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A Blog on Understanding, Informing, Empowering, and Influencing Global Publics, published by Matt Armstrong

Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012 introduced in the House

Last week, Representatives Mac Thornberry (R-TX) and Adam Smith (D-WA) introduced a bill to amend the United States Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948 to “authorize the domestic dissemination of information and material about the United States intended primarily for foreign audiences, and for other purposes.” The bill, H.R.5736 — Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012 (Introduced in House – IH), removes the prohibition on public diplomacy material from being available to people within the United States and thus eliminates an artificial handicap to U.S. global engagement while creating domestic awareness of international affairs and oversight and accountability of the same. This bill also specifies Smith-Mundt only applies to the Department of State and the Broadcasting Board of Governors, eliminating an ambiguity creatively imagined sometime over the three decades.

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Challenge of Change – 1961 Bell Labs film on communication

Looking into the future from the past is often fascinating. A Bell Labs film from 1961 on the changing communication environment predicts the future information age as it projects its technology into the future. This includes machine to machine communication, online ordering, e-commerce, and cellular phones, is no different. The underlying purpose is preparing the audience for change.

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A Quiet Opening: North Koreans in a Changing Media Environment

North Korea is one of the few remaining places where barriers to informing and engaging remain strong. While it remains unlikely Kim Jong Un will reduce the state’s control over the communication environment, a new report indicates access to unsanctioned foreign media is expanding inside the country. The impact of access to alternative news could have interesting consequences inside the country.

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Public Diplomacy Achievement Awards 2012

(L-R) Larry Schwartz, Jean Manes, Heather Eaton, Rob Nevitt, Lynn Roche. Jean Manes and Heather Eaton are 2012 achievement award winners. Lynne Roche, of State Department's Africa bureau, accepted the award for Sharon Hudson-Dean. Frank Schwartz nominated Jean Manes. Rob Nevitt chairs the PDAA awards committee. (Photo: A. Kotok)

2012 PDAA Awards Recognize Public Diplomacy Excellence

The Public Diplomacy Alumni Association, formerly the USIA Alumni Association, gave its 2012 achievement awards to U.S. public diplomacy professionals working in Zimbabwe, Okinawa, and Washington, DC. The announcement is below.

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Debating China’s Global Reputation – a conference in Beijing May 19

Public Diplomacy ForumThe first major international conference on public diplomacy and China’s reputation in the world will take place in Beijing later this month. The event is co-sponsored by the Charhar Institute, China’s foremost public diplomacy think tank, the Clingendael Institute of the Netherlands, the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Netherlands Embassy in Beijing, and the China-Europe Academic Network (CEAN). The theme is “Geo-cultural Perspectives on Public Diplomacy – Trialogue among Chinese, European, and American Scholars.”

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A Foreign Office for a World Power

There are certain challenges to having an effective global policy. We may often look toward the environment and other actors, usually adversaries, but often ignored is that interpretation of and responses to events are shaped by our institutions. These organizations greatly affect policy options and the execution of policy. A smart strategy, supported by well articulated missions and objectives, support the people and the bureaucracy to be more effective.

Recent articles and blog posts on the structural and personnel challenges in the State Department reminded me of a journal article I came across while researching my book on the history of the Smith-Mundt Act. The article, “The Reorganization of the Department of State,” was published in The American Political Science Review, Vol 38, No 2, in April 1944. The authors, Walter H. C. Laves and Francis O. Wilcox, were described as on leave from the Bureau of the Budget, the predecessor to today’s Office of Management and Budget, within the Executive Office of the President. However, both were diplomats and arguably public diplomats. Laves worked in the Office of Inter-American Affairs, a Presidential office intended to counter German influence in the Western Hemisphere, later the Deputy Director at UNESCO (1947-1950), and a professor of political science. Wilcox joined the State Department in 1942 and was the first chief of staff to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations (1947-1951), and later the Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs (1955-1961).

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Neuroscience and Social Conflict: Identifying New Approaches for the 21st Century

What if you put neuroscientists, social scientists, conflict resolution experts, and diplomats together in a room? Is there something to the “human dimension” of conflict that the science of the brain can inform the art of conflict resolution and mitigation? The Project on Justice in Times of Transition, in partnership with the SaxeLab at MIT, launched the initiative “Neuroscience and Social Conflict: Identifying New Approaches for the 21st Century” to find out.

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Visual Propaganda: a cross-disciplinary conference on the influence of images

It has long been said that a picture is worth a thousand words, but what words to which people? The pixels or streaks of paint of an image is the only commonality shared by different audiences. The context in which they are received and interpreted matters. Beyond the intended framing, including words or other images, personal and shared history, language, current or developing narratives, and other inputs, both direct and indirect, all matter in the impact of a picture.

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Science and Technology for Communication and Persuasion Abroad: Gap Analysis and Survey

Since 9/11, the U.S. Government has invested heavily in technology-based solutions to understanding, informing, and influencing people around the world and across a variety of mediums. Many of these efforts were sponsored by the Defense Department for reasons that include major appropriations by the Congress, a capability (and culture) of contracting, a capability (and culture) of development, and an imperative for action (non-action may result in an unnecessary death).

In 2009, the Defense Department’s Rapid Reaction Technology Office (RRTO) surveyed the landscape of science and technology programs intended to support Strategic Communication with the purpose of identifying gaps between capabilities and requirements as well as suggesting areas of improvement.

In 2011, the RRTO commissioned the Center for Naval Analysis to update the 2009 report. The new report, written by CNA’s Will McCants and entitled “Science and Technology for Communication and Persuasion Abroad: Gap Analysis and Survey,” (7mb PDF) is now available.

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