Nicole Bailey is one of the ten 2015 Milton Wolf Emerging Scholar Fellows, an accomplished group of doctoral and advanced MA candidates selected to attend the 2015 Milton Wolf Seminar. Their posts highlight the critical themes and on-going debates raised during the 2015 Seminar discussions. Here, Bailey discusses the pros and cons of measuring elite and grassroots public diplomacy efforts.
The annual Burson-Marsteller Twiplomacy Study highlights the importance of Twitter to modern public diplomacy. It recognizes that influence is much more than the sheer number of a leader’s followers and tweets and admits that quantifying influence in the form of “reach” is a massive challenge. Quantifying reach, and thereby evaluating communication “success,” is one of the greatest foreign policy challenges of the digital age—one that is not exclusive to Twitter (or to social media), but rather applies to all communication platforms.
Crocker Snow, Jr. defined public diplomacy as something that “traditionally represents actions of governments to influence overseas publics within the foreign policy process [but] has expanded today—by accident and design—beyond the realm of governments to include the media, multinational corporations, NGO’s, and faith-based organizations as active participants in the field (Snow, Jr., Crocker, 2005).” For the purpose of this piece, I will focus on public diplomacy as practiced by governments to influence multiple audiences overseas. As a result of new communication and media technologies, conflicting accounts are easier than ever to produce and consume. Therefore, one of the continuing themes of the 2015 Milton Wolf Seminar was the challenge of successful strategic messaging in a time of global information competition.
"All zones of public discourse have their excesses and irrationalities, but none like foreign policy. In our golden age of data, this is one area that remains resiliently unmeasurable. So anyone can say anything as long as they say it sonorously and use the word “strategy” a lot."
- Janan Ganesh, a political columnist for the Financial Times. Previously, he was a political correspondent for The Economist. He appears weekly on BBC1's Sunday Politics television show and wrote a biography of George Osborne, the UK chancellor.
In our messy, multipolar world, daunting problems like responding to climate change, feeding a growing population, and fostering viable states in the wake of conflict were among the topics covered in yesterday’s conversation between Madeleine Albright and Kaushik Basu at the World Bank. Adding levity, the former US secretary of state also spoke of Kim Jong Il’s elevator shoes and bouffant hair, her role in lifting a ban on Iranian caviar, carpets and pistachios, and the byzantine math of the UN Security Council.
Kaushik held up an interesting mirror for Albright, given his own multidisciplinary perspective as a former economic policy advisor for India (a big cacophonous democracy), as a professor keen to ignite young minds to think creatively about the world, and as a big thinker at an international institution. Most fascinating to me were his questions about the moral imperatives that guided her decisions in the Balkans as well as her ability to grapple with everything from nuclear negotiations to sanctions to a tenuous mission to Pyongyang in October 2000.
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Is There a Link Between Digital Media and Good Governance?
"CIMA announces the release of its most recent report, Is There a Link Between Digital Media and Good Governance? What the Academics Say, by media development consultant Mary Myers. The report investigates whether there is a link between new digital technologies and good governance and what, if any, are the connections between digitally equipped populations and political change. It approaches these questions by examining what some key academics say on the matter. This paper is a follow-on from a previous CIMA report by the same author, Is There a Link Between Media and Good Governance? What the Academics Say, which profiled a number of key academics and their research on the links between traditional media and governance. This report turns, instead, to digital media and brings a selection of some key academic writing to a non-academic audience." READ MORE
The accelerated changes in communication flows are posing both opportunities and challenges in the global system. A recently published book entitled ‘Diplomacy, Development and Security in the Information Age,’ edited by Shanthi Kalathil (a former colleague and contributor to this blog), seeks to better understand the changing face of international relations in a new era, by examining two emerging themes: heightened transparency and increased volatility. Leading up to the publication, practitioners grappled with these themes, and how they are affecting international affairs. Craig Hayde, one of the authors, notes that transparency and volatility are increasingly inextricable concepts. He says “transparency does more than simply put information out there – it inculcates a shared value that information should be available”, but that it is also “facilitated by the same technologies that promote instability, risk, and uncertainty in the business of international relations.”
The collection of essays provides fresh thinking in an area that has mainly focused on the use and impact of information and communication technologies (ICTs). While several essays discuss ICTs, Kalathil points out that “the premise for the series is not to minutely examine new forms of technology and their impact. Rather, the premise for the series is that ubiquitous global communication flows have, over time, created an encompassing information environment that nurtures transparency and volatility in pervasive conditions and/or guiding norms.”
"If your foreign policy, however sophisticated it might be, doesn’t have a ground in public opinion, then that foreign policy is not sustainable."
-- Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. As quoted in International Herald Tribune, Erudite candidate takes populist route, by Anthony Shadid, Saturday-Sunday, June 11-12, 2011.
Recent events in North Africa have intensified speculations about the role of traditional mass media as well as communication technologies in shaping political events and cultures across the world. Media influence on policy, foreign or domestic, has been the subject of some research, but is not generally taken seriously in the relevant disciplines. We have discussed on this blog before that the lack of systematic research and acknowledgement of media influence on policymaking may be due to the indirect nature of this effect. Media do not necessarily influence policymakers directly, but may work through public opinion by shaping what people know and believe about foreign politics. Public opinion, embodied in predominant political views or in election results, can have considerable influence on policymakers that need approval from the electorate.
I recently had the honor of contributing a book review on media influence on foreign policymaking to the foreign policy journal IP Global Edition, published by the German Council on Foreign Relations. I discussed three relevant books: "Unreliable Sources" by John Simpson, "The Al Jazeera Effect" by Philip Seib, and Bella Mody's analysis of "The Geopolitics of Representation in Foreign News." You can find the full review here.
- United Kingdom
- Egypt, Arab Republic of
- Middle East and North Africa
- Europe and Central Asia
- Information and Communication Technologies
- War Reporting
- Unrealiable Sources
- The Geopolitics of Representation in Foreign News
- Public Opinion
- Philip Seib
- Media Influence
- media effects
- John Simpson
- IP Global Edition
- International Public Opinion
- German Council on Foreign Relations
- Foreign Policy
- Conflict Reporting
- Book Review
- Bella Mody
- Al Jazeera Effect
Almost any newspaper is filled with stories about conflict from around the world. Even in the deepest province the reader will find a report on atrocities in Darfur or suicide bombs in Iraq.