Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Keith M. Hearit

Second Advisor

Dr. Shirley Van Hoeven

Third Advisor

Dr. Kathleen M. Propp

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


This study uses the Intel Pentium chip crisis of 1994 to gain an understanding of how technology issues are socially constructed in contemporary American public discourse. Two primary and competing narratives were discovered. First, Intel's narrative minimized the problem and argued that chip flaws are commonplace and the company would replace the chips for anyone who could "prove" the need for a replacement. The consumer' s narrative, conversely, was one in which customers asserted that Intel's policy was paternalistic and instead demanded the replacement of their chips. The narratives were analyzed as the crisis moved through five primary events, with the crisis ultimately ending in Intel adopting a "no questions asked" return policy and setting new industry standards for handling flaws.

This study argues that the Intel Pentium chip crisis is clearly a transformational moment in American public discourse, validating the Internet as a viable communications medium and demonstrating that its power lies it its ability to create virtual activist communities of people who are connected through common interests. The study concludes by offering suggestions on how to handle a crisis that transpires as a result of the Internet.