Award Date

May 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Communication Studies

First Committee Member

Sara VanderHaagen

Second Committee Member

Jennifer Guthrie

Third Committee Member

Donovan Conley

Fourth Committee Member

Denise Tillery

Number of Pages



My thesis undertakes a rhetorical analysis of the discourse surrounding the development of the personal computer and Apple Computer as a case study in Silicon Valley discourse. The analysis spans twenty years (1964-1984) starting with San Francisco-area computer hobbyist clubs and ending with the release of Macintosh by Apple Computer. Symbolic convergence theory (SCT) and fantasy theme analysis (FTA) provide the primary methodology for my work. Because SCT/FTA developed from small group communication research, they are fitting tools for understanding how small groups of people impassioned about building something new can impact public discourse. I connect SCT/FTA with a materialist approach to rhetoric, as well as affect theory and ethos. This methodological synthesis contributes to a broader understanding of the complex interplay between environments, objects, and symbols. I conclude that the development of the personal computer was supported by particular environments and five primary fantasies. The personal computer is (1) possible (2) revolutionary (3) democratizing (4) necessary and (5) user-friendly.


affect theory; fantasy theme analysis; rhetoric of technology; symbolic convergence theory


Communication | Mass Communication | Rhetoric