Joe Walther

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

Office Hours

By appointment Fall Quarter

Contact Phone


Office Location

1310 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 twice 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.


Undergraduate Courses

COMM 185 Communication Technology and Relationships

This course explores issues and questions about computer-mediated communication and social media in a variety of relationship stages (such as impression formation and relational development to relationship maintenance and termination), contexts (friendship and romantic relationships, collaboration and work), and technologies, in order to understand the psychological, interpersonal, professional, social, and cultural impacts of digital communication media on human relationships. The major objective of the course is to develop a critical and practical view of online communication--how it differs and how it doesn’t--by applying the processes and principles from theories and research to issues and patterns of interactive communication technology use.

Graduate Courses

COMM 594 Computer Mediated Communication

This seminar provides a rigorous introduction to the major theories in computer-mediated communication and relationships, to evaluate their development, level of empirical support, boundaries, status, and promise.  A second goal of the course is to help students refine their abilities to identify logical implications of social science theories and evaluate in careful and critical detail whether and how empirically-based claims do or do not satisfy the issues that research was designed to address, and to design research to clarify and rectify theoretical/empirical contradictions.

INT 200 (Gateway Technology & Society Colloquium) Winter 2023: Online Hate

The interdisciplinary seminar focuses this year on the topic of online hate, a topic that spans our knowledge and research from computational, humanistic, social scientific, and policy perspectives. The topic includes racist/ethnic/sexist social media postings, hate websites and discussion fora, trolling and doxing, harassment, uncivil discourse, cyberbullying, etc.; the crossovers of online to offline aggression; how these activities are socially organized; and remediation efforts such as intervention messages (human and robotic). Readings will span disciplines, including NLP approaches to hate speech identification; rhetorical dimensions of hate; psychological, intergroup, political, and communication-based approaches; and prejudice reduction efforts. Students, preferably in cross-disciplinary pairs, will develop a research proposal as a term paper, the best of which may be funded in the following spring/summer. Students will also have an opportunity to help plan, host, and attend/participate in a symposium on campus with illuminating guest speakers, the following May.