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Matt Armstrong's blog on public diplomacy, international journalism, and the struggle against propaganda

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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Thank you, Mom

If you have not seen the Proctor & Gamble marketing campaign entitled “Thank you, Mom“, you really should. An Olympic Partner for London 2012, the campaign will run for these last 100 days before the start of the summer games.  It is the largest campaign in P&G’s 174-year history.

The campaign launched with the digital release of the short film “Best Job,” a moving celebration of mom’s raising great kids and Olympians, according to a press release. The video was shot on four continents with local actors and athletes from each location — London, Rio de Janeiro, Los Angeles and Beijing — and will be found online, across social media, TV, and print.*

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“Policy is about people”

This week, Tara Sonenshine was formally sworn-in as the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs by Secretary Clinton. Secretary Clinton’s introductory remarks were personal, insightful, and deeply supportive of public diplomacy and of Tara. While the Secretary’s comments are not available online, she began by emphasizing the importance of public diplomacy when she said the Constitution begins “with We the People, not We the Government.”

Tara’s theme was the same: policy is about people. It may seem obvious to some, but it has yet to be internalized by all, whether in the Department or across the other agencies.

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Where has the time gone?

Somehow, twenty days have passed since the last post on this blog. The silence has not been for want of material but priority on my end and the swift passage of time. Forthcoming posts include the swearing in of Tara Sonenshine as the new Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs yesterday, the latest DoD report on Science and Technology and Persuasion Abroad, the GSU/Army War College conference on Visual Propaganda, and next month’s public diplomacy conference in Beijing. Stay tuned…

With U.S. Absent, China and Qatar step-in at UNESCO

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, was established over six decades ago to be the public diplomacy organization of the West, countering the influences and false promises of Communism.  Last year, the U.S. cut its funding to UNESCO resulting in a severe budget shortfall and program elimination by the agency.

Defense News reports that immediately after the U.S. cut, China stepped in with “a first-time $8 million funding for the U.N. agency’s education program, while Qatar chipped in $20 million.”

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The Future of Public Diplomacy, a USC conference

APDSThe Association of Public Diplomacy Scholars at USC has their annual conference tomorrow, April 6, 2012.  The conference will provide a discussion on new technologies and emerging actors in the amorphous “thing” sometimes called public diplomacy.

The Association of Public Diplomacy Scholars invites you to join the discussion, with a half day of panels and speakers from around the world. The conference will feature an opening address by Dr. Nicholas J. Cull, director of the Master’s of Public Diplomacy program at USC, and keynote speaker Ben Hammersley, the U.K. prime minister’s ambassador to East London TechCity. We will also have panelists from the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs, United Nations Global Pulse, Facebook, Carleton University, the South East European Film Festival, the Chinese Consulate in Los Angeles, and the Brazilian Consulate in Los Angeles.

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The Seven Habits of Highly Successful Under Secretaries

By Brian Carlson

The following originally appeared at the Public Diplomacy Council and is republished here with permission.  

Tara Sonenshine was confirmed Thursday night by the Senate, and she will probably take office officially early this week.  (She can be sworn in privately by some current official and begin work, even as a more formal ceremony is planned for a few weeks hence.)

It is a new beginning down at Foggy Bottom.  Tara becomes only the seventh Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs since the job was created upon the merger of USIA into the Department in 1999.

It is a propitious time to consider what habits lead to  success at the State Department, as well as what experience teaches about being the nation’s Olympic spear-catcher when they think we’re being out-communicated by some guy in a cave.  Here are a few suggestions for how to succeed at this job, all gathered from my time working directly with five of the six previous Under Secretaries.  (I had no contact with Margaret Tutwiler.)

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