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An Undergraduate Honors Thesis

by David Ambrose

Mentor: Dr. Stefan Fink

Georgetown University

Department of German

Spring 2007

Thank you:

Dr. Stefan Fink

Ian Sherr

Justin Tsang

Amanda Kuzma


my family
Table of Contents

Abstract 1

Introduction 1

1. Web 2.0 2

1.1 Defining Web 2.0 2

1.2 The Posterchild of Web 2.0, 4

1.3 The Incorporation of Web 2.0 in and 6

2. Web Communication 8

2.1 Online Communication as Theory 8

2.2 An American Mischung, 13

2.3 An Ocean Apart of Communicative Differences and Similarities Between and 15

3. Society and the World Wide Web 16

3.1 The Social Construction of the Internet 16

3.2 North America and the Digital Divide, Demographics 18

3.3 Germany and the Digital Divide, Demographics 21

3.4 The Collegiate Life Online, 24

3.5 Getting Technologically Younger But Still Demographically Old Within and 26
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4. Internet Advertising 28

5. Interactivity and Online Advertising 30

6. Models 34

6.1 A Counterintuitive Pioneer, 34

6.2 The Rich Media Leader, 36

6.3 Self-Promotion, 39

Conclusion: Today’s Virtual World as Progress? 40

Appendix 1 42 42

Appendix 1 (continued) 43 43

Appendix 2 44 44

Appendix 2 (continued) 45 45

Appendix 2 (continued) 46 46

Appendix 3 47 47

Bibliography 48

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The importance of the Internet user has been overlooked by the advancement of World Wide
Web technologies during the last few years. It was not until recently that the user was recog-
nized as Time Magazine’s Person of the Year for 2006. However, “you,” the Internet user, received
help from the next epoch of the World Wide Web, referred to as Web 2.0. The following thesis
will survey the importance of Web 2.0, and correspondingly, virtual communication between
America, Germany and Austria in theoretical and applicative fashions. Of particular importance
is the analysis of online communication within different cultural contexts. The thesis begins
with an overview of Web 2.0 ideology, followed by application within the American social net-
working utility, and Austrian and German news websites, and Following the discussion concerning Web 2.0, a theoretical approach of online com-
munication will be assessed and later applied to the aforementioned three websites. Thirdly, the
societal construction of the Internet and the diminishing digital divide between America, Ger-
many and Austria will be elaborated upon. A section dealing with the application of “cultural
transmission” and digital demographics among the three countries and websites will follow.
Introductions to Internet advertising as well as interactivity among online advertising will be
discussed prior to final models with respect to, and These
analytical models will involve theory addressed throughout the entire thesis. The thesis con-
cludes with a discussion regarding the future direction of the Internet, following the progress of
Web 2.0, online communication, society and online advertising.

When Time Magazine unveiled their choice for 2006 Person of the Year to the public, many read-
ers were taken aback, believing it to be a gimmick. “You,” the cover read in bold, black letters,
“Yes, you. You control the Information Age.” Some readers asked, “What about those more im-
portant things like the war in Iraq or North Korea’s nuclear testing?” (Time Magazine’s editorial
staff considered Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld or Kim Jong-Il as possible re-
cipients for the title.) “How did I become the Person of the Year,” readers asked. The answer is
simple - because “you” were that important. “You” seized the reigns of the global media while
framing the new digital democracy.

Since the inception of the World Wide Web as a data-sharing medium between universities and
government agencies during the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Internet has blossomed into a
fluid, multi-directional medium of communication across continents. Time Magazine success-
fully recognized the significance of this next epoch of the Internet, dubbed a “Web 2.0,” profil-
ing websites like the social-networking giant, and the photo-sharing suite,, where users have experienced unrivaled interactivity. However, as German media
expert Jo Groebel indicated at die 2006 Bayerische Landeszentrale für neue Medien, the Web 2.0 is
merely an evolution, and not a revolution, of prior Internet initiatives (12/13/06). As the de-
signs and layouts of websites have changed, so too have their respective advertisements. Adver-
tisers have had the opportunity to combine the advantages of print and electronic media, allow-
ing for the control of pace and exposure to customized information as well as more vivid forms
of communication (video and audio). As the Web 2.0 begins to take shape as the distinctive (and
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preferred) method of Internet use, advertisements will follow function. But the question re-
mains: how do these new forms of interactive advertisements, riding on the coat-tails of Web
2.0, affect the user and his/her experience?

This thesis will explore the role Internet advertisements play in two targeted cultural land-
scapes, America and Germany. A sample from Austrian media will also be included. Specifi-
cally, as click-through rates (a measurement of success for an online advertising campaign) per
website continue to decline in non-rich-media environments, what needs to be done in order to
increase traffic? Following the current state of advancement in the World Wide Web, advertise-
ments will soon follow a Web 2.0 format, using, and as ana-
lytical models. More importantly, Web 2.0 advertisements will begin to act as indicators of the
relationship between culture and interactivity. But first, what does Web 2.0 mean?

1. Web 2.0

1.1 Defining Web 2.0

In October 2004, the term “Web 2.0” was born at the inaugural Web 2.0 Conference in San Fran-
cisco, California. Tim O’Reilly, founder of O’Reilly Media (an Internet media company specializ-
ing in technology publishing), is often cited as the “father of the Web 2.0,” calling it “the busi-
ness revolution in the computer industry” (9/30/05). Since 2004, more than 9.5 million citations
of “Web 2.0” have been quoted throughout

Suggesting a version-number that is typically associated with software upgrades, the phrase
“Web 2.0” alludes to a new form of the World Wide Web. Advocates like O’Reilly agree that new
technologies such as blogs, social networks, wikis (websites that allow users to publish and edit
their own content) and podcasts imply a significant shift in Web usage since the early days of
the Internet. Not surprisingly, defining the term has had its complications. According to, Web 2.0 can refer to one or more of the following:

• The transition of websites from isolated information silos to sources of content and func-
tionality, in turn, becoming computing platforms serving web applications to end-users.
• A social phenomenon embracing an approach to generating and distributing Web con-
tent itself, characterized by open communication, decentralization of authority, freedom
to share/re-use and “the market as a conversation.”
• Enhanced organization and categorization of content in the form of deeplinking (hyper-
• A rise or fall in the economic value of the Web, possibly surpassing the dot-com boom
during the late 1990s.

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For our purposes, the exact definition of Web 2.0 is a mash-up of the above-mentioned explana-
tions. Specifically, O’Reilly’s main analysis of the term is more than sufficient in his “What is
Web 2.0? Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software”1:

• Web 2.0 acts as a platform. Compared to Netscape, which framed “the web as platform”
in terms of the old software paradigm (web browser, desktop application and servers), was never packaged; rather, it was offered as a free web service.
• Web 2.0 harnesses collective intelligence. BitTorrent, a peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing
protocol, demonstrates what O’Reilly refers to as “the architecture of participation.” The
service automatically gets better the more people use it, where users add value. How-
ever, users will only add value to a website via explicit means. Therefore, Web 2.0 web-
sites set inclusive defaults for aggregating user data and building value as a side effect of
ordinary use of that application.
• Web 2.0 acts a perpetual beta. Because software is no longer delivered as a product, but
rather as a service, software release cycles come into play. As O’Reilly explains, software
will cease to perform unless it is maintained on a daily basis. In this case, users must also
be treated as co-developers, utilizing open-source software.
• Web 2.0 incorporates software above the level of a single device. The computer is no
longer the only access device for Internet applications, and applications that are limited
to a single device are less valuable than those connected. Once again, applications
should be cross-platform, i.e. accessible via computer or hand-held phone.

Lastly, O’Reilly synthesized these details into one, succinct description: “Web 2.0 is the business
revolution in the computer industry caused by the move to the Internet as platform, and an at-
tempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform. Chief among those rules is this:
Build applications that harness network effects to get better the more people use them” (12/10/

The beauty of the Web 2.0 lies in the underlying assumption that the user drives almost every-
thing. In effect, the focus of technology moves to the individual. As Dion Hinchcliffe explains in
his self-titled blog, “Web 2.0 fundamentally revolves around us and seeks to ensure that we en-
gage ourselves, participate and collaborate together, and mutually trust and enrich each other,
even though we could be separated by the entire world geographically” (12/7/05). With this
new two-way medium, the Web has slowly evolved from a read-mostly medium to a read-write
medium. Although Web 2.0 has received great praise and publicity (as documented in Time
Magazine’s 2006 Person of the Year issue and Newsweek Magazine’s April 3, 2006 cover, “The
New Wisdom of the Web”), it also endures its critics. As Paul Boutin of Slate Magazine argues,
Web 2.0 is merely a marketing buzzword. “The salesmanship that surrounds Web 2.0 is the key
to understanding what the phrase really means. The new generation of dot-com entrepreneurs
confers 2.0 status upon everything because they missed out on the boom times of Web 1.0,” de-
scribes Boutin, “They want a new round of buzz and bling for themselves, and who can blame
them?” (3/29/06). Besides the quest for money, Web 2.0 developers embody unethical attitudes.

1Idecided not to include O’Reilly’s detailed explanations of software architecture, notably of AJAX, and data owner-
ship, two important, but irrelevant aspects of Web 2.0 for this research as it does not fit the frameset of culture and
advertising models.
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Author and entrepreneur, Andrew Keen believes that Web 2.0 is a misguided ideology, as ex-
plained in his “Web 2.0: The Second Generation of the Internet Has Arrived. It’s Worse Than
You Think.” As an ideology, Web 2.0 is “based on a series of ethical assumptions about media,
culture and technology. It worships the creative amateur: the self-taught filmmaker, the dorm-
room musician, [and] the unpublished writer. It suggests that everyone – even the most poorly
educated and inarticulate among us – can and should use digital media to express and realize
themselves” (2/15/06). Keen may be right in his assertions but lacks proper foresight. For ex-
ample, what about the early critics of Television or the Internet (believing that these new forms
of communication would degrade social capital among viewer and user)? Web 2.0 serves as a
medium where users of every race, religion, ethnicity, sexual preference or mental aptitude can
participate in a dynamic forum of communication.

1.2 The Posterchild of Web 2.0,

Compared to the social networking giant of, where users can post pictures and
video of themselves, listen to music and interact with one another, looms in the
shadow of the third most viewed website in the United States. 2 Based partly on the fact that began in 2004 at Harvard University as a closed, invite-only virtual network and
only recently opened its doors to the public; the college, geographic, corporate and high-school
catered social utility is hot on the heels of Because of its simplicity and ease-of-
use, is one of very few Web 2.0 websites where organization and design layout take
precedence over the bells and whistles of other web utilities (i.e. Flash-based music and movie
players found on typically cause the Web browser to crash). But what makes Web 2.0?

First and foremost, is a source of content and functionality, providing and facilitat-
ing the spread of information between users. From its homepage, staff introduce
the site as “a social utility that helps people better understand the world around them. Facebook
develops technologies that facilitate the spread of information through social networks allowing
people to share information online the same way they do in the real world.” With this in mind,
the website is and of itself a “social phenomenon,” where users spend hours per day, for exam-
ple, finding out which of their friends entered into a relationship with Tom or Mary, who added
The Rolling Stones to their favorite music or is “tired of reading in the library” from their status
toolbar. is an open-platform of communication between users (friends) at colleges,
high schools, geographic regions and corporations (Frame 1). This takes us to the first point
concerning O’Reilly’s “web as platform” comment: is a free web service where friends share and interact with one another in a
virtual world, in real-time.

