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.
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.
Readers may be interested in an upcoming discussion with the French on their perspective of diplomacy in the modern communication environment. Global Reach: Innovative Communication for a New Diplomacy with Bernard Valero, Spokesman, Head of the Press and Communication Office, Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, Embassy of France, will take place Thursday, Friday 23, at 10:30am – Noon at 1717 Massachusetts Ave NW in Washington (the Johns Hopkins DC Center).
What is the role of the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs? That has been an enduring question of the State Department, the Defense Department, National Security Staff, the Congress and the many others interested in America’s efforts to understand, inform, and influence global audiences. Established thirteen years ago to manage many of the activities formerly run by the abolished United States Information Agency (USIA), its role within State and with other agencies across Government has been subject to reinterpretation nearly every time there was a new Under Secretary.
The last report of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy looked at the turnover in the position of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. The Commission found that the position has been unfilled for over 30% of the time since it was established. Moreover, the average tenure of the six Under Secretaries since 1999 was about 500 days. Indeed today, the office remains unencumbered since June 30, 2011, while Tara Sonenshine awaits confirmation by the Senate. The office is never “vacant” as there is always a someone in an “acting” capacity. Today, Assistant Secretary Ann Stock runs the office in lieu of a confirmed Under Secretary.
The Commission compared the tenure of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs with two peers: the Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs (as of January 1, 2012, known as the Under Secretary for Civil Security, Democracy, and Human Rights) and the Under Secretary for Political Affairs. The differences in tenure length and gaps in tenure is stark.
In the realm of public diplomacy reports, there are too few that should be on your required reading list. “Social Media Strategy: Bringing Public Diplomacy 2.0 to the next level” (820kb PDF) is an exception. Written by Carolijn van Noort, a former intern at the Department of Public Diplomacy, Press & Culture of the Consulate General of the Netherlands, this 53-page report is a terrific analysis of the challenges of public diplomacy in today’s Now Media environment.
Intended to explore the new public diplomacy of the Royal Embassy of the Netherlands, and its various Consulates, the “public diplomacy 2.0″ activities of the United States are also included .
Carolijn rightly states that “Social media asks for an hybridization of open and closed communication practices.” In this statement, she eloquently captures the dilemmas facing both public diplomacy and online engagement. She continues,
To engage with foreign audiences through social media services, diplomacy has to innovate itself. The social media services ask for openness and transparency, which contradicts traditional closed communication practices in diplomacy.
Carolijn also (rightly) notes that for the US, the modern constraint of the Smith-Mundt Act means “opportunities in the digital space are lost or postponed in the mean time [sic].”
The resulting document is both smart literature review and smart analysis. Do read the report: Social Media Strategy: Bringing Public Diplomacy 2.0 to the next level (820kb PDF)
It is available at MountainRunner with the permission of Floris van Hövell, Head of Department Public Diplomacy, Press and Culture, Royal Embassy of the Netherlands, Washington D.C.
By Jerry Edling
“You will not be able to stay home, brother.
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out.
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip,
Skip out for beer during commercials,
Because the revolution will not be televised.” — Gil Scott-Heron, From the album “Small Talk at 125th and Lennox” (1970)
“The revolution will not be televised…but it may be tweeted.” Posted on weeseeyou.com
January 28, 2011
In some ways, Gil Scott-Heron’s song “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” was ahead of its time. The lyrics were recited rather than sung, accompanied by congas and a bongo drum, making it either a vestige of beat poetry or one of the first examples of rap. His point, which must be understood in the context of domestic unrest in the late 1960s and early 1970s in the U.S., was that the revolution was not a pre-packaged bit of pop culture, sanitized for your protection and brought to you with minimal commercial interruption by Xerox. The revolution, in his opinion, was real; or, as the final line of the song reads,
“The revolution will be no re-run, brothers; The revolution will be live.”
Little did he know that in the 21st century a revolution of a different sort would be live and it would be televised. And yes, as the quip on weeseeyou.com vividly notes, it would be tweeted. As of this writing, the Biblical land of Egypt is illuminated with cell phone lights and fireworks as mobs with no definable leaders spill into the streets to celebrate the resignation of Hosni Mubarak as president after weeks of protest and unrest. The revolution was televised, and the power to bring those images to the world was in the hands of the revolutionaries themselves.
Since the abolishment of the United States Information Agency, the State Department has struggled to balance the need of the embassies with what Washington perceived was needed. This challenge has been particularly acute on the Internet where the resulting mix of information and voices can undermine the very purpose and effectiveness of engagement.
On January 28, I spoke with Dawn McCall, Coordinator for the Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP), to discuss the recently announced reorganization of the Bureau. IIP is responsible for developing and disseminating printed material, online information and engagement efforts, and speaker’s programs (a kind of offline engagement using subject matter experts). It is half of the operational capability of the Office of the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs to engage people outside of the United States.
The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) completes the other half of the Under Secretary’s toolbox. While most observers like to imagine (or don’t know better) that U.S. public diplomacy is a monolith, the reality is that these two offices are the Under Secretary’s only direct reports. Other cogs in the public diplomacy machine exist within – and report to – the geographic bureaus (such as Western Hemisphere Affairs, European and Eurasian Affairs, and Near Eastern Affairs) and posts in the field.
Checkout this event of potential value at the New America Foundation, “International Broadcasting and Public Media.” The event’s description is promising, as are the panelists (described as ‘participants’ but surely the audience will be allowed to participate as well, right?).
In an increasingly digital media landscape, people across the globe are relating to their news outlets in new ways. The missions of media producers are changing, as technological innovations reshape news networks into communities. The assumption is that U.S. public media institutions and international broadcasters are also transforming themselves to serve the emerging public interests in media. How should these institutions be changing to meet the needs of audiences that expect to engage in news and information, not just passively receive it? Even amid the explosion of information, there are information gaps. If foreign coverage one of them, how best is it produced and by whom?
I will not be there, unfortunately, but below are questions off the top of my head I’d like asked and discussed (are there really ‘answers’?).
You’ve used bit.ly, nyt.ms, fb.me, huff.to and probably a whole slew of other URL shortners. Now, there’s one more: mri.to. MRI.to is MountainRunner & the MountainRunner Institute’s own shortener service. Friends of MountainRunner and the MountainRunner Institute are welcome to use the shortner. Just email me and I’ll provide the API key.
A URL shortner reduces URLs into a much shorter set of character so they can be easily shared, tweeted or emailed to friends. For example, the URL for my article on the BBG at Layalina is http://www.layalina.tv/Publications/Perspectives/MattArmstrongSeptember.html. Using mri.to, it becomes more friendly to Twitter, Facebook and even email: http://mri.to/cBr3o4.
Go on, email me and start to use it.
Congratulations to Melanie Ciolek on winning the USC Center on Public Diplomacy’s Prize for Best Student Paper for 2010. Melanie’s paper, How Social Media Contributes to Public Diplomacy: Why Embassy Jakarta’s Facebook Outreach Improves Understanding of the Limitations and Potential for the State Department’s Use of Social Media, was published on this blog back in June.
Melanie wrote “How Social Media Contributes to Public Diplomacy” as a student in my Public Diplomacy and Technology (PUBD510) last semester. (See and comment on the draft syllabus for Spring 2011.)