Joe Walther

Mark and Susan Bertelsen Presidential Chair in Technology and Society
Director of the Center for Information Technology & Society

Office Hours

By appointment Winter Quarter

Contact Phone


Office Location

4007 SSMS Building


Computer-mediated communication, social media, interpersonal, intergroup, organizational, educational relations


PhD, Communication, University of Arizona, 1990


Joseph B. Walther is a Distinguished Professor in Communication, the Mark and Susan Bertelsen Presidential Chair in Technology and Society, and the Director of the Center for Information Technology and Society at UCSB. His teaching and research focus on computer-mediated communication and social media in personal relationships, groups, educational settings, and inter-ethnic conflict, topics on which he has contributed several original theories and numerous experiments and surveys. Students interested in working on projects related to these topics should get in touch to explore possibilities.

Prior to joining UCSB, Prof Walther was the Wee Kim Wee Professor in Communication Studies at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore; and previously at Michigan State University, Cornell, RPI, and Northwestern. He is a fellow at the Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR), where he was a Fulbright Scholar. He’s also a Fellow of the International Communication Association (ICA) and a Distinguished Scholar in the National Communication Association (NCA). He’s received the NCA’s Woolbert Award for articles that have stood the test of time and changed thinking in the communication discipline for more than ten years, and the ICA’s Chaffee Award for career productivity and influence.


Reprints of many of his articles can be requested here.


Graduate Courses

Comm 594 Foundations of Computer Mediated Communication

This course examines landmark theories from a variety of disciplines, all or most of which preceded digital communication, that provide the theoretical dynamics that inform, embody, or are altered by computer-mediated communication and online social interaction. By studying modern benchmarks in psychology, sociology, anthropology, education, management, nonverbal interaction, and communication (etc.), the objectives of the course are

(1) to cultivate participants’ background social scientific foundation with which to ground the study of contemporary electronic media in historical and theoretical contexts,

(2) to enhance their research by improving their ability to recognize and capitalize on existing theories, and

(3) and to sharpen their conceptual analysis of the ways in which contemporary media differ, in specific ways, from traditional communication. 

INT 200 (Gateway Technology & Society Colloquium) 2018: Fake News

The interdisciplinary seminar focuses this year on the topic of Fake News: the propagation of knowingly dubious and generally sensationalistic stories via social media that entice readers to select and further disseminate the stories. Sample topics and approaches may include examination of the origins of Fake News stories in forms of journalism and social media, computational underpinnings that facilitate its attraction and re-transmission, technological efforts aimed at its detection and eradication, economic incentives that motivate it, visual and language attributes that encourage readership, social network dynamics that reinforce its spread and the gratifications it serves, political and social impacts it potentially renders, qualities that characterize its relation to deception and credibility, psychological biases that resist its dismissal, legal and ethical dilemmas pertaining to its regulation, and potential effects of communication interventions designed to mitigate its influence. Students will start from a particular disciplinary/topical approach, and individually or collectively develop brief research proposals incorporating an interdisciplinary research agenda. The seminar will involve guest speakers and complement other events and speakers at the Center for Information Technology and Society throughout the year.