Looking into the future from the past is often fascinating. A Bell Labs film from 1961 on the changing communication environment predicts the future information age as it projects its technology into the future. This includes machine to machine communication, online ordering, e-commerce, and cellular phones, is no different. The underlying purpose is preparing the audience for change.
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.)
The July/August issue of PDiN Monitor, the electronic review of public diplomacy in the news by the USC Center on Public Diplomacy at the Annenberg School, focuses on the subject of Digital Diplomacy.
In “Beyond the Blackberry Ban: Realpolitik and the Negotiation of Digital Rights,” Shawn Powers looks at the Blackberry data network as a component of the global communications grid called for by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In doing so, Shawn asks,
…shouldn’t we be talking about the importance of maintaining the sanctity of such a network, and even thinking through how to get more secure, BlackBerry devices in the hands of civil society advocates and leaders in the Middle East? Or would such a strategy backfire, similar to the way U.S. arms sales to mujahidin during the Cold War continue to thwart American policy in Afghanistan today? …
But what would a world with ubiquitous secure, mobile communications actually look like? Would democracy and civil society flourish, or would hateful and violent groups be better able to organize and plan their terrorizing of society?
While I disagree with Shawn’s characterization of Wikileaks in his article as an organization “whose primary mission is to enhance democratic deliberations and accountability through transparency”, his points about the tension between the freedom and security of information exchange are valuable fodder for a serious discussion on the issue.
You’ve seen Did You Know 4.0, the update to Shift Happens that focuses on the changing media landscape, including convergence and technology. The convergence readers of this blog will appreciate is what I call “Now Media“: the reality that information influences, not platforms. Information is increasingly platform independent and platform jumping. Each mode of consumption will have certain advantages and disadvantages over other modes. Further, the consumption channel may not be the same as the delivery channel. This all conspires against the antiquated terms “new media” and “old media” that describe the conflict of broadcast/print and the Internet. As I often ask in my presentations, seminars, and classes: When you or your principal speaks to the BBC or The New York Times, do you specify the comments are only for the broadcast or print edition? Is the Associated Press new media when you get it via Yahoo and old media when you read it in The Washington Post?
Although it is not always the “last three feet” between an event and a consumer (which may or may not be the media itself), the Internet is instrumental in how information is distributed, modified, and consumed. This latest video entitled “The State of the Internet” by Jess3 compliments Did You Know by focusing on the “master” medium and online social networking.
- MountainRunner Institute periodically hosts Now Media seminars (and soon workshops). These events ground participants in the opportunities and threats in the modern information and physical environment of global communication and dynamic ‘diasporas’ (what I call “hyphens to commas”). In February and June, we convened a seminar in Washington, DC (http://nowmedia.eventbrite.com). In August, we convened a seminar in the San Antonio area. In October, we’ll hold it in Atlanta and we’re planning another event, location TBD. Email me for more information. An information page will be available soon.
By Ali Fisher
The now familiar story of the release of documents by Wikileaks and reported by the New York Times, The Guardian and Der Spiegel has been analysed from numerous angles considering potential impact on reputation and the relationship between digital and the more traditional print media.
The experience of Wikileaks has much in common with those engaged in Public Diplomacy and seeking to measure their attempts to disperse information on specific issues. Examining Wikileaks provides a case study of an attempt to map a network of influence and identify key nodes within that network.
The first step is to establish a baseline, which this post will cover, using data from June (prior to the release of documents). The increasing notoriety of Wikileaks during June was paralleled by increasing problems including the degradation and eventual collapse of the secure submission process, as reported by Ryan Singel. These technical issues and time spent dealing with the ripple effect from the arrest of Bradley Manning had the potential to interfere with the core work of Wikileaks ensuring information can reach a public audience.
