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.

The 2012 report is based on interviews with experts inside and outside government, surveying programs, and reviewing academic and professional literature. Gaps identified in 2009 have not been closed over the past few years, according to this new report.

McCants further identified areas where the Government has made limited research & development investments not addressed in the earlier report. There additional areas include technologies for facilitating and managing online engagement and persuasion campaigns. The specific report headings are:

  • Survey and validation theories and techniques for influence in the digital realm
  • Target audience analysis, trend monitoring, and source criticism
  • Online measures of effectiveness
  • Training in techniques of communication and persuasion in the digital realm
  • Immersive virtual environments and simulation games for non-military purposes
  • Persuasive technology on mobile devices for encouraging positive behavior
  • Crowd sourcing for problem solving and accountability
  • Studying adversary use of social media
  • Technology for promoting freedom under repressive regimes
  • Expanding investment in emerging technologies

This report acknowledges the importance of engagement, empowerment, and cultivating relationships over simply better targeting of messages. The report reinforces the 2009 statement that there are no silver bullets.

“Despite the focus of this report on technology for communication and persuasion, such technology will only succeed in advancing U.S. interests if it serves well-informed policies; if the senior makers of those policies use and understand the technologies themselves; and if the practitioners carrying out those policies remember that putting a human face on an institution’s words and actions and establishing positive relationships — on and offline — with people working toward shared goals matter more than the substance of any particular message. Ironically, digital technology is making this human connection more possible now than at any time in the modern era.”

The survey of current programs included in the report continues to use the taxonomy of program developed for the 2009 report: Collaboration, Discourse, First Three Feet, Infrastructure, Modeling and Forecasting, Psych Defense, Social Media, and Understanding. The inventory reflects an increased understanding of the communication environment and suggests. Out of the some 30 programs listed, only one is at the State Department (the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communication, or CSCC) and arguably a benefactor of S&T investment rather than a product of S&T investment.

(Full disclosure: I was a co-author of the 2009 report and consulted on the 2012 report.)

Bringing Public Diplomacy 2.0 to the next level

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.

Freedom to Connect

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

Freedom to ConnectIn 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.

Continue reading “Freedom to Connect”

Revamping Public Diplomacy at the State Department (updated)

imageSince 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.

Continue reading “Revamping Public Diplomacy at the State Department (updated)”

Event: International Broadcasting and Public Media

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’?).

Continue reading “Event: International Broadcasting and Public Media”

Sharing links with mri.to

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 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.)

Event: The hidden geopolitics of cyberspace

From the USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism:

The Annenberg Research Seminar series, the USC Center on Public Diplomacy and the USC Master’s in Public Diplomacy program welcome Dr. Ronald Deibert for a conversation about “The hidden geopolitics of cyberspace.” Deibert is an associate professor of political science and director of the Citizen Lab at the Munk Centre for International Studies at the University of Toronto. The Citizen Lab is an interdisciplinary research and development hothouse working at the intersection of the Internet, global security, and human rights. He will be speaking about his current project which monitors, analyzes and investigates the impact of power in cyberspace as it relates to public diplomacy. This is the last in a series of Canadian-US Fulbright Chair in Public Diplomacy talks. This talk is a presentation of the Annenberg Research Seminar series. Lunch will be served. RSVP requested. To RSVP, click here.  If you are having problems submitting your RSVP, please contact cpdevent@usc.edu.

Checkout Ron’s website and follow him on Twitter: @citizenlab.

Political News and Social Media with Politico Editor Jim VandeHei

Eric Schwartzman interviews Politico editor Jim VandeHei on Politico and his views social media. As always, Eric is an able interviewer who asks smart, well-researched questions. The result is a good “brain-picking” of VendeHei on the “future of grassroots diplomacy, the growth of emerging communications channels like social and mobile for news consumption,” in particularly how “Politico amalgamates the old media values of fairness and accuracy with the speed and immediacy of new technologies.”

Listen to the interview at On the Record Online. Eric provide a helpful timeline of the interview (copied below). Just before the 17 minute mark in the interview, just after the commercial, is a question the Broadcasting Board of Governors will have to wrestle with as they necessarily open to social media: who to do deal with vitriolic comments.

Also, Eric asked VandeHei a question from Don Kilburg, a Foreign Service Officer at the U.S. Dept. of State, on the hijack of the agendas of global media, online and offline, and global leaders by an individual who previously had an audience of at most fifty.

Continue reading “Political News and Social Media with Politico Editor Jim VandeHei”

Event: Digital Statecraft: Media, Broadcasting, and the Internet as Instruments of Public Diplomacy in the Middle East

Today, the Aspen Institute hosts a discussion on “digital statecraft” at its Washington, DC, office at DuPont Circle. Digital Statecraft: Media, Broadcasting, and the Internet as Instruments of Public Diplomacy in the Middle East will feature Walter Isaacson, President and CEO of the Aspen Institute and Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors; Eli Khoury, CEO of Quantum Communications, a leading advertising and communications firm in the Middle East; and Duncan MacInnes, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP) in the Office of the Under Secretary of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.

The topic is “the use of social and digital media as a tool to promote a vibrant civil society in the Middle East” and will include “insights and lessons learned from their extensive experience in the media sector and the region.”

The event will be webcast and archived on the Aspen Institute’s website. Lunch will also be served.

Date: today, Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Time: 12p – 1p

RSVP is requested: call 202-736-2526 or email maysam.ali@aspeninstitute.org.

See also: