Congratulations Melanie Ciolek!

imageCongratulations 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.)

In the interest of informed debate on Public Diplomacy

By Craig Hayden

I am curious to hear the following statement, made by one of America’s preeminent critics of public diplomacy thinking, clarified a bit more:

All too many academic theories about PD are incomprehensible, pompously-expressed “concepts” from persons — among them rightfully esteemed tenured professors whose intelligence is all too often joined with a tactless inability to handle the last three feet of person-to-person contact — who have never actually worked as diplomats in the field of “public diplomacy,” which they pontificate about, often too assuredly, from their ivory towers on comfortable campuses so distant from what some call the “real world.”

The quote appeared in a recent article on the Huffington Post. Truth be told, I am admittedly a fan of John Brown and his frequent skewerings of pretension (unless, of course, such barbs are leveled at my alma mater, then I’m shamelessly hypocritical). But it made me pause. Perhaps Dr. Brown was being polite, but I think we need to put some sort of name to the real troublemakers that Brown is alluding to.

Continue reading “In the interest of informed debate on Public Diplomacy

A (Digital) Revolution in Latin America

By James Davis

If Barack Obama’s campaign introduced American voters to the raw power of the web to win elections, the come-from-behind victory of Juan Manuel Santos as President of Colombia showed that e-democracy works even in places where democracy itself is fragile.

Santos, a conservative-leaning Defense Minister under popular incumbent President Àlvaro Uribe, ultimately won election on June 20 in a 2-to-1 blowout, racking up 69 percent of the vote. But on the day 38 -ear-old Ravi Singh from Washington-based Electionmall.com arrived in Colombia, Santos’ campaign was clearly in trouble, with polls showing Bogotá mayor Antanas Mockus’ reformist Green Party within striking distance of victory in the first round of voting on May 30.

"We were being crushed by the ‘Green Wave,’" explains Luis German Lopez, who was Singh’s liaison with local campaign operatives.

Mockus had captured the imaginations of an increasingly tech-savvy Colombian population utilizing innovative social media techniques: by the time Singh and his team came on board, the Greens had accumulated nearly 700,000 Facebook friends and a big Twitter following. Santos, the establishment candidate, had virtually no online presence at all.

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Engaging in a Now Media Continuum

By Chris Dufour

image This post is based on Chris Dufour’s presentation at the MountainRunner Institute’s Now Media 6 July 2010 seminar. This seminar will be held again in 2010, so stay tuned.

This past Tuesday, July 6th, 2010, I got the opportunity to speak as part of the MountainRunner Institute‘s “Now Media” seminar at the National Press Club. For the less sharp-eyed out there, I’ve been proud to call Matt Armstrong (MRi President and a highly AWESOME blogger) a friend for some time… even before he provided the first forum for Must. Be. AWESOME!!! in its proto-stage. A few months ago, Matt asked me to help him transform his blog, MountainRunner, into a full-fledged nonprofit institute devoted to the study of and conversations about public diplomacy and strategic communication.

One of MRi’s key offerings is a seminar Matt honchos about “Now Media,” his concept of understanding the existing and emerging media environment as it relates to influence and engagement. These seminars give us an opportunity to wrap up everything we learn into something useful for communication practitioners. At this particular event, we had attendees from the U.S. Marine Corps public affairs team, the State Department, and even a contingent of Indonesian bloggers visiting the States on a State Department exchange.

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Al Qaeda publishes an English language magazine

cover.PNGMarc Ambinder reports at The Atlantic Al Qaeda is now publishing an English-language magazine.

As the U.S. struggles to manage its efforts to influence opinion about Al Qaeda abroad, Al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula has produced its first English-language propaganda magazine.

The table of contents teases an interview with the leader of AQAP who promises to "answer various questions pertaining to the jihad in the Arabian Peninsula."  It includes a feature about how to "make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom."
AQAP’s first effort to post the magazine to jihadist websites failed Wednesday, as many of the pages were contaminated with a virus. (I half seriously believe that U.S. cyber warriors might have had a hand in that little surprise.)
The US is quite worried about Al Qaeda’s new publishing ambitions, which mark a more sophisticated effort to engage the English-language world and to recruit English-speaking Muslims to join the cause.

This is a logical – and surprisingly overdue – next step by the largely information-savvy Al Qaeda. It will be interesting to see how the magazine is received, if and how Al Qaeda adapts to feedback, and ultimately if Al Qaeda can adhere to a regular publishing schedule.

USA Lost and other depressing news

Team USA lost to Ghana in the World Cup in a contest that went into extra time. The referring was not quite the factor it was in previous games, but the referee yesterday should have warned and even penalized Ghana for delay of game and pretending to be fouled. He did neither but in the end, that did not change the fact Team USA could not put the ball in the net, despite several good opportunities to do so.

South Korea, another team I hoped would make it to the next round, was also defeated.

