The starting point of this paper is the hypothesis that the territory can be considered as a relational medium in itself, i.e. as a means of communication of the relationships among the different parts of oneself and among people, as well as between human beings and their environment. In particular, territories can be regarded as that specific kind of relational media potentially able to actively involve the individuals in the creation and transformation of the medium itself. The way the human beings - similarly to all other living species - interact with their environment can be assimilated to an image-building activity, meant not in the narrow sense of brand or corporate image-building, but much more generally as an activity of organizing all perceived differences in a coherent framework, that we can call “image” à la Lynch or “map” à la Bateson. Codifying and organizing the differences perceived in the processes of interaction with the environment in an “image” can be thus considered the ordinary method used by all living species to provide adaptive responses to their environments. In other words the behaviour of all living beings - human being included - can be considered first of all dependent on the «images» built by themselves (largely in an unintentional manner), as posited by Bateson for the general environmental processes, by Lynch for cities and territories and by von Hayeck and Boulding for the socio-economic processes. But an image seen as a complex of different perceived elements organized in a framework can in turn be assimilated to a constantly evolving and regenerating hypermedia, i.e. to an on-line complex of various file (audio, video, graphics, text) either interconnected or inter-connectible one to the other. The WWW - particularly the social Web - can be thus viewed as the most suitable environment where fostering an image-building activity of relational territories, included the territories of tourism. On the other hand is more and more widely recommended and diffused the use of the so called Web 2.0 for tourism marketing. This fact can be viewed as an interesting innovation but does not guarantee in itself any more relational (and sustainable) interaction between tourism and territories. Nevertheless it undoubtedly represents an opportunity to pair commercial and relational issues, or better to go towards a form of genuine economy of relationships. But it is necessary to this end to insert the activity of relational image-building – in my view largely coincident with a planning activity - in the core of the marketing activities developed in the WWW regarding the tourism promotion. On the basis of this conceptual premises the paper draws a balance of ten years research work about spatial planning intended as medium, and of the cyberspace intended as the most suitable environment for such kind of planning, aimed to outline a new research program intended to transfer the achieved results to the field of territorial marketing of relational tourism, in order to foreshadow the virtual relational environments the most suitable to “imagine” the territories of relational tourism.
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