2According to Alexa, a resource detailing World Wide Web traffic, had over 40,000 (in millions) page
views during the month of February 2007 while had nearly 5,000 (in millions) page views.
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Frame 1: Main page of serves to unite users. It is a place to befriend, via the World Wide Web, a classmate,
a coworker or a neighbor. Most importantly, information is shared between users in a readily
assessable format, known as the “wall.” Functioning like a blog, the “wall” provides users vir-
tual space to post comments on a friend’s profile. After posting a comment on the “wall,”
friends will be notified of the comment via email as well as through a time stamped/
chronological aggregator of edits made to a profile in what is known as the “news feed,” includ-
ing “wall” comments, music and television choices within a user’s profile, etc. Each time a user
changes his/her profile, comments on a friend’s wall, joins a group, posts a note or adds photo-
graphs, he/she is harnessing the collective intelligence of the website. More often than not, us-
ers are unaware of the inclusive defaults for aggregating data and in turn, adding value as a
side effect of ordinary use of The second point with reference to O’Reilly’s “web as
collective intelligence” is relevant in our discussion: utilizes defaulted and integrated web services to create harmony between
users, harnessing collective intelligence and building value as an effect of typical usage.

Although does not bear a “beta” tag, it can and should be considered a develop-
mental web services application. Looking at the website’s blog, one can find countless resources
of monthly software releases. The “share” feature, allowing users to submit interesting Web
links to other users via their profile page, was introduced on October 27, 2006. Months later, unveiled plans to release its services on a mobile phone. Mark Slee, an engineer for
the website, explains the role of mobile phones in social networking: “Facebook was invented to
make sharing information with your friends easier and better. Mobile phones were invented for
pretty much the same reason. People needed an easier and better way to get in touch with each
other, and mobile phones made it happen…we're now happy to report that Facebook Mobile
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has services available for every Facebook user with a phone” (1/10/07). This brings us to the
third and forth points as addressed by O’Reilly, “web as perpetual beta” and “web as cross-
platform”: is in continual development, where users interact with developers, addressing

issues where improvement and innovation are needed. is a cross-platform, social networking website, incorporating accessibility from

mobile phones and PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants).

Using Tim O’Reilly’s Web 2.0 schemata, is the perfect example of the future of the
Internet. As will be seen in the following section,, in comparison to Austria’s and Germany’s, is a purebred Web 2.0 website while the latter utilize
Web 2.0 ideology and technology.

1.3 The Incorporation of Web 2.0 in and

At first glance, the homepages of and appear as virtual newspaper
sources for Austria and Germany, respectively, but upon closer inspection, the trained eye no-
tices elements of Web 2.0 dispersed throughout (Frame 2).3 Like many of today’s websites, the
use of Web 2.0 ideology and technology is readily prevalent. and pro-
vide common ground to explore the far reaching effects of Web 2.0 utilization in Web 1.0
websites. 4

Frame 2: Main pages of and

3According to Alexa, had more than 11 million page views during February 2007. recorded
450 million page views during the month.

4Icall and Web 1.0 websites because of their developmental intent: to deliver news in a one-
way communicative medium. Before the rise in popularity of AJAX and blogging, these sites followed a static struc-
ture. This topic is discussed in greater detail under Chapter 2, “Web Communication.”
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Although each website bears different user interfaces (designs) and content, and present similar Web 2.0 capabilities, most notably, the offering of web services. As web
services, users can access news articles of the day’s most important and interesting events. (At
times, users are asked for a Benutzername and Passwort to read certain content, as the registration
is free.) This brings us to the first point concerning O’Reilly’s “web as platform” comment: and are free (typically registration-required) web services where
users (readers) can access news.

At the same time, readers have the ability to interact with one another. In the case of, readers comment in the form of an integrated blog (similar to the “wall” on concerning the news piece. Here, readers interact and rate each other’s comments
(Frame 3). From a design perspective, this makes more sense in comparison to the ap-
proach of presenting a forum or messageboard detached from the current piece (Frame 4). Both
websites also provide hyperlinking to similar stories when available (something not fully ad-
dressed throughout With this in mind, the second point made by O’Reilly that the
web acts “as collective intelligence” is clear:

Frame 3: Users can post their opinions or “postings” following stories within

Frame 4: Like, offers a forum to post comments relating to a published
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7 and utilize hyperlinking and comment space, albeit in different
formats, to harness collective intelligence among the reader-base. This, in turn, adds value as
an effect of typical usage.

Because and are not purebred Web 2.0 websites like, it is
difficult to categorize them as “perpetual betas.” However, it is still possible to denote the Aus-
trian and German news websites as developmental websites, as both contain scheduled soft-
ware upgrades.5 During the last decade, each website has made efforts to publish its content on
other platforms, such as mobile phones and PDAs. This brings us to the third and forth points
addressed by O’Reilly, “web as perpetual beta” and “web as cross-platform”: and are in continual development, in the form of design and
software changes, albeit hidden from the public eye. and are cross-platform news websites, incorporating accessibility

from mobile phones and PDAs. and have incorporated characteristic technology and ideology found in
Web 2.0 websites. From using the “web as platforms” and “harnessing the collective intelli-
gence” schemata of their readers, these Austrian and German news sites present an interesting
dichotomy in Web 2.0 traditionalist structure: not all Web 2.0 websites have to be socially-
networked-centered in order to be categorized as “Web 2.0.”

2. Web Communication

2.1 Online Communication as Theory

Since the idea of the World Wide Web was born, the basic premise of the Internet has not
changed: providing information to a mass and, typically, targeted audience. What has changed,
though, is the information itself. No longer is text on webpages static and lifeless. Today we
have the ability to incorporate live video and audio throughout the World Wide Web. By study-
ing the Internet, researchers have noted the following realization: information, or what is con-
veyed or represented by a particular arrangement or sequence of text, video or audio, under-
went a drastic transition from something of lackluster tradition to a dynamic present (the evolu-
tion from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0). As Gary Krug explains in “Communication, Technology and Cul-
tural Change,” technology, especially in communication, has “undergone an anthropomorpho-
sis: it has become something alive, something almost supernatural. In many contemporary for-
mulations it wants, it develops, it has autonomy” (12). Web 2.0 is no different in comparison to
Krug’s references. Users, through different forms of communication, exchange information in a
fluid, multi-directional environment. This new technological domain binds information to the
user. Krug details this association: “We tend to think about technology as an independent force
in the previous world, but the major characteristic of modern technology, as distinct from previ-

5Both websites offer no resources for tracking the history of each software upgrade/development. However, looking
through the Web Archives of (*/ and
(*/, one finds an obvious pattern of upgrades for the better.
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ous techniques, is the extent to which it binds together as many areas of the social as possible,
creating a complex arrangement of social forces which overdetermines action and meaning”
(14). This social connection underlies a key motivation for communication researchers: under-
standing the future direction of information. However, what defines communication? 6

Communication, for our purposes, will specifically focus on the Internet environment. Within
this environment, exist two forms of speech (of established and radical nature) that serve to help
us understand Web 2.0 communication patterns. Using Jennifer Bader’s schemata of Chat-
Communication in “Schriftlichkeit und Mündlichkeit in der Chat-Kommunikation,” I find her
hypothesis that Internet communication embodies both written and spoken characteristics nec-
essary to developing a comprehensive analysis of the Web 2.0.7 “Es wird die Hypothese aufges-
tellt, dass strukturelle, funktionale und kommunikative Besonderheiten exisitieren, die eher in
die Kategorie ‘mündlich’ als in die Kategorie ‘schriftlich’ einzuordnen sind,” she writes (12).
Like Krug and Maletzke, Bader details the exchange of information, at the heart of communica-
tion, as a common social practice among humans, where each undergoes a specific communica-
tive function: “Den drei Elementen Sender, Empfänger und Referenzobjekt entsprechen die
Kommunikationsfunktionen Ausdruck, Appell und Darstellung” (17). This agreement between
sender and receiver takes place in a unique “Kontaktmedium” or “Kanal” (17). Bader, with ref-
erence to Maletzke, elaborates on this point with her description of the communicative process
of the first of two forms of text, “die gesprochene (phonische) Sprache”: “Ein Sprecher A äußert
sich durch ein akustisches Signal und ein Hörer B reagiert darauf, wobei gleichzeitig jeder Spre-
cher auch Hörer seiner eigenen Äußerung ist. Es findet also ein Dialog zwischen mindestens
zwei Personen statt, von denen die eine als Hörer, die andere als Sprecher zu charakterisieren
ist…Diese Kommunikation mit der Möglichkeit der Rückkopplung wird auch Zwei-Wege-
Kommunikation bezeichnet” (21-22) (Frame 5). As Bader notes, both speaker and receiver expe-
rience a connection in a technical medium throughout the spoken text form, or “die
gesprochene Sprache.” In comparison to the “gesprochene Sprache,” the written text or “die
geschriebene (graphische) Sprache” entails a similar, albeit limited form. Looking at Bader’s
visual description of the written text, it becomes obvious that both spoken and written forms
bear the same process (Frame 6). However, important differences arise, most notably of space
and time. “Der Schreiber tritt mit dem Leser nur mittelbar in Kontakt, da meist eine räumliche
und zeitliche Trennung exisitiert…Das hat zur Folge, dass die direkte Reaktion des Lesers für
den Schreiber nicht ersehbar ist und ein Kommunikationserfolg entweder mit zeitlicher
Verzögerung oder gar nicht beobachtet werden” (22). Although the written text conveys simi-
larities to the spoken form, each are unique, forming a complex structure of Internet communi-
cation (Frame 7). Bader, following Peter Koch and Wulf Oesterreicher’s theoretical framework

6Many definitions of communication exist. For this paper, Gerhard Maletzke’s interpretation will be used from
Grundlagen und Grundbegriffe einer Psychologie der Massenkommunikation: “[Die] Tatsache, dass Lebewesen un-
tereinander in Beziehung stehen [in der] sie sich verständigen können, dass sie imstande sind, innere Vorgänge oder
Zustände auszudrücken, ihren Mitgeschöpfen Sachverhalte mitzuteilen oder auch andere zu einem bestimmten Ver-
halten aufzufordern” (10/20/06).

7Bader’s research concentrates on chat-speak, a “Mischform.” She explains that “Chat-Kommunikation wird zwar
medial schriftlich realisiert, die verwendete Sprache weist jedoch nur bedingt strukturelle und pragmatische Ge-
meinsamkeiten mit der geschriebenen Sprache auf, wie z.B. in einem Verwaltungstext.” The importance of chat-speak
will be covered later in the paper.
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in “Schriftlichkeit und Sprache,” offers a graphical representation of “verschiedene
Sprechbedingungen, wie z.B. Vertrautheit, emotionale Beteiligung, Sprecherzahl, Zeitreferenz,
Öffentlichkeits-grad, etc.” in what is termed as a near-distant continuum (25) (Frame 8). Bader
explains the near-distant continuum:

“Während sich der Pol der gesprochenen Sprache durch bestimmte Kommunikationsbedingungen,
z.B. Dialog, freier Sprecherwechsel, Vertrautheit der Partner, Face-to-face-Interaktion, freie Theme-
nentwicklung, keine Öffentlichkeit, Spontaneität, starkes Beteiligtsein der Kommunikationspartner
und Situationsverschränkung auszeichnet, wird der Pol der geschriebenen Sprache durch die
Merkmale Monolog, kein Sprecherwechsel, Fremdheit der Partner, räumliche und zeitliche Tren-
nung, festes Thema, völlige Öffentlichkeit, Reflektierheit, geringes Beteiligtsein und Situationsent-
bindung markiert.” (26)

Frame 5: “Der Kommunikationsprozess der gesprochenen Sprache” as defined by Bader (21)

Frame 6: “Der Kommunikationsprozess der geschriebenen Sprache” as defined by Bader (22)

The spoken text stems from specific interests on the part of the speaker, whereby speech if often
spontaneous and natural. In comparison to written text, spoken text embodies nonverbal cues,
where gestures, mimicry, body positioning and eye contact help to signal speech transition.
Bader notes the written text differences as well: “Im Gegensatz zu der gesprochenen Sprache ist
die geschriebene Sprache von Korrektheit, Grammatikalität, Durchsichtigkeit und Exaktheit ge-
prägt” (33). The written text form uses no direct and physical communications partner, where
the writer has unlimited time to draft and edit a product.

