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Promoting communication, participation, and learning with regard to organic food products: a communication theoretical approach

Peter Kastberg, Aarhus University, Business and Social Sciences, Business Communication


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The market for organic foods is growing, however, the proportion of consumers buying organic foods is still considered low. Research shows that a significant barrier to consumers purchasing more organic foods is lack of information. This leads the relevant body of research to call for better communication around organic foods. The same body of research, however, neither questions what good communication surrounding organic foods is, nor what would make it better. Applying the communication theoretical formats of transmission, interaction, and coaction, respectively, onto instances of organic communication activities, I will discuss to what extent each format encourages consumer participation and learning. Transmission, typically in the form of monologuous mass communication, is cost effective. It is also a format that bars a sender, e.g., producer or farmer, from gauging deposits in the consumer, e.g., understanding the message, trusting the sender, etc. Interaction, typically in the form of dialoguous encounters, integrates feedback into communication 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. In the format of coaction, typically in the form of co-operative endeavors, the deposit is a matter of what is coconstructed by the participants, e.g., understanding, trust, etc. Coaction thus satisfies the organic communicators craving for involving the consumer, and because food is a low-involvement commodity, this is critical. But emancipating the consumer comes at a price. First of all, coactional communication is dependent on highly motivated participants, and second, coactional communication is difficult if not impossible to control. Informed by these insights, I present an in-depth, critical discussion of the promises and pitfalls of how multicriteria assessments may be communicated and coconstructed on a coactional, web-based platform.

Key words

coaction; communication; interaction; knowledge communication; transmission

Copyright © 2015 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087