University of Wisconsin–Madison

Christopher Wells

Associate Professor

Chris Wells Headshot

Christopher Wells is Associate Professor in the School of Journalism & Mass Communication and faculty affiliate of the Center for the History of Print and Digital Culture. His writing concerns the communications processes underpinning democratic culture and citizenship; biases of information processing in public opinion formation; the evolution of citizenship practice and communication’s role in that evolution; and how individuals and institutions are adapting to the digital media environment.

His current projects include a major study of civic organizations’ communications to young people through websites and social media. Drawing on the long history of organizations’ roles as conveyors of civic information, this work examines how those roles are changing as digital information exchange becomes ubiquitous. Another project explores how candidates, journalists and organizations communicate through the social messaging service Twitter, in 2010 and 2012 elections. And a third assesses the role of beliefs about facts—whether correct or misinformed—in influencing individuals’ policy preferences in direct democracy (referenda and ballot initiatives).

Wells’ work has appeared in a number of academic journals, including Journal of Communication, Information, Communication and Society, Mass Communication and Society, Political Psychology, and Citizenship Studies. He has also published chapters in the edited volumes Routledge Handbook of Internet Politics (Chadwick & Howard, Eds., 2009), the Handbook of Research on Civic Engagement in Youth (Sherrod, Torney-Purta, & Flanagan, Eds., 2010), the Sage Handbook of Political Communication (Semetko & Scammell, Eds., 2011), and the Oxford Handbook of Political Communication (Kenski & Jamieson, Eds., 2012).

Courses taught include J201: Introduction to Mass Communication; J345: Principles of Strategic Communication; and J618: Mass Media and Political Participation.

Wells received a Ph.D. in Communication, with the interdisciplinary Certificate in Political Communication, from the University of Washington in 2011. Before entering graduate school he was an environmental advocate working on oceans protection issues in the Puget Sound region. He earned a B.A. in Linguistics from Cornell University in 2003.