With this in mind, the idea and increased usage of chat-speak across the World Wide Web is
drastic. As a hybrid-speaking form, chat-speak has become prevalent in socially networked and
interactive-news websites. The standard and learned grammatical structures of standard Ameri-
can English and Hochdeutsch loom in the shadows of what Christa Dürscheid calls “Netzspra-
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che,” and all variants (Websprache, Cyberdeutsch and Cyberslang). As Bader earlier stated,
chat-speak is typically a “Mischform” of “die geschriebene Sprache” and “die gesprochene
Sprache,” where the written-form of chat-speak follows a conversational hierarchy commonly
associated with the spoken-form. The “Mischform” of chat-speak is nothing new in comparison
to comic book centered speak, with the excessive use of active emotional phrases. What is new,
argues Dürscheid in “Netzsprache – ein neuer Mythos,” is the syntax framework: “Neu ist, dass
sie nicht mehr als isolierte lexikalische Einheiten auftreten, sondern syntaktisch erweitert wer-
den und dadurch den Charakter von reduzierten Sätzen bekommen” (7). Within this new
framework exists a dialogue-driven communicative-structure, typically including two or more
chat members in virtual conversation. Even though chat-speak leans in the direction of spoken-
text form, it has its differences, as noted by Dürscheid:

• “Die Kommunikation im herkömmlichen Chat ist zwar wechselseitig, sie ist aber im
strengen Sinne nicht synchron. Die Beiträge werden nicht während ihres Entstehens,
sondern erst nach ihrem Entstehen angezeigt. Dies ist im mündlichen Gespräch anders.
Hier hört der Kommunikationspartner Wort für Wort, er kann intervenieren, simultan
sprechen und ggfs. reagieren, bevor der andere seine Äußerung zu Ende gebracht hat”
• “In einer Face-to-face Interaktion kann der Leser auch mündlich intervenieren, im Chat
nicht” (10).
• “Befinden sich Schreiber und Leser in einem Raum, dient das Schreiben in der Regel zur
Visualisierung von Sachverhalten, nicht zum dialogischen Austausch” (10).
• “Bei Kopräsenz nimmt der Leser das ganze Umfeld des Schreibens wahr; in der Chat-
kommunikation dagegen sieht er nur den Schreibvorgang, nicht aber den Schreiber und
seine Umgebung” (10).

Frame 7: Koch and Oesterreicher’s “Der Pol der Mündlichkeit und Schriftlichkeit” in Bader (26)

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Frame 8: Koch and Oesterreicher’s “Das Nähe-/Distanz-Kontinuum” in Bader (26)

With the advancement of Internet technologies, allowing users to communicate with one-
another, forming a many-to-many (in comparison to face-to-face) interactive structure, chat-
speak has become a language in and of itself. From a linguistic perspective, the move from a
Web 1.0 static communicative medium to a Web 2.0 fluid communicative medium was largely
the result of chat-speak integration. Because no boundaries exist in a virtual environment (with
the exception of bandwidth), chat-speak embodies a key element of web communication, as de-
scribed by John E. Newhagen and Sheizaf Rafaeli in “Why Communication Researchers Should
Study the Internet: A Dialogue,” the non-linearity of text, audio and video. “The ‘shackles’ of
linearity are being shed,” explains Rafaeli, “These shackles traditionally have bound communi-
cation into a procrustean bed of predetermined order and a tyranny of writer over reader” (2).
Notice how, knowingly or unknowingly, Rafaeli highlights Web 1.0 ideology in addressing a
“predetermined order” where communications extends from writer to reader and not vice-versa
(2). In addition to this non-linearity ideal, Newhagen and Rafaeli detail five other defining
qualities of communication on the Net, capturing differences in offline communication research:

• The sensory appeal of Web communication. Text, voice, pictures, animation, video,
virtual-reality motion codes, even smell, are being conveyed on the World Wide Web.
The Internet has transitioned from a dull, lifeless platform to one of great sensory appeal
• The packet switching methodology of Web communication. As Rafaeli explains, the
organizing principle for routing traffic (“switching”) has always been a focus of com-
munication research, where switching is typically associated with turn taking (2).
• The elasticity of synchronicity throughout Web communication.8 The Net stretches the
edge of the synchronicity continuum, where delays in communication have been greatly

8Note that chat-speak is non-synchronous, with the exception of real-time chat as found in Instant Messaging (IM)
applications, such as AOL Instant Messenger, Microsoft Messenger, ICQ, etc.
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reduced with the introduction of relay messenger applications. Interpersonal communi-
cation, once time-delayed or face-to-face, can now be both at once (2).
• The interactivity of Web communication. Interactivity, as defined by Newhagen and
Rafaeli, refers to the extent to which communication reflects back on itself, feeds on and
responds to the past. Communication on the World Wide Web can be consciously pro-
grammed in or out (2-3).

The study of web communication presents endless possibilities for research in fields of linguis-
tics. When incorporated with Web 2.0 platforms, communication on the Net is at its purest form:
users follow “die geschriebene Sprache,” “die gesprochene Sprache” or both. With the advent of
Web 2.0, writers became readers and readers became writers.

2.2 An American Mischung,

As the self-pronounced “social-utility,” is an interesting hybrid of established and
radical communication theories as detailed by Bader and Dürscheid. If we analyze
from the perspective of the writer (including those designers and owners of the website), where
“die geschriebene Sprache” is prevalent, we would overlook an equally important aspect of
Web communication: chat-speak. Each aspect, in what I call offline communication theories in
reference to Bader’s “die geschriebene Sprache” and “die gesprochene Sprache” as well as radi-
cal communication theories with reference to Dürscheid’s chat-speak or “Netzsprache,” is inte-
grated throughout

The website, on the level of holistic design and intent, is a mere communicative portal, utilizing
many-to-many interactivity. Specifically, the written text form, on the part of the writer, is pri-
marily used to inform users of upgrades, additions, notifications, etc. Using Bader’s graphical
analysis of “die geschriebene Sprache” as a template, serves as the communicative
medium between “Schreiber A” and “Leser B.” It is important to note that the direct relation-
ship and flow of information from “Schreiber A” to “Leser B” is available only on the main
webpage. If “Leser B” were to write and interact with “Schreiber A,” a transition from the main
webpage to an instant messaging (or “message”) platform found on the left-hand side of the
page needs to be accessed. According to Web 2.0 ideology, this sounds counter-intuitive. One-
way communication does not warrant an “architecture of participation,” rather, it hinders in-
volvement. Communication from “Schreiber A” to “Leser B,” and not vice-versa, is strictly Web
1.0. Not surprisingly, founder Mark Zuckerberg and company, integrated an internal framework
that epitomizes Web 2.0 communication ideals. Most important of all internal features is the
“wall,” as it is a synthesis of all five defining qualities of Web 2.0 communication:

• The non-linearity of the “wall.” Because the “wall” acts as an information trap in sus-
pended real time, where friends post comments about profile changes, picture additions
or ramblings, there is no “predetermined order” to the sequence of text.9 In offline face-
to-face communication, it is normal and typically valued for turn taking, after signal

9“Suspended real time” refers to the delay found in Email notification when the post appears on the user’s “wall” to
when the post is accessed.
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cues (including nonverbal cues and intonation). The “wall” on the other hand, is non-
linear with no signal cues, allowing numerous users to post their comments at once.
• The sensory appeal of the “wall.” Compared to text-driven blogs, the “wall” presents a
unique perceptual scheme laden with both text and pictures. This structure, as Bader
would define it, is a form of “die geschriebene Sprache, [in dem sie] durch die Merkmale
Monolog, kein Sprecherwechsel, Fremdheit der Partner, räumliche und zeitliche Tren-
nung, festes Thema völlige Öffentlichkeit, Reflektierheit, geringes Beteiligsten und Situa-
tionsentbindung markiert [würde]” (26). Rather, “die Merkmale” of the “wall” is just the
opposite, highlighting many of the sensory characteristics of “die gesprochene Sprache.”
Users participate in a virtual face-to-face interaction, creating a direct emotional relation
in terms of communicative form.
• The packet switching methodology of the “wall.” The ability to provide hyperlinks
throughout the content of a “wall” posting, as well as instant notification via email each
time when a post is made, is invaluable to communications research. Interpersonal
communication has now shifted to web-based interaction, where turn taking is within a
virtual environment.
• The elasticity of synchronicity throughout the “wall.” Utilizing the sensory appeal and
packet switching methodologies, the “wall” becomes a suspended real time chat plat-
• The interactivity of the “wall.” As Newhagen and Rafaeli define interactivity, the
“wall” is, in essence, a personal log of publicly shared information. Users can look back
at past comments in the archive of the “wall” by clicking on “see all.” Users can then
comment in the present (Frame 9).

Frame 9: The “wall” on

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Woven throughout these five communicative characteristics is chat-speak; without it, would be impersonal and lifeless. Built upon real-time, face-to-face conversation,
this “Netzsprache” embodies non-standard and learned forms. It can be argued that chat-speak
follows no form at all, in a way, an ill-defined grammatical structure.10 As Bader explains, sen-
tences bear irregular syntax and reduced length. Cyber-slang is both a fusion of generational
usage and immediacy, applicable to worldwide websites, including,

2.3 An Ocean Apart of Communicative Differences and Similarities Between and
Like, and entail established and radical communicative
characteristics following Bader’s and Dürscheid’s detailed syntheses. On the surface, each web-
site provides news following a Web 1.0 communicative format: from writer to reader with no
possible reaction from reader to writer. This one-way medium is static on their respective
homepages. Bader, using Noch/Oesterreicher’s near-distant continuum, would argue that and evoke notions of “Monolog, kein Sprecherwechsel, Fremdheit der
Partner, räumliche und zeitliche Trennung, festes Thema, völlige Öffentlichkeit, Reflektierheit,
geringes Beteiligtsein [und] Situationsentbindung (26). The integrated communicative features
(as found in, including “My Messages, My Shares,” etc.) play a small, but impor-
tant role for the Austrian and German news websites, helping them to crossover into a many-to-
many interactive platform. Within the structure of the many-to-many platform, the significance
of chat-speak becomes clear. Both, and follow a non-synchronous chat-
speak template within their external forums, as detailed by Newhagen and Rafaeli:

• The non-linearity of the Internet forum. and utilize Internet
forums where readers can interact and discuss desired topics with other readers as well
as writers. No physical domains bind messages (such as postings). This allows users to
follow a non-linear structure of written-text, where organization occurs according to vir-
tual timestamps.
• The sensory appeal of the Internet forum. In comparison to,
and present no visual components in their text-based messageboard. This cre-
ates a problem in terms of accessing optical appeal when none exists. Imagination, by
interpreting the text of the user, appears to suffice. Text can only offer so much to the
• The packet-switching methodology throughout the Internet forum. By registering and
creating an account with and, users receive instant email notifi-
cation like No differences (with the exception of design and layout) exist
between these websites in terms of virtual message turn taking.

10Themotivation as to why chat-speak follows an illusive grammatical structure becomes clear when one takes into
account the rate of access (defined as the rapidity of receiving and responding to information). The cultural history
and demographic representation of the chat-speak user are also relevant. For a more detailed discussion concerning
demographics within North America and Germany, see sections 3.2 and 3.3, respectively.
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• The elasticity of synchronicity throughout the Internet forum. Like, the
only difference between and is the design and layout. The Inter-
net forum and the “wall” are suspended real time chat platforms.
• The interactivity of the Internet forum. The greatest and most important difference of
the German language forum, particularly, to that of is the
ability to rate comments/postings following the Digg ideal.11 This ideal transforms in-
teractivity into another dimension, where the voice of the user is heard even more
(Frame 10).

