Media and Communication Ph.D. Dissertations

The Mass-Personal Divide: Bridging Scholarship and Paving Ground Through the Lens of Environmental Discourse on Public Land Use

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Media and Communication

First Advisor

Sandra Faulkner (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Lisa Hanasono (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Syed Shahin (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Judith Jackson May (Other)


The emergence and reliance on interactive media in society creates a space for integrated “masspersonal communication” and necessitates a reimagining of the separation of mass and interpersonal communication and the metaconstructs used to define each. Rather than audience size, channel used, and message sender, this dissertation explores the variables introduced by O’Sullivan and Carr (2017) of personalization and publicness of messages to create a continuum moving from interpersonal to masspersonal to mass communication. Theorization into masspersonal messages is an emerging topic, thus, this research examined the application of the masspersonal communication model, two-step flow (which has always acknowledged the connection between interpersonal and mass communication), and adjacent theory connective action in an ongoing public dispute over the use of land at Bears Ears National Monument. Twitter data was collected for one year using the search term “Bears Ears” and “BearsEars.” Using social network analysis, topic modeling, and qualitative content analysis this complementary mixed-methods study identified masspersonal message characteristic variances such as message topic and purpose, mention/hashtag use, and follower/following counts in Twitter conversations, tracked network structures created through masspersonal message sharing over time, and identified and analyzed masspersonal messages from and to key influencers. Results indicate more public masspersonal messages focus on media driven legislative and political topics and are crafted to easily spread information, while less public messages contain more directed comments and personalized information. Networks formed through masspersonal messages showed high modularity, low levels of reciprocal communication, and high centralization. Mentions became problematic as a means of measuring personalization due to the inability to effectively interpret their intention and reception in online spaces. Results indicate research into the masspersonal continuum needs a more concrete definition of “public” as not all messages achieve the same level of visibility within “public” platforms and “personalization” as mentions hold a variety of meanings and levels of interpersonal attempts.