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PROMOTING COMMUNICATION, PARTICIPATION AND LEARNING WITH REGARDS TO ORGANIC FOOD PRODUCTS: A COMMUNICATION THEORETICAL APPROACH

Kastberg, Peter (2015) PROMOTING COMMUNICATION, PARTICIPATION AND LEARNING WITH REGARDS TO ORGANIC FOOD PRODUCTS: A COMMUNICATION THEORETICAL APPROACH. Ecology & Society, 20 (1), - .

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Online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-07139-200103

Summary

The market for organic foods is growing, the proportion of consumers buying organic foods is, nevertheless, still considered to be low. Relevant research continuously shows that one of the most significant barriers prohibiting consumers from purchasing (more) organic foods is lack of information. Both with regards to organic foods as such as well as to the additional qualities of organic foods compared to conventionally produced foods. This has led the relevant body of research to rally behind a generic call for better organic communication. The same body of research, however, seems to take for granted what makes communication good and that we all agree on what communication is. Within the context of this paper, these underlying assumptions will be challenged from both a theoretical and a practical perspective. With a point of departure in communication theory’s credo-like statement that any model of communication is also a model for communication, I will demonstrate that and how the communicative approach one favors, when communicating about organic foods, critically influences the consumer impact of any instance of organic communication. Applying the communication theoretical formats of transmission, interaction and co-action respectively unto instances of organic communication activities, I will discuss and evaluate to what extent each format encourages participation and learning on the side of the consumer. From these discussions stem several insights: Whereas transmission (typically in the form of monologuous mass communication) is the cost-effective format of choice in much organic communication, it is also a format which bars a sender (e.g., producer or farmer) from gauging deposits in the consumer (be it in the form of understanding the message or trusting the sender for that matter). The format of interaction (typically in the form of dialoguous encounters of different kinds) integrates feedback into communication, thereby allowing the sender to appreciate the level of understanding, trust etc. which the communicative effort has given rise to – albeit at a higher price in terms of money, time and manpower. Last but not least, in the format of co-action (typically in the form of co-operative endeavors) the deposit is a matter of what is co-constructed by the participants – be it understanding or trust or the like. Needless to say, this format satisfies the organic communicators craving for involving the consumer to a much larger degree than the other two formats could ever do; and due to the fact that food is generally seen as a low-involvement commodity, this is critical. But emancipating the consumer, so to speak, comes at a price. First of all, co-actional communication is crucially dependent on highly motivated participants and, secondly, co-actional communication is difficult if not impossible to control.


EPrint Type:Journal paper
Subjects: Farming Systems
Research affiliation: Denmark > Organic RDD 1 > MultiTrust
Deposited By: Kastberg, Dr Peter
ID Code:24739
Deposited On:05 Dec 2013 09:53
Last Modified:03 Feb 2015 15:53
Document Language:English
Status:Published
Refereed:Submitted for peer-review but not yet accepted
Additional Publishing Information:Contribution to MultiTrust deliverable 3.6.1 and 3.6.2

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