Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Diplomacy Paradigm Shift to Public Diplomacy

As Joseph Nye pointed out projecting soft power for promoting positive images of one's country has been more than attracting countries to be democracies after the cold war. Actually, with the victorious success in US for last decade, almost half of state-nations adopt the democracy now. Along with emergence of new power such as BRICs, EUs, ASEAN so on, the world paradigm has been changed to multi-lateral power. This also illustrates that the power of public has been increased. In order to pursuit the foreign diplomacy to other nations, it is needed to be friendly to its national leaders as well as its publics. This tells why the new diplomacy paradigm named "public diplomacy" is required.

Korea has been developed its economy for last half-centuries and Korea reached to the 12th by purchansing Power Parity (PPP) and 15th by nominal GDP in the world. Now, Korea is seeking its way to be an active actor in the global politics. Korea hosted G20 summit in 2011 and be a member of DAC in OECD in 2010. Fortunately, the Korean culture also has been welcomed to the world. Especially to those countries in Asian region.

In the middle of the Korea's public diplomacy, the Korean Foundation ( actively held events that introduce its culture. Korea Foundation also provide a section named "Public Diplomacy." Mainly, it supports Korean research and studies overseas. For instance, KF funds to bilateral forum helding in overseas. One thing interesting here is that KF value the NGOs which actively involved in the diplomacy field. This is significant change because the Korean government has been so powerful and Korea has been top-down based operated country. To acknowledge NGOs in Korea is related to Joseph Nye's words that in transinational period, there is a borad range of alternatives such as NGOs, media, corportation, and so on. It is relatively short that Korea has been stepped into public diplomacy field comparing to China and Japan. China's Confucious Institute and Japan's Cultural diplomacy with its Manga and Animation are evaluated as good examples of public diplomacy.

The diplomacy has been extended from reaching to the leaders to reaching to the nation's public. As Joseph Nye said, role of credibility, self-criticism, and the role of civil society generating soft power as well as smart power in public diplomacy area.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanks giving in US: non-western communication table.

I had a very special thanks giving in US. I was invited a nice American friend who got married to a guy from Syria. She also invited a girl from Norway as well. My other Chinese friend was also invited but he could not join us. So, people from US, Asia, Middle East and Europe joined a Thanksgiving dinner together. What a nice combination we are! It is memorable experience of Thanksgiving thinking back for the first start of the holiday. It was for sharing appreciation for friendship between Native American and European Americans who were changed from foe to friends.

Before dinner, interestingly, I watched Al Jajeera in the living area. With a little bit of shame as a student studying global communication, it was my first time to watch the Al Jajeera. When I heard about Middle East region is mostly about the regional conflicts, terrorism, sexual inequality which are related to negative news. So when I saw the Al Jajeera news first in their home, I was amazed how news quality is high with well orgnized new stories. I was, again, ashamed myself for ignorance of Middle East.

During having dinner, we talk about Middle East region and at that time, I was read articles related to the Arab Spring so, I asked many questions to him. How is Syria, is it dangerous place to leave and so on. He answers that it is not a wealth country but people there are so friendly and nice. Even though Syria is dangerous now due to civil uprising and autocrat government's violent reaction, it is where people live. Every one wants live happily. It is shame to see that Western media mainly deal a negative story about middle east. He added that is why he likes to watch the Al Jajeera.

A girl from Norway who is brave enough to plan staying a conflict zone in Middle East after finishing her master degree in AU. She has been Middle East area so many time and her plan is to be a conflict resolution negotiator as a Middle East region expert. She found out Middle East was attractive. People there are friendly and nice to her. (Even though she is from Norway, her mother is an adopted Korean to Norway so she much looks like Asian.)

Listening to their perspectives and experiences in Middle East, I realized how much my world view has focused on Western nations. Actually, I was trying to avoid the cultural bais and be a neutral to every culture but I realized that night that I am not. I would like to blame the Korean media which use the Western media sources mostly but I could not. Because it is also my responsiblity to have interested in a various perspectives in the world and seek information from a various sources which available in internet.