Josh Rogin posts at The Cable that the Smith-Mundt Act came up in the Tuesday public affairs briefing at the State Department. Josh’s summary is a better read than the transcript:
Last week, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) convened the third annual Magharebia.com Writers Workshop. The workshop is a professional development course for new and established writers for AFRICOM’s Maghreb-centered news and information website, www.Magharebia.com. According to AFRICOM public affairs, the event “introduced new media tools and technologies while stressing the importance of sound journalistic principles for writing, blogging, and podcasting.”
The website www.Magharebia.com was started in 2005 by U.S. European Command (EUCOM) to “reach out to a younger audience in the North Africa region with news, sports, entertainment, and current affairs about the Maghreb in English, French and Arabic.” It is similar to EUCOM’s other sponsored news and information website, www.SETimes.com, “the news and views of Southeast Europe.”
These news sites are established and maintained under the regional Combatant Commander’s theater security requirement. In other words, due to the absence of information outlets focused on the region (excluding tightly controlled local propaganda stations), the Defense Department created and maintained these sites to provide news, analysis, and commentary collected from international media and contributors paid by the Combatant Commands. Their purpose is to increase awareness of regional and global issues to mitigate security threats that may stem from a lack of information, misinformation, or disinformation by local populations.
The purpose of the sites and the training is laudable and required. The just-concluded professional development conference is a good concept in that it promotes an exchange of ideas, encourages proper journalistic practices, and explores the use of new technologies. However, this and the sites themselves should be conducted, guided, and managed by the State Department, primarily State’s public diplomacy professionals.
The problem, of course, is resources. The State Department lacks both the money, the headcount, and the skills to create and manage sites like www.Magharebia.com and www.SETimes.com. The Defense Department, specifically the Combatant Commands, has a valid requirement the State Department cannot support at this time resulting in the continued militarization of America’s engagement with global audiences.
The State Department, specifically the Office of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, must be empowered and equipped (money and personnel) to take over these activities that support the requirements of the U.S. Government’s engagement around the world.
Establishing regional sites (and transferring existing sites) like Magharebia and SETimes is essential. These should not be brought under the umbrella of www.America.gov, which, with the passage of the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2010, should be split up, with parts merged with www.State.gov and other elements into regional sites.
These sites could continue to operate near the Government or become surrogate sites similar to RFE/RL.
These sites could move into State’s geographic bureaus, but these also do not have the skills, capabilities, or authorities necessary. State’s geographic bureaus are led by an Assistant Secretary, a rank that lacks the political power required and highlights State’s organizational focus on countries rather than regions. These Assistant Secretaries may often be regarded as bureaucratic equals to their Defense Department equivalents, though perhaps not functionally.
The best model is to expand and empower State’s public diplomacy and public affairs office as a global communicator for both the enterprise and across the government, as the situation warrants. State would be a service provider, supporting requirements and providing guidance and integration. It should have been doing this for years, but State’s long-lasting focus on diplomacy, rather than public diplomacy, plus Congressional misunderstanding of the requirements of civilian-led communication and engagement, created a vacuum, which the Defense Department (often unwillingly, tentatively, and frequently clumsily) filled.
These websites should be a topic of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy as a case study in unmet requirements and the building of capabilities, capacities, and the addition of necessary authorities to demilitarize America’s public diplomacy (or government-sponsored communication for those who disagree VOA et al. are “public diplomacy”). This should also be a subject of inquiry by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee, as well as explored by the new Coordinator for the Bureau of International Information Programs.
What do you think?
The Electronic Journal of Communication has an upcoming special issue entitled “Social Media in News Discourse.”
Information warfare, cyber-operations, and information security are areas of specialized research covering multiple areas of expertise. This conference is designed to bring together conceptualists, operators, and researchers to exchange and explore ideas covering these areas. Past conferences have attracted participants from all over the globe, providing for a rich environment of idea exchange.
What: 6th International Conference on Information Warfare and Security
When: 17-18 March 2011
Where: The George Washington University, Washington, DC, USA
Conference Chair: Dr. Julie Ryan, The George Washington University, Washington, DC, USA
Program Chair: Dr. Edwin Leigh Armistead, Edith Cowan University, Australia
Keynote Speaker: Matthew A. Stern, General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems, USA
Details can be found at the event’s website.
