Date of Award

Spring 5-17-2016

Document Type

Undergraduate Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts in Art History


Art, Architecture + Art History


Dr. Leeva Chung


Dr. Sally Yard


Allison Wiese


This present case study explores how language styles and power distance led to miscommunication between an administrator and student via computer mediated communication. Email exchanges were examined using textual analysis between an administrator and an undergraduate student. Results indicate high-context and low-context communication and power distance roles led to problematic actions and decisions. Furthermore, divergent speech with regard to communication styles was an additional problematic. Implications of the results specific examples of how this interaction could have been prevented were discussed.


The purpose of this study was to analyze the e-mail transcriptions between a student and administrator to determine high/low context communication, power distance, and divergence, in order to explain the miscommunication that occurred between them. The specific case study stems from a series of controversial events that occurred at the University of San Diego during the spring of 2015. The case study revolves around a student’s guerilla art show and the destruction of her thesis work. Research revealed an e-mail thread between a student and an administrator that started a series of events, which resulted in the creation of a new public art process at the University of San Diego. This study seeks to understand the communication pattern that occurred between the student and the administrator to determine what communication studies factors led them to miscommunication. In this study, an analysis of high/low-context communication will examine differences in communication styles, as will an analysis of power distance and formality. The qualitative results are discussed in terms of the cultural frameworks used in the analyses, as well as noticeable trends.