning, takes a critical decolonial approach to natural language processing (NLP) as both conceptual framework and practical toolkit, pointing out its inherent Eurocentrism and Anglocentrism. Establishing a new subfield situated at the intersections of sociology, computational methods, and China studies she terms ‘Chinese computational sociology’, Linda suggests new and exciting avenues for the incorporation of non-European languages, particularly Chinese, into NLP frameworks.

Prior to Oxford, Linda completed her MA in Regional Studies: East Asia at Columbia University, fully funded by the Weatherhead East Asia Institute-FLAS award. Her Master’s thesis, forthcoming in Mobilization, uses NLP, novel dictionary methods, feature engineering, and statistical methods on novel big data from Weibo to analyse gender bias in media and government attention to protest events in Mainland China. Of particular interest in this work is how patriarchy is made, unmade, reified, and transgressed by the actions of individual actors, government bureaucracy, and media institutions.

Linda’s undergraduate senior honours thesis, winner of the prestigious Chancellor’s Best Honours Thesis Prize, uses simple survey and interview methods to analyse the complex, oft-contradictory motivations behind the 1989 Tiananmen Square student-protesters’ choice of ‘Nothing To My Name’ as their protest anthem. Through micro-exploratory profiles of civilians, protesters, and state actors, this work weaves a greater political-economic tapestry of China’s turbulent post-1978 reform era—ultimately culminating in the explosive Tiananmen protests. This research critically intervenes in mainstream Western-dominated narratives of the Tiananmen protests, conceptualising the protests as a site through which students attempted to negotiate their relationship (and loss thereof) with the state—the loss of ‘everything’. 

Currently, Linda is teaching the Politics of Social Movements, which analyses contentious politics and state-society relations through an anti-colonial lesbian/queer feminist framework.


Research Interests: gender, social stratification, social inequality, computational methods, digital demography

Previous Education: BA Economics & BA History, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; MA Regional Studies: East Asia, Columbia University