Obsolete arguments to keep an obsolete law

By all means, let’s keep a law designed for another era on the books because, well, it’s there. That’s the argument many have offered in defense of the restrictive provisions added to the Smith-Mundt Act in 1972 and 1985. My friend Kim Andrew Elliot makes this argument while reviewing the Defense Department paper on strategic communication I posted this week.

"Understand the difference between public diplomacy and strategic communication. For the former, the audience is outside the geographic territory of the United States. For the latter, the audience is global. Science and Technology solutions do not generally discriminate based on geographic location, nor should they. The domains of strategic communication can not be limited to those with public affairs authority – everyone should be viewed as a strategic communicator."
Brilliant. This report has found a way to work around the Smith-Mundt clause prohibiting the domestic dissemination of public diplomacy. Just call it "strategic communication."

Kim’s statement is based on the belief that American public diplomacy is unfit for American audiences because it is a) deceitful, b) illegal influence, or c) damaging to the domestic news market. None of these are valid reasons today. 

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Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants: Do they think differently?

Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, Part II: Do They Really Think Differently? (141kb PDF) by Marc Prensky, 2001:

Digital Natives accustomed to the twitch-speed, multitasking, random-access, graphics-first, active, connected, fun, fantasy, quick-payoff world of their video games, MTV, and Internet are bored by most of today’s education, well meaning as it may be. But worse, the many skills that new technologies have actually enhanced (e.g., parallel processing, graphics awareness, and random access)—which have profound implications for their learning—are almost totally ignored by educators.

The cognitive differences of the Digital Natives cry out for new approaches to education with a better “fit”. And, interestingly enough, it turns out that one of the few structures capable of meeting the Digital Natives’ changing learning needs and requirements is the very video and computer games they so enjoy. This is why “Digital Game-Based Learning” is beginning to emerge and thrive. …

Again and again it’s the same simple story. Practice—time spent on learning—works. Kid’s don’t like to practice. Games capture their attention and make it happen. And of course they must be practicing the right things, so design is important.

The US military, which has a quarter of a million 18-year-olds to educate every year, is a big believer in learning games as a way to reach their Digital Natives. They know their volunteers expect this: “If we don’t do things that way, they’re not going to want to be in our environment”

Interesting reading on neuroplasticity.

(h/t @ramblemuse)

CNAS grows

CNAS, aka Center for a New American Security, grew a little bit this week. Certainly they have some empty to fill after so many left to join the White House and the Departments of State and Defense, but that doesn’t diminish the importance of their latest.

While Spencer waxes on about my friend Marc Lynch, nobody’s given Bob Killebrew the love he deserves. Check out CNAS’s press release for his short bio. It will be interesting if Marc Lynch, Tom Ricks, or Andrew Exum get Bob to post (he has one post at SWJ), but he’ll probably work quietly in the background and offer up his deep knowledge and incisive analysis of current and future stabilization requirements.

As CNAS grows, it has redefined the think tank as it (cautiously or a bit clumsily) inserts itself into the public discourse of national security. From conferences broadcast on the web to Twitter to blogging, they have gone the route that sharing information is power. Their knowledge, publically displayed, gains mindshare and marketshare. That is not to say other models are obsolete but the when the field has changed due to the strategy and tactics of an ideological competitor (and think tanks are ideological competitors) you may want to take notice.

Failure can be achieved with one action, success happens over time

Short and to the point observation by Galrahn at Information Dissemination that winning a battle does not mean winning a war.

The Navy deploys hospital ships to other countries, but then turns around and takes a poll to measure success. In other words, the Navy is measuring success based on an opinion of an action.

But opinions also measure perception, and hospital ship deployments do not have an associated strategic communication strategy targeting the population of the country it is servicing, rather only has a blog telling stories in English to the American people of events as they unfold.

He follows with a suggestion of true multiple media engagement (person and radio).

