Studying Online Communication Features on International and Cross-Cultural Web Pages Using Websphere Analysis Methodology

Studying Online Communication Features on International and Cross-Cultural Web Pages Using Websphere Analysis Methodology

Kathryn Stam (State University of New York Institute of Technology, USA), Indira R. Guzman (TUI University, USA) and Dennis Thoryk (Onondaga Community College, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-833-0.ch013
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Some websites, and the specific Web pages within them, are designed specifically to facilitate online communication across countries and cultures. For this reason, these sites often contain a variety of features for international interaction. Such features include language choices, instant messaging, or use of a translation tool. The purpose of this chapter is to identify current practices and opportunities for online communication between people from different countries or speakers of different languages. To examine this topic, the authors used the Websphere analysis methodology (Schneider & Foot, 2004) to conduct an analysis of 160 archived international and cross-cultural Web pages in order to identify their communication features.
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The context of the work presented here is situated within current research on the relationship between culture and the design and the use of Web pages. In this section, the authors present a small selection of related materials that served as a foundation that guided the research they did on this topic area.

To begin, it is important to note that the role of communication styles and other cultural features on the Internet has long been accepted as important by researchers from a range of fields. For example, Hermeking's (2004) work found that customers from “Uncertainty Avoidance” cultures, where predictability is important overall, also tended to be less innovative in their Internet use. Similar work (de Mooij, 2004) focuses on the role of individualism as a cultural characteristic, as well as high-context vs. low-context communication styles online (Wurtz, 2004). According to this concept, people from high-context cultures (e.g., individuals from Japan or Latin America) are considered as tending to have close and familiar communication with each other and were comfortable with informal and indirect styles of conveying information. By contrast, individuals from low-context cultures (e.g., individuals from the German-speaking part of Switzerland or from Germany) tend to focus on detailed and explicit methods for conveying information.

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