Charlie Savage reports at The New York Times that Democratic Senators proposed legislation to legislatively define who is a “journalist.” Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) drafted an amendment, likely to the “Free Flow of Information Act of 2009” (S. 448), that would apply the “media shield” to protect sources only to “traditional news-gathering activities and not to web sites that serve as a conduit for the mass dissemination of secret documents.
cA few select quotes from the article are below. To read the whole article, you’ll have to visit the CQ website.
“The central problem is that the law has not kept up with changes in technology,” said William M. ‘Mac’ Thornberry, a Texas Republican who is sponsoring the new legislation with Washington Democrat Adam Smith. “Whether it is the Internet, the most obvious example, or even satellite television broadcasts, it becomes extremely difficult to say this broadcast is not only intended for foreign audiences but will only go to foreign audiences.”
Although Smith-Mundt was aimed at State Department information activities, Thornberry and others say the Pentagon has embraced some of the law’s precepts. The House Armed Services Committee, in fact, wrote last year that the Pentagon had misinterpreted the statute and taken an “overly cautious approach” to communications for foreign audiences.
It’s not clear to what degree the Defense Department is using the law as a guidepost [today]. “I hear from some people inside the department that Smith-Mundt doesn’t come up anymore; I hear from others that it comes up all the time,” says Matt Armstrong, a principal with Armstrong Strategic Insights Group, and an authority on the subject.
Thornberry said Congress would use its oversight to ensure that the [amended] law wasn’t abused for domestic propaganda purposes.
The bill’s co-sponsors includes Democrats:
- Smith (WA)
- Tanner (TN)
- Loretta Sanchez (CA)
- Langevin (RI)
- Giffords (AZ)
- Boren (OK)
- McIntyre (NC)
- Murphy (NY)
- Rohrabacher (CA)
- Rehberg (MT)
- Miller (FL)
- Poe (TX)
- Rogers (AL)
- Conaway (TX)
- Inglis (SC)
See related posts:
- 2009 Smith-Mundt Symposium
- Senator Edward Zorinsky and Banning Domestic Dissemination by USIA in 1985
- Censoring the Voice of America at ForeignPolicy.com
- Pursuing Human Rights through Public Diplomacy, specifically the comment on members of Congress interested in public diplomacy
- Foreign outreach called deficient, an op-ed in The Washington Times
Today, the State Department announced Dawn L. McCall as the Coordinator of the Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP) within the Office of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. This long-awaited appointment will provide critical leadership in one of the most essential communication and engagement elements in the US Government, even if it is under-appreciated, under-staffed, under-resourced, and overly-limited in its ability to execute.
McCall is described by her former and again boss, Judith McHale as “an outstanding leader in international communications” who will “provide the IIP Bureau with vision and expertise to strengthen their important global communication and engagement activities.”
According to a source, McCall was instrumental in making Discovery Communications the international powerhouse it is today.
The actions of the Wikileaks organization will spark a much needed discussion on the roles of so-called “old” media and “new” media in to the modern environment. Just days before the public disclosure of classified material by the website Wikileaks and three major newspaper hand-picked by Wikileaks, Professor Dennis Murphy asked “Does new media really matter?” The cause of the question is itself interesting:an op-ed by Rhami Khouri titled “When Arabs Tweet” in the most classic “old media” outlets there is, The New York Times. The Times is also one of the three papers chosen by Wikileaks to disseminate initial commentary and analysis on the “Afghan War Diary“, as Wikileaks called the over 91,000 documents
Khouri argued that new media has little to no impact as it has “not triggered a single significant or lasting change in Arab or Iranian political culture. Not a single one. Zero.” Dennis responds with the big picture view:
Really? Let’s see…if you have a dialog about matters of political, national and international import is that just entertainment? Perhaps Khouri is looking for instant gratification (isn’t that ironic) through political upheaval. But perceptions change gradually over time. Perhaps this new media thing is opening up cognitive doors to an entire generation of Arab youth. And perhaps the cognitive dissonance will someday reach a point where the passivity will emerge into activism. Or, perhaps the dialog will, at a minimum, provide the variety of ideas that may spill over to the future when it is their turn to lead.
