Communication (and its meaning) as the fundamental base of any (sustainable) cooperation - Network - Tourist


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Communication (and its meaning) as the fundamental base of any (sustainable) cooperation

Dear colleagues,

you know that I am very focussed on communication. And I am a huge fan of finding out what I am talking about.

That's specifically the case about "COMMUNICATION" - a challenging term. In my presentation for the Hanoi-conference, I have referred to an explanation of communication in the "The Encyclopedia of Sustainable Tourism" (2015) ( )

I may provide this Encyclopedia article here for you:


Communication The process of interaction between two or more *stakeholders by using verbal or nonverbal forms of expression in order to coordinate their behaviour within a specific context. The overall sense of any communication is to cope with practical or theoretical problems.

The main problem of any act of communication is its condition of fallibility because a stakeholder can never know for sure if the *participating stakeholder as the receiver of his message understands it exactly the same way as being meant. The reason for that problem of uncertainty is basing on the fact that any “speech communication consists of a chain of events linking the speaker’s brain with the listener’s brain” (Denes & Pinson 1973, 6). Finally, it is the brain of a person which is either the “sender” or the “receiver” of any message, a fact determining any condition of communication.

The widespread linear model of communication is basing on Berlo’s (1960) idea of a sender who creates a message and sends it through a channel directly to the desired receiver by using specific symbols. The main problem of this concept is to conceal the problem of how the meaning of a sender’s message should get out of the brain and how it should be de-codes it the “right” way.

According to the biological brain structure, any “message” is a phenomenon of an electrochemical process of cross-linked neurons. The specific neuronal structure of a person’s brain as the result of a personal life experience determines the specific “meaning” in an “autopoietic” way (Maturana and Varela, 1987): The receiver’s brain constructs meaning necessarily by referring to itself, as there is no direct connection to a sender’s brain. Any signal from “outside” reaching the brain is “decoded” by adapting it to the brain’s structure, a process which can be conceptualized as “understanding” (Foerster 2003). Signals which don’t fit into the brain’s structure are ignored in order to maintain the brain’s consistency. When the irritation of non-compatible signals exceeds a certain level, the brain is forced to modify its structure in order to re-establish a *balance of consistency (see EMOTION). This process can be conceptualized as “learning”, as it is increasingly recognized in the field of educational science (Shell et al. 2009).

The practical consequence of this constructivist model of cognition and communication, further developed by Watzlawick et al. (2011), is crucial: When a stakeholder can see the “reality” and “understand” a message only according to his personal experience, then any act of communication must be conceptualized as a process of fallible interaction. It can be evaluated as successful when the involved stakeholders express signals of satisfaction, but there is no guarantee to be sure.

In the context of *sustainable *tourism, the constructivist concept confirms the necessity of participation of all stakeholders as a fundamental principle of sustainability: Only by integrating all stakeholders, e.g. tourists and locals, into a communication process, a critical situation can be avoided or de-escalated (see CONFLICT MANAGEMENT) in order to reach a certain balance of consistency (see TOUR GUIDE), where tourism development can support the good life of all stakeholders instead of undermining it (see RESPECT; METAPROBLEM).



Berlo, D. K. (1960) The process of communication. New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston.

Denes P.B. and Pinson, E.N. (1973) The Speech Chain. The Physics and Biology of Spoken Language. New York, NY: Anchor Press.

Foerster, H.v. (2003) Understanding Understanding. Essays on Cybernetics and Cognition. New York, NY: Springer.

Maturana, H. and Varela, F. (1987) The Tree of Knowledge: A new look at the biological roots of human understanding, Boston: Shambhala/New Science Library.

Shell, D.S., Brooks, D.W., Trainin, G., Wilson, K., Kauffman, D.F. and Herr, L.M. (2009) The Unified Learning Model: How Motivational, Cognitive, and Neurobiological Sciences Inform Best Teaching Practices. New York, NY: Springer.

Watzlawick, P., Bavelas, J.B. and Jackson, D.D. (2011). Pragmatics of Human Communication: A Study of Interactional Patterns, Pathologies, and Paradoxes. New York, NY: W W Norton & Co.

Source: Friedl, H. (2015). Communication. . In: Cater, C., Garrod, B. & Low. T. (Ed.): The Encyclopedia of Sustainable Tourism. Wallingford: Cabi, S. 112-113.

Thanks, bye, Harry

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Ceterum censeo mutationem climae esse vincendem.

(Incidentally, I think that global warming must be defeated) 


Prof. (FH) Mag. Mag. Dr. Harald A. Friedl
Assoc. Professor for Sustainability and Ethics in Tourism
Institute for  Health and Tourism Management
FH JOANNEUM - University of Applied Sciences
Kaiser-Franz-Josef-Straße 24
8344 Bad Gleichenberg, Austria
Phone office +43-316/5453-6725
Phone mobil: +43-699/191.44.250