It was interesting US thanksgiving dinner time that allows me to review the world with more open mind.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A World of Negative International Reporting

Much is wrong in the realm of international reporting. We have the dropping number of international correspondents, general disinterest in foreign affairs and widespread interference of special interests in reporting accurately about international topics. It seems like international stories just aren't as important.

However, there is more (to use a bit of a play on words) bad news...the over-arching theme in existing international reporting is most often framed in a negative light.

Hafez is our champion of this - our bearer of bad news, if you will. He asserts what is called the "conflict perspective" in international reporting. Essentially, Hafez utilizes the Foreign News study and MacBride Report to bring statistical validity to the notion that news coverage of international topics is overwhelmingly negative and insulates a consistent image of a "chaotic, distant foreign world".

These sentiments are echoed in the other readings as well. The Powers and El-Nawawy article highlighting the efforts of Al-Jazeera English as a uniting media force in the Middle East and elsewhere seems to also take their findings with a grain of salt. They note that although those who watch Al-Jazeera eventually gain a more well-rounded perspective and will eventually make more open-minded decisions, seeing these results happen are very far off.

A look at any news network will further support Hafez's findings. The top international stories from the BBC, CNN and GlobalPost are all about Western sanctions on Iran, the resignation of the Cabinet in Egypt and Chinese ships infiltrating the South China Sea.

These are prime examples because they demonstrate many of the notions discussed in our readings. First, they represent international topics that are all tied back to political or economic interests of superpowers, which gives these topics precedent over other, perhaps softer news topics around the world. Second, this supports the former notions of Steven Livingston, who surmised that post-Cold War world would emerge as a "clash of civilizations," particularly between the Western and Islamic regions. All of these stories demonstrate geo-regional powers flexing their muscles on a global scale, two of the three involving the Islamic region.

I think it is unfortunate that international reporting must be this way. I feel like there is a lot of writing out there that focuses upon culturally stimulating and very educational aspects of different countries, even those that the U.S. may be in opposition with. If journalism is really supposed to be the fourth estate and serve as an intermediary between states to communicate objectively and accurately in the best fashion possible, then there is sadly work to be done.

I would agree with the notion that there needs to be some cultural tweaking from region to region as reporting needs to adhere to the norms of certain societies, but I feel like there is a way to express opposing views without using hot-button language, sensational stories and letting only the most extreme talking heads on air. What is needed is intellectual, level-headed discourse media that examines international topics of all kinds, not just conflict, and that takes into full account the special interests of all parties involved: states, people and the media organizations themselves.

Now that's fair and balanced, isn't it?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Rebirth of Public Diplomacy after 9/11

We’ve spent a lot of time recently, especially after attending the conference at GW, discussing public diplomacy. We read in Hanson’s chapter about “War and Peace in the Information Age” about how public diplomacy first became important during the Cold War. It was a war of ideas, battling the basic tenets of communism. Public diplomacy became an extremely important part of U.S. foreign policy for the first time. After the Cold War though, public diplomacy was somewhat abandoned. Cultural centers closed and the U.S. government seemed to think that since we were the “super-power” of the world that either everyone liked us, or it just didn’t matter.

9/11 quickly proved that was disillusioned thinking.  The US realized that maybe we weren’t as loved by all as we had assumed. And public diplomacy did once again become a much more important part of US foreign policy. Some actions seemed to work like Radio Sawa, a radio station aimed towards Arabic speaking youth in the Middle East. They mix popular music with news from an American viewpoint. Although it is a public diplomacy effort, the website says it is “committed to the highest standards of journalism.” I think it’s a little conflicting for something to be considered a public diplomacy effort and journalism. 

Another effort that wasn’t as successful was the Office of Strategic Influence in the Pentagon. They had plans to plant news items in the media in foreign countries and even considered planting false news to put the US in a better light. When information about these plans leaked, the office closed within four months. The New York Times reported at the time that it was hard to get information about this fairly secretive office. The Times did report on what critics of the office said though. One of the main criticisms was that if news was planted for Reuters or a similar news agency, then news could make it’s way back to the U.S. very easily. And by law, the Pentagon and CIA are not allowed to engage in propaganda in the U.S.