Frame 10: users rate other comments in accordance with the “Digg ideal”

Each of these three websites shares a connection: transitioning communication from a one-way
communicative street to a mass-transit system. With users posting comments (at simultaneous
moments with simultaneous content), the system of many-to-many interactions embody a radi-
cal platform of communication, following Dürscheid’s explanation. Chat-speak is the defining
characteristic of the Internet generation, which rightfully deserves greater attention.

3. Society and the World Wide Web

3.1 The Social Construction of the Internet

There’s no question that the Internet has become the most significant technological develop-
ment of the 20th century. Its effects may surpass that of the radio, television and perhaps, even
the printing press. Compared to the rise of other electronic media, the Internet has expanded at
an awesome rate, reaching millions of users and thousands of organizations around the world.
The World Wide Web, like previous technological innovations in the sphere of mass media, is a
vessel for communication and, in turn, a vessel of cultural embodiment. Given its enormity, as
James Slevin in The Internet and Society explains, “it is difficult to imagine that such an impor-
tant technological transformation will have anything other than a profound impact as a means
of cultural transmission” (1). It is this “cultural transmission” that bears the utmost relevance
for this survey of American and German societies on the Internet and the Internet on American
and German societies. Like communication, defining “culture” is profoundly difficult. 12

11The “Digg ideal” refers to the process of ranking and organizing postings on, a socially-driven editorial
website. Users can either “digg,” or add value to a news item or “bury,” or reduce value to a news item. This will
affect the positioning of the item.

12Many definitions of culture exist. For this paper, John B. Thompson’s anthropological and structural interpretation
will be used from Ideology and Modern Culture: “Culture is the pattern of meanings embodied in symbolic forms,
including actions, utterances and meaningful objects of various kinds, by virtue of which individuals communicate
with one another and share their experiences, conceptions and beliefs” (132).
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For our purposes, culture entails a medium of shared symbols and meaning, in what Thompson
refers to as a type of “cultural transmission,” whereby the Internet, in and of itself, is a social
construct. Thompson details three aspects of “cultural transmission” that allow the circulation
of information and other symbolic content in socially structured contexts:

• A “technical medium of transmission.” The medium consists of material components

by “virtue of which information and other symbolic content are produced, transmitted
and received” (Slevin 62). Within this technical medium of transmission are three related
attributes of technical media –
o Fixation. The degree of fixation, Thompson believes, is the “capacity of a techni-
cal medium to store information.” He considers this storage as “a resource for the
exercise of power as individuals and organizations” (in the pursuit of certain
ends) which can utilize this allocation of information. In this way, a technical
medium, such as the Internet, can be approached as “a power container or a gen-
erator of power” (63).
o Reproduction. The degree of reproduction of information and other symbolic
content has become “almost limitless” when one takes into account the storage of
information in digital form, as well as the emergence of an enormous interactive
network and universal interfaces such as Internet browsers and IM applications
(64). The way in which information and symbolic content can be reproduced via
the Internet is heightened following the “collage effect”.13 Although the “collage
effect” is not directly associated with Web 2.0 ideology, it does follow the basic
premise of a user-controlled environment. As Slevin argues, “These collages of
assembled and reassembled information are brought about by internet users
themselves” (65). The “collage effect” can also reference individual webpages,
where the page appears on screen as a unity, although it is made up of various
elements (text, images, audio and video).
o Participation. In comparison to a Web 2.0 definition of participation, as O’Reilly
would define it (active engagement with content and users), Thompson finds
that the degree of participation rests on skills required to use the World Wide
Web (65). According to Slevin, “Using the Internet is thus a skilled performance
and its successful use is an accomplishment demanding particular capabilities,
resources and attentiveness” (65).
• An institutional apparatus of transmission. Thompson defines the institutional appara-
tus as being “a determinate set of institutional arrangements within which the technical
medium is deployed and the individuals involved in encoding and decoding symbolic
forms are embedded” (66). Slevin continues Thompson’s argument; “The institutional
arrangements within which Internet use is situated are thus always socially stratified,
involving hierarchical relations of power between individuals and organizations” (67).
• A space-time distanciation involved in transmission. The degree of temporal and spa-
tial distancing involved in the circulation of information and other symbolic content is

13Slevin describes the “collage effect” of the Internet as a “disembedding mechanism[;] prizing information and other
symbolic content free from the hold of specific locales and allowing for its recombination across wide time-space dis-
tances” (64-65).
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“dependent upon the technical medium and the institutional apparatus,” as discussed
above (69). In comparison to face-to-face interaction, technical media allow for an “ex-
tension of availability” of symbolic forms in time-space (69).

Since the World Wide Web’s inception during the late 1980s and early 1990s, the transmission of
culture from sender to receiver and later between entire online communities in the Web 2.0 era
was something of a virtual reality. Scholars, like David Porter in Internet Culture, believed the
Internet to be a “a medium of disembodied voices and decontextualized points of view” (XI).
The problem with Porter’s view lay in his assertion that the World Wide Web is more material
than real. However, like reality, the Internet produces socially structured contexts and processes
of production, transmission and reception. The difference results in a virtual framework of pix-
els and windows oriented on a computer screen, PDA display, cellular telephone or television.
In comparison to Porter’s materiality aspect of the Internet, Howard Rheingold, in The Virtual
Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier, makes a valuable remark regarding the
self-defined network of the Internet: “When enough people carry on these relationships in vir-
tual reality with sufficient feeling, and for a long enough period of time, virtual communities
emerge which are only accessible via a computer screen” (as quoted in Slevin 90). People in vir-
tual communities, Rheingold writes, “do just about everything people do in real life” (91). With
this in mind, one is but left to ask, “What’s the difference between virtual and real communi-
ties?” or “Is there even a difference?” As Slevin questions, are communities like that of the Ge-
meinschaften of the German sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies, where Gemeinschaften are “cosy reali-
ties” with “social relationships based on locality and neighborliness, fellowship, [and] a sharing
of responsibilities” or are communities “imagined” like that of Benedict Anderson? (93).

The Internet is an extension of reality in the forms of text, images, audio and video bundled into
one, succinct and ominous hyper-structure. Modern communication technologies, with the
World Wide Web at the forefront, are creating opportunities for new forms of human associa-
tion. However, with the introduction of new forms of human association come consequences,
both good and bad. Although 2006 saw a record number of users online throughout the world,
with the United States spearheading the global group, moral problems still arise. Specifically,
the Internet and its users are still susceptible to the trap of the Digital Divide, a term referring to
the technological and social gap between countries and communities connected (or lack of con-
nection) to the World Wide Web. By looking at the demographics and trends of Internet users,
particularly of America and Germany, it becomes clear that the World Wide Web has a signifi-
cant effect on society.

3.2 North America and the Digital Divide, Demographics

The digital divide is truly bi-polar: on one side rests the United States, with all her might and
tenacity in the development of Information Technology, and on the other lay those countries
yearning to catch up to the United States. This global divide reflects the broader context of in-
ternational social and economic relations. North American dominance of the Internet, centering
on the United States, is awesome. In a 2001 study by Wenhong Chen, Jeffery Boase and Barry
Wellman entitled “The Global Villagers: Comparing Internet Users and Uses Around the
World,” the digital divide between North America and the rest of the world was staggering:
“Although 5 percent of the world’s population is online, more than 60 percent of the online
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population is North American” (77). Since 2001, the gap between North America and other
countries has continually decreased, but at a slow rate. Most Internet content targets well-off,
well-educated, English-speaking users. “An estimated 78 percent of all websites are in the Eng-
lish language, even though just over 50 percent of Internet users are native English speakers,
and only 10 percent of the world population use English as a first language,” argues Chen,
Boase and Wellman (79). However, the digital divide may be wider and deeper within develop-
ing countries than within developed countries. As Chen, Boase and Wellman explain, “The
Internet has become an integral part of everyday life for a great many who use the Internet as a
medium to communicate and pursue personal interests” (80). But who entail this “great many
who use the Internet”?

The answer, of course, is found in North America; throughout the urban, white, moderate-
income, and higher educated oriented centers, particularly in America, Internet use is wide-
spread. According to the 2007 Digital Future Report by the Center for the Digital Future at The
University of Southern California’s Annenberg School, nearly 78 percent of Americans ages 12
and older go online (22). Within this percentage exists America’s own digital divide between
age and available technology. Six years of surveillance by the Center for the Digital Future re-
port that, not surprisingly, the highest levels of Internet use are for those age 24 and younger
(31) (Frame 11). Accordingly, this teenage and young adult percentage represents an advanced
user population (with more than 9 years online) compared to that of the less experienced users
of the older generation (with less than one year online) (27). In the American context, Chen,
Boase and Wellman refer to the older generation as “newbies” or Internet newcomers, whereby
they have used the World Wide Web for a short time and are often less comfortable with ma-
neuvering through it.14 “After a year,” writes Chen, Boase and Wellman, “they either join the
main body of veteran users [often the younger generation] or stop using the Internet. Hence,
when newbies comprise a sizeable portion of users, their characteristics are leading indicators of
how the nature of Internet use is changing” (92).

Frame 11: “Internet Usage by Age” from The Digital Future Report (31)

14“Ahigher percentage of Internet users outside North America are newbies due to the recency of Internet deploy-
ment there. Hence, current newbies will be the predominant international Internet users of the near future,” writes
Chen, Bose and Wellman (81).
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Although a significant gap exists between the teenage/young adult and older audiences of
American Internet demography, an available technological divide appears. The 2007 Digital Fu-
ture Report documents an interesting trend among newbies and modem usage: “In 2006, more
than half of new users (57.5 percent) use a telephone modem to access the Internet, compared to
30.6 percent of very experienced users” (36) (Frame 12). For the first time in the six year history
of the Digital Future Report, the use of modems to connect to the Internet at home was at an all-
time low (37 percent of Internet users) (35). Since 2000, modem usage has continued to decline;
however, the older generation is still the targeted market in using a modem to go online. As
technologies that facilitate the ease of access to an Internet connection expand, the proliferation
of high-speed access (from cable-modems to Digital Subscriber Lines (DSL) connections) ap-
pears to be leading the way. Since 2000, connecting to the Internet via DSL jumped 22 percent-
age points to 23.6 percent in 2006 (35) (Frame 13). Despite the growth in connectivity of Ameri-
cans, not all groups (older Americans are much less wired than younger Americans; minorities
are less connected than whites; those with modest amounts of income and education are less
wired than those with college education and household incomes over $75,000, those with jobs
are more likely than those without jobs to have access, parents of children under 18 living at
home are more likely than non-parents to be online and rural Americans lag behind suburban
and urban Americans in connectivity) are on the same level.15

Frame 12: “Internet Access by Type of Connection, New Users v. Experienced Users” from The Digital
Future Report (36)

15Taken from “America’s Online Pursuits,” pg. iii, 2003, by the Pew Internet and American Life Project.
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Frame 13: “Internet Access by Type of Connection, Home Users” from The Digital Future Report (35)

