Date of Defense


Date of Graduation




First Advisor

Richard Gershon

Second Advisor

Julie Apker

Third Advisor

Leah Omilion-Hodges


Background Electronic mail, or email, can trace its origin to Arpanet. Arpanet was a network of interlinked computers created by the Advanced Research Projects Agency (Harrison, 2003). The proliferation of email from Arpanet in the 1970's to modern use has been apparent. Today, over 3.4 billion email accounts exist worldwide with expected growth (The Raticati Group, Inc., 2012). Webmail Plus is the email platform used at Western Michigan University. The system is a third-party cloud based service provided by Merit Network Inc. (Merit Network Inc., 2013). On September 2ih, 2012, five hard drives failed at Merit Network in Southfield, Michigan. This failure rendered user accounts inaccessible resulting in the inability to utilize email, calendar, document storage, and task software.

Case Study The purpose of this honors thesis will be to explore Webmail Plus at Western Michigan University focusing on the technological and social consequences of its failure. The exploration will include an examination of the history and purpose of electronic mail systems, the causes and consequences of the Web mail Plus breakdown, differing technology dependences of these systems and future prospects of electronic communication at WMU. Special attention will be given to the importance of electronic communication in organizations such as WMU and the effects felt at the university when communication systems such as email break down. The argument is made that Webmail Plus is likely to remain the email platform on campus. Lastly, the general future of email as an entity integrated with many features delivered to a single device is theorized.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Open Access