Many were not satisfied with the supposedly amped-up efforts and the Council on Foreign Relations put together a task force made up of former ambassadors, academics, global business leaders, representatives from global NGOs and representatives from international think tanks. They released recommendations that are really interesting, even though many of them never took effect.

First they overall, just wanted to make public diplomacy a more crucial part of U.S. foreign policy, predominantly by placing more attention on leadership within public diplomacy. They also wanted to enhance training for ambassadors and build congressional support for public diplomacy.

The most interesting aspects of the proposal included partnerships with the private and non-profit sectors. They really wanted to create a Corporation for Public Diplomacy, modeled after the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. This organization would work on private funding and help foster new, creative ideas for public diplomacy from the private sector. They wanted to reach out to foreign media, which is also something that probably would have been more effective if done by NGOs already working in the area.

For the most part, the extension of public diplomacy didn’t spread to the non-profit or private sectors, like CFR’s task force recommended. And that’s not too surprising. The U.S. government, like many other governments and international organizations like the UN are reluctant to allow the private sector in, but I think it could have been helpful public diplomacy in the post-9/11 days.

Truth Bombs: an information war

In “Spinning the War: Political Communications, Information Operations, and Public Diplomacy in the War on Terrorism”, Robin Brown writes about using the language of war in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Many of his points relate to the Frontline film we watched in class, “War of Ideas.” The film talked about the rise of Arab journalism and the United States’ attempt to get its message in those outlets.

“War of Ideas” showed the initial reluctance, refusal even, to show Al Jazeera English in America. As pointed out in the film, airing ideas from Al Jazeera would not harm Americans and could actually teach them something.

Why did it take the U.S. so long to figure this out? I think the answer lies in the mentality of war. It’s natural to reject Al Jazeera when they are seen as an enemy. The phrase “war of ideas” is a dangerous one. Suddenly ideas from the other side seem dangerous, when in reality they are just different. As discussed in class, language and framing are so important to public diplomacy. Brown discusses the damage control done by Ari Fleischer to after the “war on terrorism” became conflated with a “war on Islam.” I am not sure this confusion would have occurred if the U.S. had used what Brown described as the law-enforcement response. Instead, they went with the framing of war. They did the same with the war of ideas.

But looking at public diplomacy from the point of view of a soldier fighting a war means only getting half of the job done. The first half encompasses speaking your message and making sure that it’s heard. The second half, the one that is so often overlooked, is listening to what the other side has to say. There is a fine line between believing your ideas are the best and refusing to even hear any other ideas. What kind of message does it send when the U.S. government broadcasts Alhurra in the Middle East but won’t allow al-Jazeera in America? Such one-sided communication does nothing to help the U.S.’s reputation.

I think the U.S. is moving slowly but surely in the right direction. The country is giving public diplomacy more attention because it has to. Hopefully these efforts take public diplomacy further away from the mentality of war.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Castell's Mobile Case Study: No Sa Mo in Korea - two sides of Mobile civil society

It was interesting that Castell introduces one of case studies on mobile civil society referring to Nosamo in Korea. As Castell explains, Nosamo is acronym for "No"moohyun "Sa"rang "M"oim: which means the group of people who loves Mr. Moohyun Noh (the former Korean president). When he was elected as the president in Korea in 2002, every single Koreans were surprised since majority of Koreans did not anticipate that he would actually be elected as a president of Korea.
As Castell introduced in his article, it can be said that president Noh was truly elected by mobile civil society who were 20s or 30s years old and who want to change their government. The democracy in Korea was recently formed until late 1990s, Korea cannot say democracy is embedded transparently in the society before then. Government even manipulated the election. Korea had a really strong government (we have a very unique nickname of "MOFIA" for politicians who used work at the Ministry of Finance (MOF) because they have tremendous power in politics). The government planned and controlled over the Korea under the name of "development." Koreans were forced to be pro-government and Koreans need to follow its government because economic develop was needed for recovering the nation from the Korean war as well as Korea is in the war against North Korea.
As consequence, young Koreans used not to pay that much attentions to politics because they know that they cannot change the government. When president Noh was in presidential election, however, young Koreans see some hope that they can change the nation using "mobile" with major role of Nosamo. Through mobile, young people exchange their information how good Mr. Noh is as a president and they encourage their peers to vote for him. And President Noh has elected as a president. Young people were enthusiastic to see how he will change the country. However, he failed to response to young people because the Korean political ground is too harsh for him to make a decision.
Whenever president Noh tried to do something, the congress do not pass it and they also make a lot of criticism on him. At last they attempted to drag him down from a president using the parliament system law. And young people disappointed to president Noh. Following president Noh, the person from the major Party (which against President Noh was elected). After complete his presidency period, notorious rumors were followed after him. His families were suspected of bribery. Ironically, this rumor was transmitted through mobile and President Noh has suffered a lot from this. At last, he chose to kill himself in order to improve that he is innocent to people.
Mobile can help president Noh to be elected as a president but it also played a significant role make him to be suffered and choose to be suicide.

