Statement for the research
The important and fascinating aspect of tourism as a discipline is that there are many various understandings of communication issues in the industry from the perspective of divergent cultures and languages or merely different individuals.
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Why do you find this topic interesting and important?
In different cultures, there are very different views on the concepts existing within the tourism industry, or any social interaction in general. Due to the scientification of tourism. The meaning different people attribute to different things can complicate any type of communication. However, it is extremely important in professions that involve a great amount of communicating ideas. The most significant aspect is not to miss out on the perspective of the customer while trying to converse the ideas. Several nuances can either facilitate or complicate the exchanging of ideas when people discuss the concepts of tourism.
The first important aspect is that the amount of time that we spend trying to facilitate somebody´s understanding increases, sometimes even drastically, the extent to which that person can grasp the ideas. Of course, understanding someone else’s perspective is always more than just listening for a long time. However, it is very important in any relationship-based profession. When we are trying to give an understanding of something to the customer, it often depends on how much time we spend trying to prove our point and picture our perspective.
In my opinion, it is an interesting area of research in terms of how exactly the live communication helps to create a bond between people that can be enough for conveying ideas whereas sometimes the same ideas communicated, for example, per e-mail, are not convincing to the same extent. Thus, even with the same language used in conversation, there has to be some additional component in live communication that is not included just in our language. Furthermore, there is an opportunity to live communication to respond faster to the reactions of the person you are talking to, which involves emotional and intuitive aspects rather than just ideas communicated through words.
That reaction to responses, perhaps, is the very component that makes our conveying of ideas more fully, which is important for any type of social research. Another advantage that substantial live communication gives is the structuralized nature of the information. It is more likely to catch the listener’s attention and, therefore, picture the meaning that you are trying to convey.
Another aspect of communication in tourism is an informational one. Potential tourists, first of all, are trying to obtain certain information. However, there are nuances of how the information should be presented. The complicity of the information should increase gradually so that it is easier to underline which aspects are more significant. Also, the issue of any social interaction is to understand the intention of the speaker because different individuals are looking for different sorts of information. Therefore, it is important to find out what aspect the customers are primarily most interested in.
For example, for some people, the tourist attractions would be the most important factor in their journey whereas others would be more concerned about amenities or availability of services even though they do not mention it (Hughes, 1995). The important aspect of social research, in this perspective, is the idea that in social interactions, many more factors are influencing the successful communication of ideas than merely the language.
What led you to develop your interest in this topic? Consider not only your academic experiences but also experiences from your life outside the university, past, and present
One thing that encourages interest is the idea of how differently people percept information given to them. Both in academic experience and everyday life, we often see things only from our perspective. We differently consider positive and negative aspects of issues we discuss and not always can understand what factors other people see as most important.
There is a misleading perception of the work of people in the tourism business portrayed as a type of advertisement. Some people might have a misconception that the main objective of a travel agent is to advertise something, whereas it is more complicated than that. The significant aspect in the light of this issue is to understand what intentions the customer has.
Different people, depending on their cultural, socio-economic, and psychological background reflect differently on what are the positive and negative aspects of the journey that they plan. At this stage of the conversation, the objective of the travel agent, therefore, is to figure out what aspects of the information to underline even though the customers did not mention those aspects themselves. In such a way, in my experience, in any kind of communication, whether it is the academic circle or merely a daily life conversation, we operate some amount of information that is implicit.
The more social interactions we have, the more we acquire the ability to anticipate what needs to be said in a particular conversation. In such a way, we do not share the details that require professional knowledge to understand with someone who does not have that knowledge. Different occasions have different communication needs. Therefore, when we talk about some area of our life with people who are not involved in that area, we are trying to simplify the information. A certain amount of brevity, in this case, is only used to facilitate understanding.
It leads us to the question of the relevance of information. If we tried to communicate every detail of our knowledge or opinion, there would be so much information that it would be impossible to distinguish any relevant part of it. However, with the aspiration for brevity in the way we present the information, there always has to be the consideration for its relevance.