3.3 Germany and the Digital Divide, Demographics

Like the United States, Germany also suffers a digital divide. The lingering past of the Bundes-
republik Deutschlands and the Deutsche Demokratische Republik continue to haunt Internet
usage in one of the most industrialized countries in Western Europe. According to a study by
Gert G. Wagner, Rainer Pischner and John P. Haisken-DeNew entitled “The Changing Digital
Divide in Germany,” 48 percent of West German households had at least one PC in 2000,
whereas only 38 percent of East German households owned a computer (168). Like America,
Wagner, Pischner and Haisken-DeNew argue that “wealthy parents are far more likely to place
a computer at their children’s disposal and thus a regular Internet connection than those on
lower incomes” in Germany (179). “Private computer access is particularly relatively low in
single-parent households, most of which are on low incomes. Thus schools should have the ca-
pacity to offer all children, irrespective of their social background, access to computers and the
Internet,” Wagner, Pischner and Haisken-DeNew explain. (179). It is precisely this action to
grant Internet access for all Germans by the Federal Government that Herbert Kubicek wonder-
fully details in “Fighting a Moving Target: Hard Lessons from Germany’s Digital Divide Pro-
grams.” As Germany found itself in the lower half of computer and Internet penetration of all
European Union member states in 1999, Former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder decided to “…
increase the share of Internet subscribers in the total population from 9 per cent in 1999 to more
than 40 percent by the year 2005” (2) (Frame 14). Even though the target was reached in less
than two years in 2001 (where 48 percent of the population older than 14 years of age were re-
ported to use the Internet), a digital divide still existed. According to Kubicek, “In the most re-
cent ARD/ZDF Online Study, the age group of 14-19 [had] the highest online ratio (87 percent),
followed by the age group 20-29 with 82 percent, while only 13 percent of those older than 60
have reported to have used the Internet at least once during the last four weeks” (4) (Frame 15).
As of 2003, roughly 20 million Germans were offline, having a direct correlation to the lowest
level of formal education. Similar to America, Germany is also afflicted by Internet class differ-
ences among natives and immigrants. Kubicek explains:

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“In theoretical terms, then, the differences between the two centers and their visitors can be ex-
plained by the differences in cultural and social capital. The better-educated German middle class
teens have good basic literacy and social skills, and they know how to learn, and they are moti-
vated and curious. They need minimal initial support and access in order to develop their Web
skills via their peer groups. Their immigrant counterparts are missing almost all of these prerequi-
sites, and therefore they are not able to exploit the same opportunities, and even special Internet-
related projects cannot easily and quickly change their situation.” (15)

Frame 14: “Internet and PC Use in the EU and USA during 1999” in Kubicek (3)

Frame 15: “The [Internet] Age Gap Between 1997 and 2003” in Kubicek (6)

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Currently, Germany boasts a 62-percentage rate of households connected to the Internet, almost
rivaling that of the United States. However, according to the Federal Statistics Office of Ger-
many, Germany does not head the field in Internet activity concerning European Union World
Wide Web usage (despite Chancellor Schroeder’s “Internet for All” platform) (Frame 16). Like
America, computer reticence on the part of adults over the age of 65 is prevalent throughout
Germany (Frame 17). The Internet, generally speaking, is used amongst the youth. “All in all…
the Internet is a medium which is still used by the younger generation,” found the Feral Statis-
tics Office of Germany in “Information Technology in Enterprises and Households 2005,” “for
instance, 89% of the under-25s went online in the first quarter of 2005, but only 14% of the over-
65s” (51).

Frame 16: “Internet Access and Usage in the EU and Germany from 2002-2005” in Information Tech-
nology in Enterprises and Households 2005 (20)

Frame 17: “PC Usage in the First Quarter of 2005 by Age and Gender” in Information Technology in
Enterprises and Households 2005 (49)
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In comparison to American and German Internet usage, Austrian World Wide Web connectivity
is low. According to “Statistik Austria: Statistisches Jahrbuch 2007,” 52.3% of Austrians are con-
nected to the Internet (173). As is the case with the American and German digital landscape,
Austria boasts an 87.1% rate of Internet activity among 16-24 year olds. A digital divide exists
between the younger generation and adults over the age of 65 (173).

Although a global (albeit shrinking) digital gap continues to prevail between America, Germany
and Austria, there is no doubt that a strong online community exists within the English and
German languages. The presentations of societal culture online as well as a wide array of user
demographics speak for the Internet’s ability to act as a communicative bridge amongst partici-
pants. The World Wide Web, as can be seen with, and, is an
integral facet of one’s life.

3.4 The Collegiate Life Online,

When former Harvard University student Mark Zuckerberg decided to start in
2004, his goal was to create a secondary/virtual living experience among select higher educa-
tional intuitions. At first, was targeted toward the collegiate age bracket of 18-24
year olds, most notably among Ivy League schools. However, as weeks progressed, more col-
leges and universities began to enter into an ever increasing list. Slowly, began its
march westward across the continental United States eventually reaching the West Coast later
that year. The social-networking site would introduce international colleges and universities
during 2005.

What makes so special? Zuckerberg realized that culture could be digitized from
the hardcopy face books (the website’s name comes from the real-life books of freshmen’s faces,
hometowns, interests and majors that many colleges and universities distribute to incoming
students). Why not access and discuss your interests with your friends, whether it be in-person
or online? Or share thoughts and pictures through integrated media browsers and applications?
It’s no coincidence that Thompson’s theory of “cultural transmission” fits so well with, as the website is an extension of culture in the digital world. follows
the three aspects of “cultural transmission” that allow the circulation of information and other
symbolic content in socially structured contexts:

• is a technical medium of transmission, which is composed of material in

the form of text, images, audio and video that creates digital avenues of production
(writing on the “wall” or uploading a picture), transmission (sending a “wall” message
or sending a picture) and acquisition (receiving a “wall” message or receiving a picture).
Within this technical medium exist three interrelated attributes:
o Fixation. stores user information as can be seen on the “My Profile”
feature of the website. To a certain extent, offers a discreet power
setting scale, where users can alter privacy settings amongst friends and non-
friends. However, the website was never intended to create a disequilibrium of
tyranny from writer to reader or vice versa. Although Thompson’s assumption
rings true for most of the Internet, the belief that Web 2.0 websites act as “power
containers” or “generators of power” is atypical in this setting.
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o Reproduction. Composed of numerous symbols, amongst a wide array of media, reproduces cultural content online. The “collage effect” rings true in
this case, as users functionalize and categorize information between themselves
and others.
o Participation. Due to the enormous amount of 18-24 year-olds populating, Thompson’s belief that participation rests on necessary skills (from
using a mouse to activating key-strokes) is not directly associated with the vast
majority of users of Participatory skills, as Thompson would de-
fine them, would become of utmost importance if the website began catering to
the older generation. However, this would be relatively unlikely as significant
numbers of the 64 year-old and older demographic rely heavily on email usage.
• is an institutional apparatus of transmission. Underneath the basic under-
standing that is a website that “connects people with friends who work,
study or live around them” lay the premise that the website creates and fosters a me-
dium of shared symbols, in this case, shared cultures. The power tensions, commonly
found in Web 1.0 websites, do not inherently exist among users. Open
communication, between sender and receiver, or in this case, writer and reader, appear
in the “socially stratified” digital network.
• offers a space-time distanciation involved in transmission. The idea of the
“extension of availability” in the form of the “status message” is of critical relevance for
temporal and spacial distancing throughout (Frame 18). Users have the
ability to recognize who is “online” or “offline” by simple text. IM applications like AOL
Instant Messenger present time distanciation in the form of colored shapes as well as
text (red representing “away,” yellow representing “idle” and green representing “avail-
able”). Although and other Web 2.0 websites do not create a direct correla-
tion to real culture, as great distances in the digitized world often separate individuals,
they offer extensions of reality in digital media formats.

Frame 18: Friends can see when other users are online through their “status message” on

16ComScore Networks, Incorporated, a resource detailing World Wide Web traffic, reported in an October 2005 report
that the majority of users are between the ages of 18-24, at 34% of the total population (10/5/06).
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25, when taking Rheingold’s view into account, is both a virtual framework of pixels
and windows oriented on a computer screen while simultaneously creating a sense of commu-
nity online. However, the question is whether the website truly fosters a self-defined network.
Because most of the content is user-generated, with the exception of static templates set-forth by
the producers of, the website enables “relationships in [a] virtual reality with suffi-
cient feeling…via a computer screen” (Slevin 90).17 Human association on the website, it could
be argued, is an extension of real community into a virtual community. With this in mind, a
natural digital divide exists on the social-network utility as it concentrates on users with (1) a
valid email account and (2) an Internet connection. 18 In comparison to average United States
national Internet usage statistics, caters to a median age of 20. As will be seen with and, the median age of readers/users is significantly higher due to the
original intentions as one-way communicative news sources.

3.5 Getting Technologically Younger But Still Demographically Old Within and
The Austrian and German news websites are special and interesting cases, as they do not inher-
ently follow Web 2.0 ideology, therefore many of the original readers/users of and continue to follow the initial one-way communicative direction historically set forth of
Web 1.0 webpages. Like, and have created online commu-
nities as an extension of reality in the forms of reader commentary (“postings”) and forums.
Thompson’s theory of “cultural transmission,” specifically regarding shared symbols and mean-
ings, can be used to analyze both websites, respectively:

• and are technical mediums of transmission, which are primar-
ily composed of material in the form of text, images, audio and video. In comparison to, the Austrian and German news sources present technical media on their
respective main pages while is lined with text, images, audio and video
throughout. Now, this does not mean that and cannot foster
Thompson’s attributes of production, transmission and acquisition. Reader commentary
on and the forum on cater to Thompson’s aforementioned at-
tributes via three interrelated categories:
o Fixation. and store user information in the form of com-
ments relating to current and archived themes. However, unlike,
there is a large degree of power disequilibrium from writer (producers of and to reader (users of the websites) as readers have a
limited space to interact with the online community.
o Reproduction. Because and offer bounded virtual space
for reader commentary, Slevin’s comments regarding the “collage effect” is un-

17That is not to say users have the availability of seeing friends in-person on campus, at work or in a
select region.

18As described above, the website was originally intended for a select audience of college and university students
along the Northeast United States coast. Users generally came from a rich, suburban and white background. Al-
though has expanded its demographic base, users of this sort still entail a high proportion of site traffic.
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conventional in this case. Users still have the ability to reproduce virtual emo-
tions in the form of hyperlinked images, audio and video throughout “postings”
and forums.
o Participation. According to Thompson, participation is a critical component in
using and experiencing the Internet. Although the average age group of and readers are around 10 years older than that of (62% der UserInnen sind 20-39 Jahre jung and 69% im Alter 20-49
Jahre, respectively), users have an understanding of the necessary skills to access
and execute Internet tasks. 19, 20
• and are institutional apparatuses of transmission that create
shared cultures of symbols and meaning between readers (both nationally and interna-
tionally). Power tensions and prior Web 1.0 communication patterns restrict user experi-
ence, as interaction is limited to certain virtual environments.
• and offer a space-time distanciation involved in transmission.
More so than, where users can visualize other users in the form of profile
pictures, and offer few if no image representations of users. (The forum presents avatars in place of profile pictures.) offers some form
of temporal arrangement, similar to the use of IM applications with color availability posits a collection of times when users posted comments (Frame 19).

Frame 19: users know when other users are online via a green status icon, as shown in the
bottom left corner

19Taken from “Die UserInnen und was Sie schon immer über sie wissen wollten,” 2005.

20Taken from, “Porträt der Spiegel Online,” 2006.

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27 and, to a certain extent, present self-defined networks where internal
and external digital divides exist. Because of the targeted audience, among which are upper-
middle class, highly educated males, each website can offer unique content that is only accessi-
ble to such readers. The selected Austrian and German news sources subsist due to accessibility
and priority. For instance, is merely an additive feature of the Internet, where users
visit the website for creative and fun purposes. Their visit has no function other than what is
socially augmented (making friendships, talking with one another, sharing photos, etc.). and exist due to the necessity of accessing news in today’s world. It just
so happens that both websites realized the influence readers have in shaping online content and
culture, that the producers of and integrated interactive messageboards.
The next logical question, therefore, rests on the monetary sustainability in the virtual world.
What do society’s influence on the World Wide Web and the World Wide Web’s influence on
society have to do with the profit-driven world of advertising? A lot.