I don’t care how ugly it is, someone should stick a giant radio tower on top of the hospital ships and broadcast the coolest damn DJ you can find that speaks the language of the places the hospital ships go to. If Al Qaeda has a radio station in the Middle of Pakistani Mtns to broadcast their propaganda of hate, why can’t we put a radio station on a ship and send out a message of friendship?

What providing wi-fi or wi-max or even temporary cellular connectivity, all for free? Such broadcasts might be in conflict with the host nation’s telecommunications monopoly, but there are diplomatic ways around that.


Public Diplomacy: Books, Articles, Websites #46

Courtesy of Bruce Gregory, Professor of Media and Public Affairs, George Washington University:

July 7, 2009
Intended for teachers of public diplomacy and related courses, here is an update on resources that may be of general interest.  Suggestions for future updates are welcome. 
Bruce Gregory
Adjunct Assistant Professor of Media and Public Affairs
George Washington University

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Defense Department Plan on Strategic Communication and Science and Technology

A newly released report from the Department of Defense may be the first to specifically consider the role of science and technology (S&T) efforts supporting the broad range of Strategic Communication (SC) activities across the whole of government. The Strategic Communication Science and Technology Plan, April 2009, (PDF) produced by the Rapid Reaction Technology Office (RRTO) within the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s Director, Defense Research Engineering (DDRE), responds to direction in the Fiscal Year 2009 National Defense Authorization Act, which calls for the Department to leverage these efforts to designate an “S&T thrust area for strategic communication and focus on critical S&T opportunities.” Congress and RRTO authorized publication of this report on MountainRunner.us.

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NATO Public Diplomacy: Six Colors / Six Couleurs

imageNATO Public Diplomacy is a bit different than US public diplomacy. Unlike US public diplomacy which is (quaintly) aimed exclusively foreign publics, NATO public diplomacy is aimed chiefly at member countries and secondarily at partner countries. From the American perspective of audience-based tactics, this seems to be more like public affairs but the methodology is certainly more like public diplomacy.

Earlier this year Dr. Stefanie Babst, the NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy Strategy, stated the key principles to govern NATO “new public diplomacy” that will sound very familiar to any public diplomat (full speech is here, PDF:

1. Public diplomacy is about listening. …
2. Public diplomacy must be connected to policy. …
3. Public diplomacy must be credible to be effective. …
4. Public Diplomacy is not always about you. …
5. Public Diplomacy needs to respond to the challenges of the Web 2.0 world.

In this spirit she suggests that NATO public diplomacy might actually want to connect directly with a broad audience.

NATO should be more courageous in using digital tools to directly interact with the public. Why not host a permanent blog on the NATO website? Why not widen the debate about NATO’s new Strategic Concept beyond the ‘usual suspects’ and try to obtain new thinking through, for instance, online discussions with citizens on specific aspects of NATO’s future role? Let us hope that when Allies discuss NATO’s future strategic course at the forthcoming Summit in Strasbourg and Kehl, they will also take a moment to sign up to a 21st century public diplomacy approach.

I couldn’t agree more.

Noteworthy Links: Information and Communication edition

New edition of AP Stylebook adds entries and helpful features: AP writers can now use the phrase "to Twitter" in place of the wordier "to post a Twitter update." Both are far better (and technologically adept) than The New York Times use of “on their Twitter page.”

If you provide services to poor people, should you make a profit? Interesting question that goes to the increasing connectivity in Africa. (h/t @ICT4D)

Feeds for Information Graphics. Compiled by the Art Director for the Associated Press Interactive Design & Graphics Department in New York.

IT Dashboard. Track information technology spending by the US Government. For example, see that the State Department is doing pretty well managing its IT projects and that there are apparently problems with USAID’s Infrastructure and Modernization Program.

Après un an de tests, les policiers ont choisi ce modèle, léger et long de 5 cm.Combat camera for cops. French cops are getting ear-borne mini-cams to combat “to establish the context of our interventions.”