Can A Decentralized Global Justice Movement Work?

Jeffrey Juris' article "Networked Social Movements: Global Movements for Global Justice" brings up a theme we've discussed in class on multiple occasions: decentralization. In his argument, Juris describes social movements of the modern day as reliant upon information communication technologies (ICTs) to effectively rally activists around the world for one particular cause. Juris notes that these transnational advocacy networks (which he actually refers to as global justice movements) have been revolutionary in the way connections are bridged via network-based technologies like list-servs, social sites and wiki-type open source software.

The crux of transnational activism, according to Juris, is that using networks decentralizes the process, yet communicates the message over a farther distance to a greater number of people, resulting in mass worldwide protests like the one against the World Trade Organization in 1999 in Seattle and subsequent anti-corporate protests, many of which take place at the same time as major economic forums or summits to gain more attention.

Juris cites many protests in the early Millennium, but perhaps the most current and (to be honest) blatant example of a worldwide anti-corporate global justice movement would be more fitting. I wonder what that could be? Oh, that's right. That whole Occupy thing.

Occupy is everywhere nowadays, with protests in nearly all US cities and many more across the globe including Rome, Brisbane, Paris and Cape Town. It seems to follow Juris' notion of a decentralized movement, gaining steam through networks of like-minded citizens around the world working together in a horizontal and autonomous fashion where there is no clear authority figure, just a "power of the people" so to speak. For some fascinating news on how this is happening in real time, check out an article about how Occupy is starting the Free Network Foundation to provide decentralize peer-to-peer Internet for the movement.

It all sounds idyllic, right? Concerned activists around the world join forces of their own volition and create a united front against global corporate control. Well, I'm afraid the success of the Occupy movement, or of any decentralized movement, will depend upon its ability to change from a decentralized state to a more organized, identifiable state.

I'll invoke the early sociological work of Herbert Blumer, who first identified the four stages of social movements: Emergence, Coalescence, Bureaucratization and Decline. If we look at the Occupy movement, we can see that it is somewhere between Emergence and Coalescence. In Emergence, there is no defined leadership of a movement and there are no clear goals, simply a rising sense of unrest. In Coalescence the movement begins occurring on a mass scale as more realize they are unhappy. However, in this stage there are some critical transformations, such as the election or appointment of leadership throughout the movement as well as a refining of what exact goals the movement is attempting to attain and exactly what targets they should be protesting against.

These are steps the Occupy movement hasn't reached, and according to Blumer many movements do not fully complete Coalescence before they fizzle out. I can make an inference and say that if the Occupy movement does not alter its decentralized global justice popularity and turn it into something more tangible it may suffer the consequences.

I understand what Juris is saying. It is very revolutionary that ICTs allow transnational networks to form and enabled globally united groups of people. However, I think when the information and communication processes speed up, the time we expect action and progress does as well. Is it really possible in the month or so the Occupy movement has really picked up steam that they could change their tactics enough to get all of its rabble-rousers to agree on points of change as well as leaders before the media fire dies? Will the decentralized nature of the Occupy movement even be able to change, as its supporters note its network approach to be one of its best traits?