4. Internet Advertising
Online Advertising has come a long way since its debut in October of 1994 on
(now (Frame 20).21 For many websites, gone are the days of mere text and static im-
ages. Internet advertisements are now vibrant and full of color, sound and video. As the World
Wide Web progressed from a base information silo of one-way accessibility to a user-controlled/
influenced area of shared communication, so too have Internet advertisements. Although tech-
nological availability has pushed the shaping of Web ads, their inherent message has not
changed. Like offline advertising, Internet advertising acts as either a paid or unpaid form of
promotional communication through a specific medium, where it is used to increase the num-
ber of sales of the advertised product. However, online advertisements are entirely unique in
comparison to their print, audio and video counterparts. As Anja Janoschka argues in “Web
Advertising: New Forms of Communication on the Internet,” digital ads are “meant to be di-
rectly activated” by the user (44). Readers of magazines, listeners of radio programs and view-
ers of television can only read, listen and watch their respective advertisements. The World
Wide Web has created a distinct and profitable medium of promotional broadcasting. 22

Frame 20: The First Internet Advertisement

Within this advertising channel exist a wide array of formats. Specifically, banners, interstitials,
pop-ups, hyperlinks and websites act as the primary means for individuals/businesses to pro-

21With the launch of the first commercially accessible Web browser, Netscape 1.0, AT&T helped create the first banner
advertisement for, a website devoted to technology and culture. Set in highly colored letters on a black
background, the advertisement asked the reader “Have you ever clicked your mouse right HERE?”

22The Internet Advertising Bureau reported that Internet advertising revenues reached an estimated new record of
$4.2 billion for the third quarter of 2006 (11/14/06).
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mote certain aspects of a desired product. It is worth classifying each to understand their effects
on the Internet user:

• Banners, for our purposes, are of critical importance as they are the conventional build-
ing blocks of most Web 2.0 websites and functional spin-offs. Typically located at the
top, bottom or side of a webpage, banners are rectangular-shaped graphics (of either
static or animated nature) laden with text and images (Frame 21). The term “banner,”
however, consists of two subgenres:
o Skyline Banners. As the name implies, skyline banners utilize a significant
amount of space on a website, usually on the right- or left-hand sides of the page
(Frame 22). As Shelly Rodgers and Esther Thompson explain in “The Interactive
Advertising Model: How Users Perceive and Process Online Ads,” vertical or
skyline banners are often the most costly “as they take up space where most
websites position an index or menu” (10).
o Flap Banners. Like horizontal banners, flap banners are primarily located on the
top of a webpage, however, these types of advertisements have the ability to si-
multaneously expand or “flap over” to increase the size of the promoted content
(Frame 23)
• Intersertitials, as a hybrid form of “Internet” and “commercials,” are a considerably new
invention in the world of online advertising. With the increased usage of broadband in
both North America and Germany (see sections 3.2, “North America and the Digital Di-
vide, Demographics” and 3.3, “Germany and the Digital Divide, Demographics” for
more detail), advertisers are beginning to offer new forms of media to attract new cus-
tomers. Rodgers and Thompson define intersertitials as “full-screen ads that run in their
entirety between two content pages” (11). Intersertitials may also appear on the top layer
of the content page, expanding much like that of a flap banner.
• Pop-ups, in comparison to intersertitials, often appear in a separate window on top of
website content that is already on the user’s screen. Visitors of webpages are able to exit
out of a pop-up advertisement by simply clicking (or, so it seems) an icon delineating a
delete key (Frame 24). Pop-ups, like intersertitials, are commonly referred to as a forced
form of advertising, where the user is subjected to promoted content in a direct, intru-
sive manner.
• Hyperlinks, as explained earlier, entail connected text, images, audio or video that di-
rects the user to another website (Frame 25). These linked media often take up less space
than other ad formats, such as banners and pop-ups. Advertisers generally have no set
limit as to how many hyperlinks may be embedded within the content.

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Frames 21-25: Internet advertisements, from left to right: Banner, Skyscraper, Flap Banner, Pop-Up
and Hyperlink

Within this discussion of online advertising formats lay the premise that without function there
is no form. The function of offline and online advertising is clear, but the form is fundamentally
different throughout the Internet advertising landscape. In today’s digitally driven advertising
age, text and images are useless without audio and video. The fusion of motion and sound has
drastically enhanced the promoted message that advertisers have called “rich media,” the sav-
ior of online advertising.23 But what makes “rich media” different compared to offline media
formats? The fundamental objective of any Web 2.0 driven website, interaction.

5. Interactivity and Online Advertising

When AT&T launched the first web advertisement in 1994, text and images were the primary
tools to convince and persuade a user to “click here.” Without the introduction of rich media by
the turn of the 21st century, today’s banners, intersertitials, pop-ups and hyperlinks would have
never existed and become the de-facto standard. With the increasing usage of high-speed Inter-
net connections throughout North America and Germany, rich media is currently booming. The
shackles of technological availability are diminishing day-by-day as the parallel between broad-
band connectivity and rich media usage is startling. Kathryn Koegel in “Rich Media: What?
Where? Why?” details the positive relationship between connectivity and this new fusion of
multimedia: “Broadband has a profound effect on how much online media a user consumes: 25-
54 year olds with broadband view 1690 pages per month versus the 792 [pages] consumers by
dial-up users, an over 100% increase…Those same 24-54 year olds with broadband are 26%
more likely to be online purchasers than the dial-up users” (9). Rich media has allowed for as-

23Rich media, in terms of online advertising, is a new holistic approach to multi-media promotion schemes. Accord-
ingly, I will be using Nielsen//NetRatings’ definition of rich media as detailed in DoubleClick’s “Rich Media: What?
Where? Why?”: “Rich media ads allow advertisers to take traditional media assets like video, audio, animation and
photos, and combine them into a multimedia branding experience that streams from an ad server to the client ma-
chine” (3). I have disregarded functional technologies such as Macromedia Flash and Unicast that enable rich media,
as they are not pertinent to this discussion.
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tounding increases in click-through rates (CTR) (Frame 26). 24 As the most important difference
between offline and online advertisements, web ads involve the user. In the case of the Internet,
the control has switched (mostly) from the advertiser to the consumer. With the advent of the
mouse, users move around digital advertisements, clicking certain aspects and activating rich
content. According to Rogers and Thorson, online advertisements fall into the framework of an
“Interactive Advertising Model” (IAM) (3). Specifically, consumer-controlled aspects, such as
Internet uses (research, entertainment, shopping, etc.) and advertiser-controlled aspects, like ad
formats constitute the IAM (Frame 27). I would also argue that Internet advertisements inher-
ently follow Newhagen and Rafaeli’s structured sets of communicative patterns. Particularly,
online ads bear unique patters of both form and content, where non-linearity, packet switching,
elasticity of synchronicity and most importantly, interactivity take place:

• The non-linearity of online advertisements. Like Internet communication, web ads

have no predetermined order besides the direction of the initial advertising message and
the linked advertising message.25 Specifically, banners or any other web-ad for that mat-
ter, allow users to interact with content and content interacts with users, especially
within rich media.
• The sensory appeal of online advertisements. Today, with the rise of broadband and
rich media usage, web ads are becoming colorful and contextually vibrant. Audio and
video have become key elements in the production of most Internet ads.
• The packet switching methodology of online advertisements. As Newhagen and Ra-
faeli characterized the routing principle of “switching” communication from writer to
reader and vice-versa, web ads indirectly force the user to switch control from himself/
herself to the advertiser. The activation of a mouse click moves the degree of control
from user to advertiser, as the user must wait for a response. Janoschka refers to this re-
sponse as the “linked advertising message” (50).
• The elasticity of synchronicity of online advertisements. Although broadband connec-
tions have greatly reduced load-time for rich media advertisements, technological hin-
drances still exist between user and advertiser. There is only so much variation allowed
in the form of pre-designed online advertisements in comparison to the spontaneity of
chat-speak between Internet users.
• The interactivity of online advertisements. The very first online advertisement was in-
teractive. With the user-activated click of a mouse, a full-page website appeared. Today,
interactivity within online advertisements embodies an altered view of Newhagen and
Rafaeli’s theory that “communication reflects back on itself, feeds on and responds to the
past” (2).

24Inadvertising, the profitability of a carrier medium is estimated. As Janoschka explains, “It is calculated by the costs
of reaching one thousand persons, homes, or other audience units.” Unlike conventional advertisements, Internet
advertisements can be measured in precise click-through units, defined by the percentage of “click-throughs” in
comparison to “banner/ad views.” For instance, Janoschka uses the example of a 3% CTR: “A 3% CTR signifies 3% of
each 1000 web ad views, or 30 visitors have activated a web ad” (79).

25Although previously mentioned as a distinct form of online advertisements, hyperlinks also act as the internal
structure of a web ad. “Web ads are hyperlinks which enable activation through their users,” explains Janoschka,
“Once users have clicked on them, they take their initiators to another connected web page, the linked target source”
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Frame 26: CTR of Rich Media (RM) and non-Rich Media in Koegel (14)

Frame 27: The Interactive Advertising Model (IAM) in Rogers and Thorson (5)

Without question, interactivity is the key characteristic of new media within online advertise-
ments. As David R. Fortin and Ruby Roy Dholakia explain in “Interactivity and Vividness Ef-
fects on Social Presence and Involvement with a Web-based Advertisement,” interactivity “is
expected to not only transform the way advertising is designed and implemented but also the
manner in which it affects consumers’ opinions and attitudes” (1). With this in mind, interactive
advertising has increased substantially with the growth of the Internet. Specifically, interactive
advertising embodies new tendencies to reach and connect to a targeted audience. According to
Paul A. Pavlou and David W. Stewart in “Measuring the Effects and Effectiveness of Interactive
Advertising: A Research Agenda,” the proliferation of “interactive advertising highlights the
role of the consumer in determining the effects and effectiveness of advertising, while challeng-
ing traditional assumptions about how advertising works” (2). However, like Web 2.0, defining
“interactivity” has proved tenuous. For our purposes, interactivity’s definition will combine
elements from Pavlou and Stewart as well as Fortin and Dholakia. At its most basic level, inter-
activity is a process on the part of the consumer (user) where he/she can modify form and con-
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tent of a mediated environment in real time. Consumers have the ability to respond or not to an
advertisement (Pavlou and Stewart 2). As a process, interactivity bears effects, where social
presence, involvement and arousal are categorically direct effects (2). Fortin and Dholakia pro-
pose three hypotheses regarding interactivity’s effects: (1) There is a positive relationship be-
tween the degree of interactivity of an advertisement and the social presence it conveys. (2)
There is a positive, direct relationship between the degree of interactivity of an advertisement
and the level of involvement with the ad. (3) A positive, direct relationship exists between the
degree of interactivity of an advertisement and the level of arousal (phasic activation) observed
during exposure to the advertisement (390).

Unlike static online advertisements, interactive online advertisements are a process, composed
of aforementioned communicative patterns between advertiser and consumer. These adver-
tisements employ both the spoken and written text forms, found in the global Internet
environment. 26

After using Janoschka’s, Fortin and Dholakia’s and Pavlou and Stewart’s synopses of static and
interactive online advertisements it becomes clear that the impact of advertisements throughout
the World Wide Web is enormous. However, what each author failed to mention was the con-
struct of the online advertisement (static and interactive) as “culturally transmitted.” Thomp-
son’s discussion of shared symbols and meaning applies to the text, images, audio and video
found in today’s advertisements:

• Interactive online advertisements act as technical mediums of transmission, where in-

formational content can be produced, received, and socially constructed. Like “cultural
transmission,” interactive online advertisements share three related attributes within
this technical medium of transmission:
o Fixation. Interactive ads store large amounts of information where consumers
can access certain defining qualities of the promoted product. Currently, and
even with the most advanced interactive advertisements, the power of design
and choice construction rests on the side of the advertiser.
o Reproduction. The interactive advertisement is a miniature user interface, much
like that of the computer screen. Collages of text, images, audio and video are
often consolidated in 468 x 60 pixels (as a normal sized banner) or full-sized in-
tersertitials that take up the entire viewing space of the consumer.
o Participation. Newbies and older users of the Internet can interact with adver-
tisements. All that is needed is the general ability to point and click with a
• Interactive online advertisements are institutional apparatuses of transmission. Similar
to the fixated/determined characteristic of “cultural transmission,” interactive online

26Some interactive online advertisements present faux-communicative realities where actors, within rich media ad-
vertisements, portray face-to-face interaction in confined mediums. See section 6.2 concerning Axe’s “Best of Sum-
mer” intersertitial on
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advertisements are bound by the advertiser. This means that advertisers make the final
decision on what may or may not appear on a webpage. 27
• Interactive online advertisements offer a space-time distanciation involved in transmis-
sion. As Thompson insinuated, the degree of temporal and spatial distancing involved
in the circulation of information and other content is entirely dependent upon the tech-
nical medium. The idea of a faux-communicative reality, and therefore a faux-space-time
distanciation, is applicable to interactive online advertisements.