World Bank Report: Information and Communications for Development 2009

Some of the World Bank report Information and Communications for Development 2009: Extending Reach and Increasing Impact is now available online. This report

takes an in-depth look at how ICT, and particularly broadband and mobile, are impacting economic growth in developing countries. The data section includes at-a-glance tables for 150 economies of the latest available data on ICT sector performance. Performance measures for access, affordability and applications in government and business are also introduced.

I’ve only reviewed the introduction – to get the whole report you have to buy it (!!) – but it appears this report provides valuable justification for expanded information and communication technology investment for public diplomacy and strategic communication. However, the report all but ignores the impact broadband and mobile phones have on media and corruption or access to radio via mobile phones. Still, as mobile phones “now represent the world’s largest distribution platform”, it is worthwhile to read about their impact on economic growth.

See also:

View the Democracy Video Challenge winners

Last year the State Department embarked on an ambitious mission of encouraging others to describe what democracy meant to them. This was a smart and creative use of social media to amplify and empower trusted and authentic voices to speak about subjects that matter to them. Let’s hope State continues the concept…

Six winners were selected from the 900 people from nearly 100 countries submitted videos in the Democracy Video Challenge. View all of the winning videos here. All of the winners are superb, but my favorite is below.

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Broadband hits Africa

From Foreign Policy, a map showing increased connectivity and the importance of investing in Information & Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D) in Africa.

As interconnectivity between African countries increases, economic benefits are expected, especially in Kenya, which has a fast developing IT sector. Other potential impacts include education and access to media.

Increased interconnectivity also means increased importance of online media.

See also this 2007 global map by Alcatel-Lucent (5.6mb PDF).

Quoting History: Reorganizing to look busy

We worked hard, but every time we began to function new plans or reorganization were initiated.

I learned later in life that we have a tendency to deal with any new situation by reorganizing. Also I learned what a wonderful method this is to give an illusion of progress while in reality it creates chaos, inefficiency and demoralization.

— Caius Petronius, Roman civil servant of Emperor Nero, died 66AD

It seems that two millennia ago the workforce was also perceived as widgets that will function within whatever structure is available. The truth is, if an organization needs to be “fixed”, changing the organizational chart creates “chaos, inefficiency, and demoralization” today as it did yesterday without a change to the working culture.

Event: International Symposium on Cultural Diplomacy

International_Symposium_on_Cultural_Diplomacy_2009_brochure_Page_01 An interesting weeklong event on cultural diplomacy will held in Berlin at the end of this month (27-31 July, 2009).

The International Symposium on Cultural Diplomacy: The Role of Soft Power in the International Environment

The International Symposium on Cultural Diplomacy 2009 will bring together a diverse group of participants from across the world for a weeklong program of lectures, social events and panel discussions that will look at the role of soft power in contemporary international relations. The speakers during the week are experts and leading figures from politics, academia, and the private sector.

The following are a selection of the speakers for the Symposium:

  • Jorge Sampaio, UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations, Former President of Portugal (1996-2006)
  • Joaquim Chissano, Former President of Mozambique (1986-2005), Former Chairperson of the African Union (2003-2004)
  • Dr. Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga, Former President of Latvia (1999-2007)
  • Cassam Uteem, Former President of the Republic of Mauritius (1992-2002)
  • Dr. Vasile Puşcaş, Romanian Minister for European Affairs
  • Ints Dālderis, Minister of Culture of the Republic of Latvia
  • Borys Tarasyuk, Member of Parliament and Former Foreign Minister of the Ukraine (1998-2000, 2005-2007)
  • Dr. Erkki Tuomioja, Member of Parliament and Former Foreign Minister of Finland (2000-2007)

Further information about the Symposium can be found here.

The program brochure, including the timetable, can be found here (2.12mb PDF).

I’d like to be there but won’t be unless somebody decides to fund my trip. Any takers?