Also depressing is the nominees for the Broadcasting Board of Governors have yet to be confirmed by the Senate. Senator Lugar’s report and Huffington Post article on the BBG has apparently had no effect on the primary opposition, which is still apparently Senator Tom Coburn. Hopefully the nominees will be confirmed immediately when the Senate returns.

Finally, my vacation in Hawaii is sadly coming to an end. However, on the brighter side, within hours of my return to the mainland, I’ll be on a plane to the 9th Annual Information Operations Europe Conference in London where I will speak on Tuesday about the convergence of old and new media. My presentation will focus on Wikileaks as an online propagandist whose products and influence transcend mediums as well as the timely if unfortunate example of the General McChrystal / Rolling Stone story.

Lastly, the upcoming seminar Now Media: Engagement Based on Information not Platforms takes place July 6 in Washington, DC. There is still space so sign up now. I will extend the “Early Bird” pricing to Wednesday, June 30. On July 1, the price goes up $100.

Lastly, you may have heard that the US military has renamed Psychological Operations (PSYOP) to Military Information Support Operations (MISO). Soup (and other) jokes aside, here is the memo from the Department of the Army that describes the change with the “direction and consensus of our most senior military leadership.”

MountainRunner in the UK for a public diplomacy conference

MountainRunner is in the United Kingdom for the Wilton Park conference “Public Diplomacy: Moving from Policy to Practice?” As the event is under Chatham House Rule, I will not tweet or blog about it. I’m looking forward to the next several days, which will include presentations and discussions with: Jeremy Browne, Minister of State, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office; Judith McHale, Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs; Stefanie Babst, Deputy Assistant Secretary General, Public Diplomacy Division, NATO; Jimmy Leach, Head, Digital Diplomacy, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office; Peter Horrocks, Director, BBC Global News; Jan Melissen, Head, Clingendael Diplomatic Studies Programme (CDSP), Netherlands Institute of International Relations; Simon Anholt, and others. See the program here.

I considered renaming the blog “Fell Runner” while in the UK, but no…

Related:

The Catholic Church and Online Media

This is the first of an ongoing series of journal-style peer-reviewed articles that will begin appearing at www.MountainRunner.us (and soon at www.MountainRunnerInstitute.org) on subjects and issues related to public diplomacy and strategic communication, U.S. or otherwise.

The Catholic Church and Online Media
by Mariana González Insua

View the article or download the article (160kb PDF).

The recent explosion of Catholic sex abuse scandals around the world was the motor that propelled the Vatican to get a foothold on the last social media space that had, until a few weeks ago, remained unconquered by the Catholic Church: Twitter. Given the growing online competition for soul-share, the Church’s negative image in relation to the ongoing scandals and the loss of adherents to Catholicism in the US, the Holy See’s online platforms are valuable tools for broadcasting its message worldwide and, in particular, in the US.

The Vatican’s online presence is certainly not new. The Holy See has had its own website in place for fourteen years and a year ago it created Pope2You, a new site with interactive features such as a Facebook application that allows users to send e-postcards with the Pope’s picture and message to their friends, and the possibility of downloading the Pope’s speeches and messages to iPhones or iPods. The Vatican also has its own YouTube channel, available in a number of languages, which is updated daily with “holy” news.

Earlier this year, the Pope surprised the world when he decided to take a further step into the virtual realm by telling priests to blog. In his message for the Roman Catholic Church’s 44th World Communication Day, Pope Benedict XVI urged priests to make use of all digital tools at their disposal to spread the word: “Priests are […] challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources-images, videos, animated features, blogs, websites- which, alongside traditional means, can open up brand new vistas for dialogue, evangelization and catechesis.” The Papal message further encouraged priests to engage with peoples from other religions and cultures: “A pastoral presence in the world of digital communications, precisely because it brings us into contact with the followers of other religions, non-believers and people of every culture, requires sensitivity to those who do not believe, the disheartened and those who have a deep, unarticulated desire for enduring truth and the absolute […] Can we not see the web as also offering a space for those who have not yet come to know God?”

Mariana González Insua just finished her first year as a student in USC’s Masters of Public Diplomacy program. She is originally from Argentina and recently completed a Masters in Latin American Studies at Stanford University.

Understanding and Engaging Now Media – Feb 8, 9, 10

Just a reminder, Understanding and Engaging Now Media takes place next month at AOC in Alexandria, VA, just outside of DC. This is a professional training seminar-style course taught over three consecutive evenings, 6p-9p. The modern, global information environment is reviewed as a blended environment marked by the convergence of “new media” and “old media” into “now media.” The goal of the seminar is to make the participant more capable of operating in the “now media” environment and to be able to explain needs and justify requirements for preactive and proactive engagement to senior leadership.

More information, including registration, can be found at the AOC website. Feel free to email me with questions.

Understanding and Engaging Now Media: February 8-10 in DC

I will again be teaching Understanding and Engaging Now Media in the DC area, more precisely Alexandria, VA. The dates are February 8, 9, and 10 and the time remains 6p – 9p with drinks and sandwiches provided. Materials to read and view prior to the course will be provided to prepare for the course and to maximize the time.