I look forward to watching further coverage to see if Occupy goes by the wayside or puts on a different hat in order to stay afloat.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

News through Networks

Transnational Advocacy Networks (TANs) are an emerging power in the global scene. Increasingly non-state actors are taking on some of the roles that originally belonged to the nation-state. We read about TANs this week in Aday and Livingstone’s piece, “Taking the state out of state-media relations theory.” Aday and Livingstone write of the way journalism that relies entirely on the nation-state as a source is incomplete. Because of the beat system and the amount of news that comes from government officials, the news the public actually receives can be limited.
            TANs are groups made up of NGOs, international organizations, governments and individuals that communicate and exchange info with a common goal. When journalists cannot get the facts on stories from traditional government sources, TANS can prove to be a good source. Aday and Livingstone say that TANs often produce information and the news media can distribute it. Together, “transnational advocacy networks and the global media serve as vibrant alternative sources of information and news frames” (Aday and Livingstone).
            Two very different news stories I’ve been following for different reasons are excellent examples of this. First, I’ve working on a project for a class, about the lack of media coverage on the famine and drought in the Horn of Africa. Because there is so little traditional media coverage of the ongoing problem, I have been turning to other sources for information. I’ve used the few stories in the media I have found to figure out which NGOs are actively involved in the cause. Then, I’ve gone to their websites, where many of them have produced their own content, posted press releases or linked to other news stories. On CAREInternational’s Kenyan office’s site, I found many articles and press releases written by their staff and on Mercy Corps’s website, I found a video produced by one of their employees. International organizations like UNICEF are also a source. UNICEF has an entire tab on their homepage dedicated to videos, photos and articles on the famine. These sources (media, NGOs, international orgs) all make up a large TAN focused on famine in eastern Africa.
            I’ve also been interested in the floods in the Cinque Terre, Italy, simply because it’s my favorite place in the world and I care what happens there. There were a few bare-bones stories in the traditional media, but not nearly enough to satisfy my curiosity. I was devastated to learn that these gorgeous, authentic villages filled with amazing people had been so damaged and I wanted to find out which parts of town, restaurants, beaches and hiking trails had been destroyed. And although I don’t know anyone currently living there, it’s obviously heart-breaking that a dozen people in the region have died or a re missing. I found information through businesses, like Rick Steves Travel. He is often credited with “discovering” Cinque as a tourist destination and he kept his website up-to-date with the events happening in Cinque. I also used individual accounts, like the blogs of American expats, Nicole and Kate, living in Cinque and videosuploaded by tourists to YouTube. And I found a newly formed NGO, Save Vernazza, that’s goal is to raise money for reconstruction and their site is full of photos and updates. All of these groups, organizations and individuals link to each other online and form a network for the disaster in Cinque.
One of my favorite photos of Vernazza in Cinque Terre

            In both cases, I started my research in traditional media, but ended up finding everything I was looking for in TANs. 

Viral Marketing and Kids

Group 3’s presentation on viral marketing was an interesting look at the “non-traditional” ways in which advertising messages are spread. I am somewhat skeptical of the term “stealth marketing” since most of it is not actually that stealthy. Most commercials and billboards don’t have disclaimers saying “this is an ad,” but we can figure it out. The same goes for product placement in television shows, films, and video games. The NBC sitcom 30 Rock often makes fun of what are usually not-so-subtle ads within the media.

But it is certainly true that marketing methods have become more sophisticated. They are always looking to target more specific network. One of the points discussed in class was reasons for why children are targeted. Prof. Hayden mentioned that although kids aren’t making many purchases while they’re young, they can still develop loyalty to a brand that sticks for life. I think an additional reason that was not touched on is children’s desire to fit in with their peers. Most commonly associated with adolescence, this desire seems to begin as early as elementary school and last through college. As a kid when I came home from school, I was constantly telling my mom about the snack everyone else was eating and the sneakers they all had. I might have never been attracted to those products on my own, but suddenly I needed them.

Kids are important advertising targets because word-of-mouth and opinion leadership techniques are wildly successful in their networks. Whereas an adult might observe some friends wearing a Northface jacket and consider buying one, a child would simply have to have it. These network clusters are jam-packed with marketing influence. And now these networks are becoming larger and even more-interconnected as more and more children use smartphones and social media.

