Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Communication (MA)

Degree Level





Matthew Spialek

Committee Member

Lindsey Aloia

Second Committee Member

Kasey Walker


Communication Action Context, Communication Ecology, Communication Infrastructure Theory, Homelessness, Perceived Discrimination, Social connectedness


This thesis examined the influence of social and structural communication variables on the perceived social connectedness of people experiencing homelessness in the Northwest Arkansas (NWA) and Joplin, Missouri areas. This study employed the ecological perspective of communication infrastructure theory (CIT; Ball-Rokeach et al., 2001) and a communication perspective which envisions communicative interaction as constitutive of social experience. Using survey data from 166 participants, this study examined 11 research questions and hypotheses drawn from extant literature on homelessness, social connectedness, and CIT. ANOVAs, t-tests, and hierarchical multiple regression analyses revealed a complex relationship between individuals and the communicative environment. This study extended past research within the CIT framework by applying key theoretical assumptions to a previously unexamined demographic. Additionally, this study affirmed the association between perceived discrimination and perceived social connectedness, and contradicted assumptions about the influence of race and sexuality on perceived discrimination and perceived social connectedness. The theoretical and practical implications of this research provide opportunities for further studies on the communicative behaviors of hard-to-reach populations and how communities might consider policies and programming when addressing the problems associated with homelessness. Keywords: Social connectedness, perceived discrimination, communication infrastructure theory, communication ecology, communication action context