For more information and registration, visit the AOC website. Note: the course description and agenda will be modified slightly.

US Government Meets New Media

From Helle Dale at The Heritage Foundation, Public Diplomacy 2.0: Where the U.S. Government Meets “New Media”:

Public diplomacy and strategic communications experts within the U.S. government are exploring the potential of the new social media in the effort to win hearts and minds abroad, especially in the Muslim world where today’s war of ideas is being fought. Enemies of the United States are already expert in using these low-cost outreach tools that can connect thousands, potentially even millions, at the touch of a computer key or cell phone button. As public affairs blogger Matt Armstrong writes,

In this age of mass information and precision guided media, everyone from political candidates to terrorists must instantly and continuously interact with and influence audiences in order to be relevant and competitive. Ignoring the utility of social media is tantamount to surrendering the high ground in the enduring battle to influence minds around the world.

… When employed strategically, social-networking sites clearly offer potential for U.S. public diplomacy to reach younger, tech-savvy audiences around the world. Social-networking sites can also be cost-effective and run with relatively low overhead. Yet, nothing can replace the power of person-to-person contact and individual exposure to American culture. Furthermore, the unevenness of global technological progress means that a variety of media will remain critical to spreading the U.S. message. As part of a clear and calibrated U.S. government communications strategy, however, Public Diplomacy 2.0 can be a valuable tool.

I would add that there is the convergence of new and old media into Now Media makes intense focus on “new media” channels as distracting and potentially dangerous. As Helle Dale notes, person to person contact remains essential. Even in America’s social media world, studies indicate online relationships that have by real world connections are far stronger than those without.

A powerful, important, and too often ignored is the use of the online media by our adversaries. We require culturally aware, linguistically capable actors in the same languages and cultures we are operating in the “meat space.” What you see in your English-language search of Google or YouTube is not the same list as an Arabic-language search using the same .com site. How many know that? This is a far more dangerous world than many realize. Helle Dale’s recommendations are valid but are ultimately a small part of the solution. The institutional dysfunction across Government and the extreme lack of awareness of the requirements in both the executive and legislative branches overshadow any advantage of these recommendations. We have surrendered primary battlegrounds in the struggle for minds and wills. It is time to reverse this and answer counter the highly damaging propaganda of our adversaries.

Related:

Smith-Mundt Act: Facts, Myths and Recommendations

The Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 is the authorizing legislation for America’s public diplomacy and strategic communication. This three-page information sheet addresses confusion surrounding the Act and makes recommendations that are fundamental to any improvement to US public diplomacy and strategic communication. It is ironic that legislation intended to counter misinformation is itself subject to misinformation to the point few know the Act’s purpose and true application.

The following is a short three page overview written at the request of and for a (pro bono) client who is neither the State Department nor the Defense Department. Download here or read below or at Scribd.

Continue reading “Smith-Mundt Act: Facts, Myths and Recommendations

News resources

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Google Fast Flip

One problem with reading news online today is that browsing can be really slow. A media-rich page loads dozens of files and can take as much as 10 seconds to load over broadband, which can be frustrating. What we need instead is a way to flip through articles really fast without unnatural delays, just as we can in print. The flow should feel seamless and let you rapidly flip forward to the content you like, without the constant wait for things to load. Imagine taking 10 seconds to turn the page of a print magazine!

Like a print magazine, Fast Flip lets you browse sequentially through bundles of recent news, headlines and popular topics, as well as feeds from individual top publishers. As the name suggests, flipping through content is very fast, so you can quickly look through a lot of pages until you find something interesting. At the same time, we provide aggregation and search over many top newspapers and magazines, and the ability to share content with your friends and community. Fast Flip also personalizes the experience for you, by taking cues from selections you make to show you more content from sources, topics and journalists that you seem to like. In short, you get fast browsing, natural magazine-style navigation, recommendations from friends and other members of the community and a selection of content that is serendipitous and personalized.

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Understanding and Engaging ‘Now Media’ professional development course

The professional development course “Understanding and Engaging Now Media” examines the convergence of “new media” and “old media” into “now media” with the purpose of educating and empowering the student to be a more effective information actor. Today, news and information is simultaneously instant and persistent, global and local, as it seamlessly moves between print, broadcast, cellular, and social media. Increased access to information changes the relationship between producer and consumer of news and information which in turn creates, engages, and empowers new communities and communications pathways that empower journalists, bloggers, analysts, activists, diplomacy, terrorists, insurgents and nearly everyone else. Understanding this environment, the tools, techniques, and purposes is essential in the modern information environment.

Yours truly, Matt Armstrong, will teach this course over three consecutive evenings, 6p-9p on November 10, 11, and 12 in Alexandria, VA (2 blocks from a Metro stop).

More information and registration can be found at the AOC website.

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