The members of Group 3 also pointed out that despite concerns about the ethics of such viral marketing campaigns aimed at children, there has yet to be any real response from the Federal Trade Commission. Will giant corporations continue to have free reign in their marketing campaigns? I believe that they will, at least in the United States, where concerns about privacy are less important than economic success.  

Monday, November 7, 2011

Coverage Differences between Japan and South Korean Media

While I was reading The symbolic power of transnational media of Chouliaraki, it reminds me of the article that comparing the differences in the way how statelite news portrays between Korea and Japan when the Tsunami insident happened in Japan in 2011. In terms of symbolic power of media, it is significantly influensive to its audience. While Chouliaraki comparing the views from western transnational media influence, I would like to examine how different it was to transmit the crisis news to the public accordiance to cultural differences.

Emotion vs. Facts
The Korean broadcasting news showed the video that evoke people's emotion. For instance, a Japanese that cries in the village into ruins due to the tsunami. Most of the news contents were also emotionally expressive rather than showing the facts. When an anouncer conveyed the news, the anouncer says "Tsunami completely devasted Japan" rather than "Tsunami devasted Japan." or describing the Tsunami as to "a total deadlock." Comparing to this, Japanese media showed the scene focusing the whole rather than individuals' loss. They keep transmitting the people maintaining public order even when the crisis happened. The media rarely use the extreme expression for describing the incidents. Japanese news televised how damage they got and what is the governments' response on the crisis trying to air the facts on the incident.

Cultural Differences
This differece would mainly due to the cultural differences as well as the degree of broadcasting autonomousy. While south Koreans focus more on emotions comparing to Japanese who tend to reveal their emotions. Interestingly, most Korean media has adopted to the Japanese media system for last decades. Korean newspapers even use the Japanese words like urakia and nawabari for their broadcasting terminology. However, in terms of dealing with the contents as well as broadcasting it is different as we can see the example above.

The Korean media coverage brought Koreans to donate tremendous amount of money and suppliers of emergence aid to Japan. Koreans emotionally felt pity on what happened in Japan and spontaneously started to fundraise for Japan. However, Koreans get angered when Japan brought the delicated and complex territorial conflict issue between Japan and Korea and Japan insisted that is belonged to Japan. Koreans were even get angrier because it was right after Koreans donated and fundraised for Japan and Koreans expected that Japan would be appreciated to Korean and be friendly to the terrotorial issue in the response to the Korean "hospitalities." Japan, however, regards those matters are completly different.

Engagement to Governments
How much the broadcasting companies are engaged to the government is the other aspects that result the different news between Korean and Japanese broadcasting. According to Kim Yongho who researched on the differences on Japanese and South Korean media coverage of foreign and security affairs, the autonomousy of the Japanese media is much stronger than Korean media. Kim reveals that the ratio of parliamentary members who were journalists is much greater in South Korea and this illustrates the tight relationship between government and media in Korea comparing the Japanese.

New Media Technology: A Help or Hindrance?

Media technologies that utilize network theory to become successful gain a network power or authority. Forget everything you read in my last post about the role of the individual in these technologies, this time we're talking about the powerhouse organizations themselves and what they can have influence over.

Sangeet Kumar gave a fantastic example of this in his article about Google Earth. To briefly summarize his work, he asserts that Google's international use of its Maps and Earth features have had heavy hands in international conflicts, serving as a tool of warfare in both India and Israel-Palestine. The 2008 bombings in Mumbai were strategically placed with the help of these Google tools, according to an article in The Telegraph. And we thought it was worrisome that Google may be peeping on us in the shower (although that has its fair share of concern too). This is on another level entirely.

While reading this piece I cannot help but think back to the Public Diplomacy Forum at George Washington University that our class attended. In particular, I recall hearing former Foreign Service Officers in Bahrain and Iraq speaking of media technologies and their use in these still hostile areas. These workers operated Facebook pages that became vital sources of information for locals, who could then interact with one another. However, they could not control the arguments and slurs that would eventually develop between parties and were displayed publicly for all to see. Even if the embassies did decide to exercise their power to remove certain rabble-rousers, what is to stop more from flooding in?

