Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Legacy Department

Communication, Technology, and Society

Committee Chair/Advisor

Scott, Travers

Committee Member

Kendall , Brenden

Committee Member

Mazer , Joseph


This thesis analyzes the relationship between organizational apologia and the participatory cultures constructed around new media. Using The Pennsylvania State University sex abuse scandal as a case study, the current research highlights the significant role online communities play in the image repair process of an organization accused of wrongdoing. The current study is an attempt to bridge the gap between organizational apologia and participatory culture by offering a multimethodological approach to an analysis of the Penn State crisis. Five specific events in the crisis are examined across three levels. First, a rhetorical criticism of the Penn State response to the event offers insight into the role of organizational apologia. Second, textual analysis of Internet memes in response to the Penn State message sheds light on the impact the self-defense has on its intended audience. Finally, virtual ethnography provides significant perspective on the impact of participatory culture in a crisis scenario. In all, this analysis identifies key concerns around and related to organizational apologia, audience reception, and participatory culture in hypermediated contexts.

Included in

Communication Commons



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