Such ads have become increasingly common within the last fifty or so years, as other elements of cultural life tell Americans that the western frontier is closed. Therefore, commercialism is playing off our yearning for a new frontier, one which we can still romanticize.
The next step of the western frontier is through the World Wide Web. As print advertising has moved into massive online advertising, the western romanticized image has also gone digital. The online world itself represents a new frontier to be conquered, both by capitalism and the individual consumer; "Like the western frontier, the e-frontier is vitally significant to American economic and strategies of interests that were manifested first in continental (and now wired) expansion;" (McLure 458). It embodies the feeling of discovering a whole new world, a whole new playing ground which is then to be settled and explored. According to research, "the cyber frontier also appeals on a popular level to many romantic, nostalgic western myths about endless horizons, unlimited opportunity, and untrambled freedom," (McLure 458). Even the words used to describe the internet harkens back to western ideology with words being used such as "cyberspace," "netscape," and "internet pioneers." Online advertising and shopping is currently in the midst of an online gold rush, where there are big profits to be made, "Elements of the Old West survive in the gold rush mentality and the lawlessness and crime that have accompanied the opening of the electronic frontier," (McLure 459). It has become obvious over the success of the internet that there are massive amounts of money to be made. Therefore, it is repeating the old gold rush mentality; "Suddenly everyone is headed for cyberspace, scrambling to stake their claim to a domain name right before someone else grabs it and hoping to strike it rich on the e-frontier," (McLure 460). Companies are now spending more money on online advertising than traditional print advertising. One advertisement in particular was an interactive shooter. The task was simple, to point the mouse at the wild horses and click, attempting to wrangle five buckers. Once the task was complete, it automatically forwarded the page into their product of advertisement. Companies are developing revolutionary and interactive technologies to stay one step ahead of the game and dominate this new frontier.
However, just as in the real days of the Old West, this new frontier also comes with its dangers. Hiding behind the opportunities and cheap deals the internet has to offer are spammers, online predators, and con artists with elaborate schemes to steal from the average internet consumer. It is clear that the romanticized image of the west fits in with a repetition of real dangers faced by original pioneers; "As did the men who flocked to the various gold and silver rushes of the American West, day traders are engaging in risk-taking behavior with a high probability of failure," (McLure 462). Spammers are especially hated within online communities. They represent an invasion of space and a lack of concern for pioneer privacy. According to research "Because the electronic frontier is still generally a lawless territory, vigilantism is often he preferred -- and sometimes the only effective -- response to what cybersettlers perceive as crimes against both property and people," (McLure 463). Therefore, cybersettlers have begun taking justice into their own hands.
As we get further and further into the new millennium, it is clear that the internet is the next frontier, and that companies are exploiting the romanticism of the old frontier in this new one. With more developed technologies at their fingertips, ads are continuing to exploit romanticized images of the Old West, but with more interesting and interactive technologies. It will be interesting to see where capitalism drives this newly regenerated romanticized image of the Old West as technologies continue to develop.
McLure, Helen. "The Wild, Wild Web: The Mythic American West and the Electronic Frontier." The Western History Quarterly. 2000. 31(4):457-476.
Limerick, Patricia Nelson. "What on Earth is the New Western History?" Trails: Toward a New Western History.…