I think these two instances are connected in that Google and Facebook are what could be considered new, supra-national entities that sometimes can function like another form of nation-state, as Kumar notes. These technologies can pull significant and self-sustaining profits, organize a digitally connected citizenry and employ the ability to spur political debate and certainly seems like a recipe for its own nation. This becomes troublesome because these "nation-states" are governed under the principles of business, not democracy or any other system we've discussed in a sixth-grade civics course. Regulation of these bodies is becoming less and less rigid, especially when governments themselves are relying upon these technologies to do international outreach and development. I can recall the conference mentioning the use of everything from iPads to mobile devices to spread diplomacy around the world.

As these technologies become the bread and butter of connecting our world, are we even going to think of regulating it?

I hate to ruminate on this positively, but I think there is something to be said when a nation-state does reaffirm its authority over some of these supra-national technologies, if anything to keep them from monopolizing. China has opted out of using Google. Yes, China is poor example because of its restrictive media policies and government authoritarianism, but regardless, it is a state exercising power over a supra-national entity, which I think is important to note. This struggle is more evident in the Kumar article. He mentions a host of countries that protested the invasion of Google's satellites and cameras into their cities. Not too long ago, Germany opted out of Google Maps for pure privacy reasons, with many other countries thinking the same way.

I think it will be interesting to see where this power struggle will head. As these technologies become more important and even alluded to as nation-states in their own right, I'd like to see how sovereign states respond. It is very much a conflict of interest because these corporations are so widely used and are quite useful, but with these high rewards come high costs. You can't censor a street map for a terrorist and un-censor it for a traveling couple. In this all-or-nothing battle, there truly is not clear winner as of yet.

Social Media in Public Diplomacy

This week’s Public Diplomacy conference at GW, The Last Three Feet, was a really interesting way to consider some of the theories and methods we have been discussing in class. One thing that was mentioned over and over was diplomacy as an act of understanding. Many of the panelists and Thomas Shannon, the ambassador to Brazil, said diplomacy is not just about talking and emoting communication. They said it’s also about receiving communication, which means hearing, listening and responding.

I was surprised by how much the talk revolved around social networking as an official Public Diplomacy method. Obviously the internet and new media have become an important tool for anyone in any sort of communications role, such as someone in public diplomacy. But I was surprised to find how much they used Facebook and Twitter on an extremely regular basis. They also had a few small, but detailed and creative ideas to make social networking more personal. Aaron Snipes, the Deputy Director for the press and Public Diplomacy and Spokesperson for the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, said that when he and his team posted things on their Facebook page, they would always sign it as “Facebook team.” It made people feel like they were communicating with a real person instead of a nameless, faceless government actor. Some other innovative ideas included Apps4Africa and the use of Facebook and Twitter in China even though it’s blocked.

There was actually less focus on traditional Public Diplomacy tactics. It was all about the hypable and exciting ideas. The @American storefront in Indonesia that Dr. Michael Anderson spoke about is something very innovative and easy to promote, whether it works or not. The same applies to the Youth Filmmaker program in Turkey. While it was great to hear about these innovative ideas, there was little to no mention of what else fills the days of a Foreign Service officer in Public Diplomacy… because I can hardly imagine they spend the entire day on Facebook! 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Public Diplomacy and Noopolitik

The panelists at the Public Diplomacy Council event spoke about their initiatives with new media. The diversity of countries represented was impressive, although most of the speakers seemed to be tied to the U.S. State Department. Their comments were interesting in regards to Arquilla Ronfeldt’s essay on the noopolitik. Noopolitik, as Ronfeldt describes, “requires governments to learn to work conjointly with civil-society NGOs that are engaged in building transnational networks and coaltions.” The panelists on Thursday did not mention any work with local NGOs in their countries of assignment. Instead, they praised partnerships with the private sector. For example, Dr. Michael Anderson spoke about @america’s use of Google Liquid Galaxy technology in Jakarta, Indonesia.  