The gap between static online advertisements and interactive advertisements is shrinking. As
more and more websites begin to offer media-rich content, advertisers will begin to flood the
market with interactive features accessible to the consumer. It should be of no surprise then that
major news websites, such as Austria’s and Germany’s, have included
profound and cutting-edge interactive advertisements with a slight-hint of Web 2.0 format like
that of

6. Models

6.1 A Counterintuitive Pioneer,

The social networking utility presents a counterintuitive stance in interactive online advertising.
One would expect to offer media-rich content in the form of interactive advertise-
ments, laden with video and audio on top of static text and images. At best, has
limited advertisements following Koegel’s understanding of rich-media and interactive ads.
This advertising scheme appears to be illogical. Why would one of the fastest growing social
networking sites reduce, and even, limit the amount of interactive media throughout the web-
site? The answer is relatively clear, taking into account the role of the user: without the user,
there would be no venture capital, no content, no advertising and no So why not
integrate the user into the advertisement?

What does have in comparison to its rivals such as and
is the user-generated “flyer” form of advertising. Situated on the right side under the main user
panel, “flyers” take the shape of small banner. From the homepage, “Facebook flyers are an
easy, self-service solution, creating localized awareness that can be targeted to individual cam-
puses.” The “flyer” helps to integrate both registered users and local business around campus,
in this case Georgetown University, to provide promotional communication through a relatively
ingenious medium. 28 Like that of the paper copy, the digital “flyer” serves a two-fold purpose:
(1) the promotion of paid personal interests and (2) the promotion of paid business interests. For
instance, users submit information based on their intention (the promotion of a birthday party,
on-campus music festivals, etc.) In this case, a “flyer” for “Gospel Fest” is displayed on the main

27Thereare exceptions to this general rule. offers promotional “flyers” that may be uploaded by users,
granted the “flyer” does not violate terms of use.

28To upload a “flyer,” users submit information based upon desired themes (“birthday,” “for sale,” “event,” etc.),
pictures and text. Users then choose how many flyers they would like to advertise, ranging from 10,000 to 30,000 at
$5 per 10,000 and at which university/network/geographic region.
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page for the Georgetown chapter of (Appendix 1, Frame AF1). The “flyer” is com-
posed of mere text and one picture, where a sense of urgency is felt via the location of the ellip-
ses, capital letters as well as the bold lead of “You’re Invited.” We, the audience, read the initial
advertising message as an invitation. If we chose to accept the invitation, we will be connected
to the linked advertising message, in this case an event page within, detailing the
event information, time and place and coordinator (Appendix 1, Frame AF2). The “Gospel Fest”
flyer is an example of paid personal communication, referring to the fact that the user who
submitted this information was a student. On the other hand, the promotion of paid business
interests can be seen in another flyer paid for by a local entertainment club, “The Exchange.”
“Watch Gtown @ Drink Cheap,” reads the lead of the advertisement, using an abbreviated
Georgetown moniker and an ill-defined at-sign instead of the proper and grammatically correct
ampersand (&).29 Forming the initial advertising message, the content of the flyer is simple: util-
izing a picture of cold beers and ice (that will later be used to connect the initial advertising
message to the linked advertising message) with limited rows of text informing the user of
drink specials, the online ad could suffice as a typical banner framework (Appendix 1, Frame
AF3). Once the user activates the flyer by clicking on it, the advertisement will transform, in
suspended real time, into the full linked advertising message. The same graphic helps to iden-
tify similar content between the two forms (Appendix 1, Frame AF4). It is important to notice
that the text within the linked advertising message follows common English grammar rules
(with some minor exceptions) in comparison to the abbreviated, chat-speak form presented in
the original flyer.

Although “flyers” lack rich-media content, normally associated with interactive advertisements,
it does not necessarily mean that only bears static advertising initiatives. Of par-
ticular interest are “sponsored Facebook groups,” where users can connect and interact with
others while discussing the promoted product. Looking at the promoted video game group,
“Grand Theft Auto: Vice Cities Stories,” it becomes clear that rich media interfaces were used
throughout. The inclusion of basic text functions such as the “wall” and “discussion board” and
radical new features such as in-site video players, full of vibrant content, emphasize the social
networking site’s belief in constant expansion. As can be seen from the user’s “news feed” lo-
cated on the main page, the sponsored group appears along the time stamped/chronological
aggregator with text (“2006’s most anticipated PSP title is here. Browse info, screens, and vids –
including Trailer #3, set to ‘In the Air Tonite’”) as well as screenshots of the video game (Ap-
pendix 1, Frame AF5). also offers traditional banners in the form of skyscrapers (around 180 x 600 pixels)
along the right and left sides of the page.30 On a rare occasion, one may find a skyscraper filled

29The uses and misuses of “@” and “&” highlight the growing complexity and incorporation of chat-speak in modern
culture, specifically collegiate culture. Bader’s notion of a “Mischform,” embodying both forms of written and spoken
text, rings true in this example.

30Skyscrapers continuously show up on interlinks throughout, i.e. on the “My Photos” and “My Notes”
pages, as they are highly accessed and trafficked parts of the website.
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with rich media on the main page.31 An online advertisement promoting cellular telephone
ringtones appeared on on or around November 9, 2006 that serves to illustrate the
limited source of interactive ads throughout the site. Specifically, the skyscraper was designed
for the purpose of activating sound while (knowingly or unknowingly) “rolling over” one’s
mouse pointer onto the advertisement (Appendix 1, Frame AF6). Users were able to hear
streaming audio inside the Internet based platform, 32 This skyscraper is an inter-
esting example on how to attract a user’s attention from the desired content, as it combines vis-
ual and audible elements. Users are initially attracted to the web ad by the dominant visual as-
pect, a portrait of recording artist Mary J. Blige, or by clips of sound interlinked throughout the
advertisement. The user either purposely directed his/her attention to the visual element of the
ad or was unintentionally drawn to the advertisement as sound began playing within the
browser window. (“Jamster” was the only example among approximately 10 throughout and that presented a forced form of advertising, where the user had to
undergo intrusive tactics to view/hear/see promotional content.)

6.2 The Rich Media Leader,

In comparison to, presents an interesting example as to the importance of
rich media throughout online advertisements. As “die führende Nachrichten-Site im
deutschsprachigen Internet,” the online news magazine offers advertisers a multitude of for-
mats, from static text and image banners to full-screen intersertitials.33 Of particular importance
for this discussion is the website’s incorporation of “wallpapers.” As a combination of both
horizontal and vertical banners, “wallpapers” create a seamless connection of the advertised
product on the computer screen. According to Quality-Channel, an online German advertising
provider, “wallpapers” have provided users a new way to interact with advertisements: “Seit
drei Jahren haben Kunden die Möglichkeit, redaktionelle Webseiten komplett einzufärben,
brandingstarker Werbeformen zu integrieren und das CI [Computer-Interface] komplett um die
Seite zu legen” (March 2005). Axe, an American company that makes body spray and lotion,
introduced a German advertising initative on, promoting “Axe Sommerbräune" in the
form of a “wallpaper” advertisement.

The “Axe Best of Summer” campaign is specifically targeted at young, active males, as can be
seen in the “wallpaper” placement on (a primarily male-dominated demo-
graphic among the website’s sub-pages). The initial advertising message is relatively plain with
minor rich-media affects. Situated on the horizontal and vertical planes, images of a young,
white male and three young, white females with the subtext of “Sommerbräune” and “jetzt 365
Tage im Jahr” attract the user’s attention. However, in comparison to the forced form of adver-
tising, as can be seen in Jamter’s ringtone promotion on, the initial advertising

31SinceI began surveying in October 2006, I have found minimal amounts of rich media/interactive ad-
vertisements where the user can do more than just simply “click” on a part of the banner to be taken to the linked
advertising message.

32The advertisement became its very own platform in terms of a web-based application, much like that of the utilities
offered by

33Although embodies Web 2.0 ideology, the website presents no uses of user-generated advertisements, like
that of “flyers.”
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message of “Axe Best of Summer” is quite subdued. The phrase, “Wann immer Du willst,” as
well as a highlighted blue arrow, prompts the user to click and activate the advertisement. 34
Once activated, the user is connected to the linked advertising message (Appendix 2, Frame
AS1). Here begins the second phase of the advertising message in the form of an intersertitial,
where the young, white male (once half-naked in a hot spring) is fully clothed, inside the con-
fines of his room. At this point, there are no interactive features while the content loads (Ap-
pendix 2, Frame AS2). Once complete, the user gets a glimpse into the young male’s room
(which will later serve as the complete interactive experience on the part of the user) (Appendix
2, Frame AS3). Suddenly, an orange TV-set that was situated in the background of the room, ap-
pears in the foreground, prompting a video commercial (Appendix 2, Frames AS4-AS20). The
short video shows how the young male finds his way to the hot spring, where the three females
adorn his perfectly tanned body. The contrast between the brown-shaded body of the male and
the lightened-pale females are constantly highlighted throughout the video, as one female at-
tempts to rub off the male’s temporary tattoo (Appendix 2, Frame AS18). The second phase of
the linked advertising message creates a paradox within online communicative research:

• Utilizing video, the “Axe Best of Summer Campaign” contradicts the non-linearity ideal
of online advertisements, as Newhagen and Rafaeli only analyzed base text and image
advertisements. The short video commercial constitutes a predetermined order of
events, where the user (hopefully) experiences the benefit of body lotion via the young
• At this point in the linked advertising message, the only control the user integrates is the
mouse click. He/she can stop the video at any time and escape the advertisement.
• Like the power function of the mouse click, the interactive feature of the advertisement
has passed. The user experiences audio and video, following the preset order as set by
the advertiser.
• Bader’s written text form is widely downplayed, accounting for approximately 3-4 sec-
onds of a 30 second commercial, highlighted by the final text of the video, “Best of
Summer Body Lotion” (Appendix 2, Frame AS21). Why is the slogan in English and not
in German? Based upon the demographic make-up of, the multi-lingual
aspects of the text are apparent. Users tend to use “Mischformen” of English and Ger-
man as a true form of “Websprache.” The video also uses an English-speaking rock song
as the background music instead of a German-speaking song, adding to the importance
of bi-/multi-lingualism throughout Internet use in Germany. Like most videos, the spo-
ken text form takes prevalence. As previously noted (see footnote 26), the user is at-
tracted to the lead actor via a faux-communicative reality, acting as a representative of
the user via face-to-face interaction with the three females.

Although components of the second phase of the linked advertising message appear as para-
doxes within communicative research, Axe’s intersertitial should not be discounted due to a

34Notice the use of the informal “you” within the German language structure. Following Bader’s examination of chat-
speak, “Wann immer Du willst” provides an interesting look inside the advertiser’s intention: a yearning to connect
to the consumer/user, in hopes of activating/clicking on the initial advertising message. One would expect to see the
formal “Sie” in online advertisements, as there is some sort of distance between advertiser and user. However, the
advertiser finds a common ground between familiarity and unfamiliarity with the capitalized version of “Du,” nor-
mally associated with formal usage.
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lack of sufficient interactive communicative evidence. Following Pavlou and Stewart’s under-
standing of interactive online advertisements, as well as Fortin and Dholakia’s research con-
cerning interactivity, does it become clear that Axe’s campaign for body lotion is a process.