Both in academic and daily life we “cut” the amount of information we have at our disposal when we communicate an idea. In terms of working with tourists, it is important to realize that they also do not have enough time to go through all the aspects of information (Moutinho, 1987). Therefore, firstly, we need to think about the ways of how to define which information would be relevant to a particular individual. And secondly, there should be a consideration for the different interpretations that people have about the concepts. Taking into account, the international component of the industry, we need to make sure that the information is not in any way culturally offensive (Hultsman, 1995), and considering the relationship-based approach, make sure that it is not personally misinterpreted by any of the customers.
What are ideas that we discussed in our explorations of positivism, hermeneutics, and critical theory resonate with your own beliefs and ways of seeing the world?
One of the first major principles of positivism that caught my attention was the idea of trying to find objectivity in the world. Positivists believed that the consistent and critical way of thinking would lead, in the end, to a comprehensible conclusion about some phenomenon in the world around us. Such a conclusion can be achieved if we use the inductive evidence and then verify them with the deductive method. The significant aspect of this approach is that it can be applied in any area of human existence, discipline, or scientific branch. It is a universal principle that enables us to think that there are certain common mechanisms behind any area of life. The social life, all the interactions that people perform on the daily basis also has some similar ground principles to the life of nature (Botterill, 2001).
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In other words, everything in the natural world has its functions, as well as there are some reasons behind the communication between different people. In my opinion, the perspective from which society is viewed by the positivists is optimistic about our ability to find common ground between people with different backgrounds. For example, if we use the inductive method in research about people’s opinions, it would be generalized data.
It may not be applied to all the people at once; however, when we use the deductive method for the confirmation after that, we can find the details that were not generalized. And when we analyze those details, we will have a full picture of the people’s opinion on some issue that is as objective as possible. The crucial thing is that this kind of research even though it was brought from natural science can be applied everywhere.
Ontologically, for the positivistic research methods, there is no difference between the very approaches to the scientific investigation. However, the positivists considered social science and sociology to be the most complex, if not the most important study of all the others. Meanwhile, they only wanted to use the research for improvements in the life of people and believed that practical thinking or the common sense that is inherent in all people is the basis of the research. Therefore, the purpose of the research was not to prove the vague point but to find the practical application of the results.
That is why there is no place for any sort of political or cultural bias in the scientific and academic world because it goes apart with its purpose. In such a way, the principle of positivism that I admire was to organize studies and researches to make everyday life better, cultivate common sense in people, and have a purpose in what the academic and scientific community does. Another important highlight of this way of philosophical thinking for me is that despite all the difficulties in communication between people, the positivists believed that the very social nature behind all our interactions eventually helps people with different backgrounds to share their ideas and perspectives.
The perspective of the hermeneutic approach is quite different from the positivistic one. In positivism, it is presupposed that despite different “irrational” opinions, there is only one true interpretation of some phenomenon and that interpretation can be scientifically proved using combining inductive and deductive approaches. The hermeneutics, however, does not recognize any opinion to have more value than any other one. It can be seen especially vividly in the area of human communication. The idea of hermeneutics is that when we speak in either live or written form, to another human being, we are trying to communicate some meaning.
We use certain words on the basis that they have a positive or negative connotation for us and, therefore, can create the corresponding attitude in our interlocutor. What is harder to consider is that another person may have entirely different associations with the words and other means of communication that we are using, and for that person, they would have quite a different meaning. That is why the followers of the hermeneutic approaches, claimed that meaning is attributed to the things we say or do, and the same actions can be interpreted in a quite different way, depending on several factors.
In my opinion, the nuances of interpretation in communication are quite important for any profession that involves a large amount of contact with people. However, even though hermeneutics suggests that we cannot reach 100% of understanding the meaning that other people imply in their utterances, the hermeneutic analysis enables us to get closer to the perspective of our interlocutor. The problem is that meaning that we contribute to the explanation is not the same meaning that another person sees in his or her interpretation of our words and actions (Pernecky & Jamal, 2010).