A lot of what diplomats and foreign service officers do comes down to funding, which many of the panelists acknowledged. Therefore, it makes sense for them to seek partnerships with wealthy corporations like Google. But global, although it does business on a global scale, is really an American corporation. Its values are 100 percent American. They have often run into trouble when expanding their efforts overseas. An idea that gets rave reviews in the U.S. might not always go over well on the other side of the world. When a friend of mine first showed me Google Earth, my reaction was “That’s awesome.” But as Sangeet Kumar recounts in “Google Earth and the nation state,” many countries had serious problems with the invasive technology. I wonder how these nation states will react to Google Liquid Galaxy, which is the basically the same thing, only cooler (or more dangerous, depending on your point of view).

Much of what the panelists said reflected the utopianism associated with social media. There are many benefits to engaging in dialogue on Facebook or on Twitter including real-time communication and interactivity. But technology does not solve all the world’s problems. In my opinion, technology reflects some of the worst stereotypes about Americans. We are wealthy, greedy, and terribly materialistic. In addition, not everyone has embraced social media or even the Internet as much as Americans have. Successful public diplomacy depends on the kind of work that Walter Douglas spoke about in Pakistan. Understanding is key. His team analyzed Urdu conversations happening in the most popular medium in Pakistan – television.

It seems that diplomacy gets underway with a government-mandated agenda. If the government wants the embassy to tweet, that’s what the embassy will do. But I think that more attention should be given to the kind of work that Douglas does. What works for Americans is not always best. Diplomats should adapt to the culture around them and also collaborate with other actors like global NGOs. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Multiple Brands of the 'Networked' Self

I have a LinkedIn profile. I have a Facebook profile. I have a Twitter profile. I have a Google Plus profile. I have an e-mail address.

It's hard to manage all those Corey Allan Smiths running around out there in cyberspace. Creating and maintaining profiles on social or professional networks is a time consuming process, especially when you have to think about your audience, which can vary from profile to profile.

This is where our course discussion on network theory comes heavily into play. Why do we create multiple profiles of ourselves online as opposed to just one? As Manuel Castells iterated, increasingly our social livelihoods are dependent upon the connections we forge with others through networks, or an interconnected system of nodes having some form of relationship. Many of us belong to layer upon layer of networks like family, friends, work colleagues, those within our career field, age range, hobbies and interests or other defining social characteristics.

So, we need profiles to fit each one of these trajectories, right?

LinkedIn is purely about self-branding and is used as a virtual resume where any potential employer can view your career or educational background. Hence the reason career networking is so popular for this website. The whole point of LinkedIn is to connect with your colleagues so you can see who else is in your network that may be of use to you. We admire those with hundreds of LinkedIn connections because they appear to have more influence, depending upon their field. I know that I have a few people I am connected to on LinkedIn that have led me to other organizations and work contacts that I never knew would have had any relation to each other.

Facebook has less of a push to connect with others, but chooses to focus on interacting with others using their interface. Facebook is more socially acceptable, as it enables the user to integrate with photos, video, text, games and other interactive features. The networking that comes out of this is more of a way to maintain already forged relationships in a new, online environment.

Twitter seems to be the least networked, as many project their tweets into the twitter-sphere where they may just float in existence forever, but it is still a way of networking. The use of Twitter as an aggregate of information allows the user to network by searching topics that are trending or by hashtags, thereby connecting them to others within their network surrounding a particular notion. Response and feedback from others is also welcomed warmly on Twitter with the use of the @ symbol.

Google Plus is attempting to make a stab at being the champion of all of these socially-based networks. With a Google Plus account, one can manage their various network memberships and tailor their appearance to the various users that interact with their profile. In this singular profile, a user can present a potential employer with a comprehensive, professional looking type of account that does not detail their summer vacation in Europe whereas a close friend may be privy to such information and more.

What is the point of balancing all of these networks? They are all online projections of self, and, no matter if you use a social network for putting up pictures of your cat or are displaying all of your career work, you are self-branding to any others in your network that have access to you. As Castells pointed out, being at a certain level of involvement within a network enables power and influence within that network - either if you began the network or if you are a gatekeeper and are a moderator of the norms within that network, you are given authority.

To that end, perhaps that is why we seek to have many Facebook friends, link to tons of connections on LinkedIn and follow ten million others on Twitter - because quantity can sometimes translate into authoritative power and reverence from others. I would like to explore how these topics are transnational in that networks know no national boundaries, especially when they form in an online environment, but would welcome any practical examples as well.