Date of Award

Fall 12-2017

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Communication Studies

Committee Chair

Steven Venette

Committee Chair Department

Communication Studies

Committee Member 2

Kathryn Anthony

Committee Member 2 Department

Communication Studies

Committee Member 3

John Meyer


In this case study, I analyze the 2014 North Korean computer database hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE), a serious national security crisis of cyberterrorism. I utilize Normal Accidents theory as a lens, to help explain how the accident within one system (SPE) and later crisis lead to the interaction with a second system (U.S. Federal Government), the development of a new crisis, and the need for a crisis response from system two. The evolution of a single organization’s accident into a national security crisis does not occur without specific complex interactions that take place to connect the two systems together. To explain this interconnectedness between systems, I introduce two new constructs: 1) common denominator and 2) common goal, which expand Normal Accidents theory allowing it to account for the coupling between the two independent systems (SPE & United States Government) through non-linear interactions. Overall, this case study provides important insight for future crisis communication planning, response, and development regarding between-organization interaction during a crisis.