It can be even more problematic on the cross-cultural level, which is an important issue for the tourism industry. Between different cultures, there are different interpretations of the standardized signs that we use, such as, for example, gestures. Other issues are the language barrier and the social, economical, and even natural background. I consider the most important aspect of hermeneutics is that it attempts to minimize the damage of those barriers by attempting to take into account all the aspects that may influence the interlocutor and try to see things from another person’s perspective.
Among the highlights of the critical theory, I was interested in the theory of different discourses. According to this set of approaches, the perception of the idea, the connotations, and associations that we attribute to a certain concept or thing largely depends on the discourse in which the situation takes place. In my opinion, the discourse can be perceived as something larger than merely a context. Context can define whether something is appropriate or not, whereas discourse exists on the level of beliefs and values. It is a set of beliefs inherent in the fabric of society, which is why it defines the way we communicate with other people. I think the major aspect of it is that if we did not have any common beliefs and values, we would not be able to sustain communication in society at all. Therefore, even though the discourse can be used for empowering ideologies and negative tendencies, society functions due to it.
How might those ideas inform the way you would go about researching your topic of interest?
One of the dilemmas in tourism research is that sometimes it is believed that it should be based on practical assumptions mostly, without major involvement of theoretical basis (Echtner & Jamal, 1997). However, after thorough consideration, we can see that social and philosophical research can be applied to practically any area of life.
In the perspective of the positivistic research, I admired the idea that the basis of the research should be contained in practical thinking and the common sense natural for all people. The research should be done in such a way that its results are applicable and can be generalized. In such a way, the study would only be practically valuable and helpful for the other members of the academic community when there is not bias behind the researcher’s purposes. Then the result of the research can be used to make daily practices and life better, inspire rational thinking in people, and make the purposes of the academic and scientific community meant for everyone.
Another idea of the positivistic approach that I would like to make use of in my research is the functional nature of the interactions between people that makes the society similar to the natural worlds. From the perspective of communicating with people as part of the profession, I believe, it is important to see that communication should also have a practical purpose, which is obtaining relevant information. However, the positivistic approach focuses on the common social nature in all human beings, with no regard to how differently people can interpret the same information.
In my research, I would like to consider relevantly different meanings that people attribute to the same unit of information. With this consideration, the most important aspect of hermeneutics is the attempt to minimize the damage of possible misinterpretation on different levels and from people with different backgrounds. In the perspective of hermeneutics, at the level of theoretical and practical research, it can be done by taking into account all the aspects that may influence the interlocutor and trying to see things from other people’s perspectives. To me, this aspect is significant for any scientific validity because it is a confirmation that there are multiple truths, at least, in social research.
Concepts, as well as the sign and symbolic side of things, can be attributed to different meanings depending on the culture in which they appear in the conversation. Also, in valid academic research, we should avoid cultural bias, according to one of the principles of positivism. Therefore, in social research, we should not claim that the only true interpretation takes place within one culture or one person’s opinion. In this respect, all the opinions are equally valid as long as they meet the criterion of trustworthiness.
Similarly, when researching any source or considering the opinion, it is appropriate to apply the critical theory. It might be significantly helpful in analyzing the background of beliefs and values that exist in all societies in any epoch. These beliefs can be not the ones that the researcher would agree with; however, the environment in which the text was created resonates with those beliefs. That is why the sources should be studied critically, with the consideration of the historical epoch.
Botterill, D. (2001). The epistemology of a set of tourism studies. Leisure Studies, 20(3), 199-214.
Echtner, C. M., & Jamal, T. B. (1997). The disciplinary dilemma of tourism studies. Annals of Tourism Research, 24(4), 868-883.
Hughes, G. (1995). Authenticity in tourism. Annals of Tourism Research, 22(4), 781-803.
Hultsman, J. (1995). Just tourism: An ethical framework. Annals of Tourism Research, 22(3), 553-567.
Moutinho, L. (1987). Consumer behaviour in tourism. European journal of marketing, 21(10), 5-44.
Pernecky, T., & Jamal, T. (2010). (Hermeneutic) phenomenology in tourism studies. Annals of Tourism Research, 37(4), 1055-1075.