Khouri’s mistake, as my colleague Dennis points out, is the focus on immediate payback. True the “passive” online media means support can be expressed by means other than physical exposure, which Khouri describes as “passive”. While “new media” is characterized by the speed and persistency of potentially very visceral information, it is still simply a dynamic collection of information mediums in the struggle for minds and wills, and thus is just another element, as Dennis points out, in a broad environment. Flooding the zone with tweets will not itself cause action.
Flooding the zone from multiple sources of varying trustworthiness as well as providing, or merely suggesting, valid opportunities of actions, and you have something else. Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking platforms do not cause rebellion, but they can (and do) empower it by building the necessary confidence, trust, and support across groups of individuals that may otherwise not have known so many shared their convictions. This can lead to action in the real world. But the boiling point for action will vary as will the resulting backlash.
The most extensive report on the issues facing the Broadcasting Board of Governors and US international broadcasting was released this week. “US International Broadcasting – Is Anybody Listening? – Keeping the US Connected” (1mb PDF) was prepared by the staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, under the leadership of senior professional staff member Paul Foldi, and is the best, if not the only, substantial review of its kind.
The report describes the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) as transforming from its intent of a political “firewall” to a modern political “football” that has resulted in an average vacancy on the board of over 470 days. Even now, the new slate of members of the BBG has yet to be confirmed by the Senate.
Beyond staffing difficulties and the resulting repercussions, the report describes the fierce competition and imbalance, particularly with China and Russia, to engage listeners, viewers, and readers around the world. The report also recommends changes to the Smith-Mundt Act, describing the firewall as “anachronistic and potentially harmful.”
Some highlights from the report:
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.
Adjunct Assistant Professor of Media and Public Affairs
George Washington University
The Washington Post published an update on al-Qaeda’s successful venture into the world of knowledge management (KM) and its child, Computer-based training (CBT). While many businesses in America look for obstacles when deploying effective KM solutions (refusing to see the cost benefit of an imperfect deployment over no deployment over the wrong deployment), these ad hoc "franchises" of AQ latch on with vim and vigor, exploring the various opportunities available in cyberspace.
al Qaeda has become the first guerrilla movement in history to migrate from physical space to cyberspace. With laptops and DVDs, in secret hideouts and at neighborhood Internet cafes, young code-writing jihadists have sought to replicate the training, communication, planning and preaching facilities they lost in Afghanistan with countless new locations on the Internet.
Flexible, anonymous, collaborative knowledge sharing environments is what the web does best. Without being bogged down by bureucratic infighting to create the best practices before deployment, AQ and its affiliated nodes learn by trial and error, developing best practices the old fashioned way.
While easily identifiable items in the WP article are the Computer Based Training (CBT) examples, the real underlying concern is the information and knowledge sharing to build a smarter enterprise. These practices must be met with the same in our matching and superceding efforts, as they increasingly are. Decades old infighting between intelligence services that have led to ossified barriers between knowledge stores, including antiquated information systems, must be torn down and replaced.
The FBI’s Virtual Case File system was a disaster, an expensive ($170m) and time-consuming Dilbert-esque failure. The new Sentinel system is not expected to be in-place until 2009. This is not to say we are failing at every effort, but critical knokwledge hubs are not being addressed quick enough. Designing the perfect system takes time, providing an open platform that may be imperfect allows for expansion to meet the needs that are really necessary and develop after design milestones.
Collaborative methodologies take hold when users understand, demand, are heard, and responded to. A flatter organization, like AQ, with its transforming entrepreneurs will continue to evolve into a more formidable enemy because of reduced bureaucratic drag.