The final and third phase of the linked advertising message sheds light on aspects of interactiv-
ity and Thompson’s theory of “cultural transmission.” Beginning in Frame AS21, the user has
regained power via the mouse as he/she can activate certain parts of the room. In this case, the
user activated (rolled-over) the TV set. Once activated, text appears in the form of a pop-up
message: “Heiße Spiele im Kalten Norden – das kann Dir jederzeit passieren!” (see footnote 34
regarding the informal use of “du,” in this case, “dir” The pop-up message also acts as an initial
advertising message, linking the user to other “Spots und Downloads zum neuen Verführungs-
helfer” (Appendix 2, Frame AS22). If it was not apparent enough that the advertisement is
aimed at a young, heterosexual male audience, the pop-up message (when the user rolls over
bottles of the “Sommerbräune”) makes the message explicit: “Mit der Best of Summer Body Lo-
tion macht AXE die Jungs schon vor dem Sommeranfang mit lässiger Bräune und dem AXE Ef-
fekt startklar für die Ladies!” (Appendix 2, Frame AS24).

By clicking on various items in the bedroom, from body lotion bottles to magazines, the user
experiences unrivaled interactive functionality (much more, in comparison to the
Specifically, the user modifies form and content within the mediated/predetermined environ-
ment of the bedroom. I would argue that Fortin and Dholakia’s hypotheses validate Axe’s Best
of Summer campaign. As a simulated social environment, the virtual bedroom becomes in and
of itself a social presence. The user can assimilate, and more importantly, connect to the adver-
tised message as the virtual environment can mimic that of the real world. While the user be-
gins to interact more with the advertisement, whether clicking items or replaying the video
commercial, the level of involvement increases. Lastly, the sensory appeal of the advertisement
is heightened by the use of various integrated rich media products within the advertisement. As
the user is exposed to the advertisement during periods of time, the level of arousal increases in
a positive manner.

Like that of the interactive features of the Axe campaign, Johnson’s theory of “cultural transmis-
sion” also bears relevance. As a consolidation of shared symbols (from both the initial and
linked advertising messages), the advertisement represents an excellent representation of users
who visit, as demographically characteristic of the white, heterosexual young
male. 35 In comparison to the hyper-masculine and hyper-sexualized tone of the Axe campaign,
other subtle sexually oriented advertisements appear throughout, particularly that of
a wallpaper/expandable banner advertisement by

As a low-cost German airline, Germanwings positioned its online advertisements on the main
page of Unlike that of Axe on the Sport section of the website, this wallpaper ad,

would be foolish and wholly unrealistic to categorize Axe’s advertisement campaign as representative of all Ger-
man users.

36Accordingto Quality-Channel, expandable ads, much like that of flap-banners, “sind Werbemittel, die sich über ihr
Ursprungsformat ‘ausklappen’ (z.B. durch Mouse-Over oder auch automatisch unter bestimmten technischen /
nutzungsbedingten Vorausetzungen.”
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composed of matching horizontal and vertical banners, is featured on the most trafficked site
throughout the framework. However, like that of Axe, Germanwings’s “Deine Flügel”
campaign is inherently simple in rich media content of the initial advertising message (Appen-
dix 2, Frame AGW1). Bright yellow text transitioning from “Deine Flügel nach ganz Europa” to
“Business, Urlaub, Städtetrips” as well as a constant “Los!” within the overlay of an airplane
form the background of the initial advertising message (Appendix 2, Frame AG2). Besides the
unique color scheme of the wallpaper advertisement, active graphics appear in the forms of
movable text (“Jetzt buchen”) and icons. Similar to the textual constructs of the Gospel Flyer on, the phrase “Jetzt buchen” in conjunction with an arrow leading to the edge of the
screen constitutes a sense of urgency among the user. It should be of no surprise then that the
initial advertising message should lead to a linked advertising message, however, in this case,
the linked advertising message appears in-screen. (In all examples analyzed thus far, the linked
advertising message directs the user to an external window to access the promoted product.) By
following the textual imperative of “Jetzt ansehen!” the user is prompted to click on a large,
burgundy mouse pointer (Appendix 2, Frame AGW1). Here begins the linked advertising mes-
sage vis-à-vis the expandable banner, with an approximate video duration of 20 seconds. The
expandable banner creates a virtual experience, like that of Axe’s interactive bedroom, through
a fast-moving tour of the airline cabin (Appendix 2, Frames AGW2-AGW9). It can be argued
that the virtual tour is so fast, that the user may miss an underlying subtlety as representative of
Thompson’s “cultural transmission.” Looking at Frame AGW5, it becomes relatively clear that a
man and a woman are beginning to move into the airplane bathroom in a manner atypical of
restroom manners. One is but left to ask, “What’s the purpose of sneaking this scenario into the
advertisement?” Following Thompson’s theory, all advertisements embody some form of
shared symbols and therefore, meaning. In this case, the event of a man and a woman attempt-
ing to have sex, albeit brief, offers a glimpse into the intent of Perhaps the air-
line wants to present a laid-back, relaxed and open atmosphere to customers, where having fun
is more important than acting serious. 37 Another possible reason as to why the scenario is subtly
placed rests on the fact that the advertisement is featured on the main page. As was seen with
Axe’s campaign, the hyper-sexualized was featured prominently on among the
male demographic.

6.3 Self-Promotion,

The Austrian news website presents an interesting dichotomy between the intent and ability to
promote products among advertisers. In comparison to its German news counterpart, is extremely limited to a confined form: the user immediately notices that the
website rarely uses horizontal and vertical banners as primary forms of advertisements. The
lack of digital advertising space on the horizontal and vertical planes does not necessarily mean
that possesses no forms of advertisements that could potentially be revenue pow-
erhouses, like that of “wallpapers” for (Interestingly enough, promotes
its own services, specifically that of available advertisements. As can be seen in Appendix 3,
Frame ASD1, this online advertisement serves to lure users to advertise on the website: “Jetzt

37Once again, this critique cannot be used for the entire German population. I doubt this advertisement could be rep-
resentative of users among, besides the fact they tend to have higher-incomes and are more likely to fly.
Rather, the “Deine Flügel” campaign is representative of the customer community within Germanwings.
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100.000 Banner ersteigern im Wert von EUR 1.000-.”) Because of the lack of traditional banners
on the main page of, advertisers are primarily concerned with a miniaturized ver-
sion of a banner, the content advertisement.38 The “Fix plazierte Werbeformen” serves as a re-
placement of the rich media content as found in As can be seen in an advertising
campaign by Hewlett-Packard (HP), a series of four static advertisements complete the initial
advertising message in the form of an animation (Appendix 3, Frames AHP1-AHP4). Com-
prised of text and images, the HP “Crazyday” campaign is targeted at the main readership of, between the ages of 20-39. The first of four frames, “Wahnsinns-Angebote am HP
Crazyday” catches the eye with its use of irregular capitalization and colors among the text
(Appendix 3, Frame AHP1). In comparison to Axe’s Best of Summer and Germanwings’ “Deine
Flügel” campaigns, HP’s advertisements need not be directly activated with the click of a
mouse. The animation appears on screen while the user explores the content of the website, re-
gardless of whether he/she clicks the content advertisement. Frames AHP2 and AHP3 serve to
illustrate the urgency of purchasing the advertised computer, specifically with the use of direc-
tional arrows. The last animated frame, Frame AHP4, reiterates the urgency of the advertise-
ment with the text: “Nur Heute! Notebooks, iPAQs, PCs, Drucker, Server, Storage & Network-
ing.” With the imperativeness of time characterized by “nur” and “heute,” the user is inclined to
activate the advertisement. However, one last textual incentive lures the user to click on the con-
tent ad: “mehr Wahnsinnsangebote unter” Following the theme of
the advertisement, one could be considered “verrückt” if he/she did not activate the HP cam-
paign! Like that of the initial advertising message, the linked advertising message of “HP Crazy
Day – Wahnsinnig günstige Angebote für Ihre IT” follows the same theme of irregular capitali-
zation and colors among text 39 (Screenshot A6). Once again, the imperativeness of purchasing
the product is highlighted by the text, “Bei HP fallen die Preise! Aber nur heute!” By positioning
the exclamation point at the end of the phrase beginning with “Aber,” the user is inclined to fol-
low through the advertising message, (hopefully) purchasing the promoted product.

Conclusion: Today’s Virtual World as Progress?

Underlying Time Magazine’s Person of the Year choice for 2006 was the availability and operabil-
ity of next-generation Internet technologies among the user, or in the editorial board’s words,
“you.” Collectively, these Web 2.0 websites and concurrent ideologies have pushed and warped
the established boundaries of the World Wide Web. Although the basic premise of the Internet
remains the same, where users access vast amounts of information throughout the global mar-
ketplace, the functionality has drastically changed.

Today, users actively engage with Internet content. As if almost incomprehensible, the Internet
has the ability to react to a user’s participative action. Whether the reader activates a rich media
advertisement on or responds to a messageboard posting on, websites

38From the “Preisliste 2007” of, a content ad “ist eine Werbefläche im Format 300 x 150 Pixel (gegen
Aufpreis auch im Format 300 x 250 Pixel möglich), welches auf unsere Übersichtsseiten direct im redaktionellen Um-
feld platziert wird. Der Inhalt kann statisch oder animiert sein.”

39Itis worth noting that HP incorporates the formal possessive pronoun “Ihr” in compared to the semi-formal usage
of “Du” in Axe’s Best of Summer campaign.
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present endless possibilities of responsiveness: a linked-advertising message containing text,
images, audio or video or a reactive reader commentary within the structure of “Netzsprache.”
The Internet, following a Web 2.0 train of thought, has evolved from a base receptacle of stored
information to an interactive platform among readers and writers. Currently, Web 2.0 websites,
like the purebred or functional sites like and, place utmost
emphasis upon the user, especially the young user. Without him/her, there would be no World
Wide Web, and simultaneously, no Web 2.0.

The user, however, must realize that within the current Web 2.0 framework rests the overlooked
reality that communication, the societal construct of the Internet and advertising constitute a
process, a process that is currently incomplete. No one is certain as to when the process will
end, as the termination of Internet advancement could amount to the destruction and stagna-
tion of one of the most important technological innovations the world has ever seen. As time
moves on, we (the readers, the writers, the users of the World Wide Web) knowingly or un-
knowingly should recognize the importance of the major themes addressed in this discussion as
groundwork for the future of the Internet: the intersection of Web 2.0 ideology and practice in
the virtual world, communicative patterns as found in the World Wide Web, culture as a trans-
mitted social construct and the monetary/primary motivation behind the Internet advertise-
ment. Connecting these overarching motifs is the characteristic of interaction, helping to unite,
for example, advertisements to audiences, as seen within, and

Whatever the future may hold for the Internet and users alike is unknown, however, what is
certain is that the user will continue to make participative progress in the virtual world as
documented in the blossoming Web 2.0 era.

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Appendix 1

Frame AF1 Frame AF2

Frame AF3 Frame AF4

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Appendix 1 (continued)

Frame AF5 Frame AF6

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Appendix 2

Frames AS1-AS5

Frames AS6-AS10

Frames AS11-AS15

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Appendix 2 (continued)

Frames AS16-AS20

Frames AS20-AS24

Sample text from AS22: “Da werden Deine Freunde blass vor
Neid: versende Deine persönlice Best of Summer-E-Card. Jetzt
neu, mit frei wählbarem Bräunungsgrad!”

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Appendix 2 (continued)

Frames AGW1-AGW3

Frames AGW4-AGW6

Frames AGW7-AGW9

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Appendix 3

Frame ASD1

Frames AHP1-AHP4

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