Toward a Public Diplomacy Research Agenda

April 20, 2010

My thought is that an empirical PD research agenda comprises several core elements.

1. Contexts: What is the context for PD? To a considerable extent this comes from international relations or international communications research. It has both longer and shorter term elements. In the longer term has does the changing nature of the political/media environment affect the practice and prospects for PD?  In the shorter term the impact of political events on PD.

2. Institutions and practices: This category is about what what states do: conceptualizations, policies, organizations, practices. Arguably most academic work that could be identified as PD studies actually falls into this category.
3. Impact and effects: Metrics in PD are a recurring problem for practitioners.  This is a major challenge for scholars as well. Here we need to draw on insights from other fields.  I will come back to this in future posts but this is a theoretical challenge as well as an empirical one.  What works, in what situations and why?

These three elements all fit together.  Context and impact can be assumed to affect the performance of institutions. Practices reflect assumptions about context and effectiveness.  I think that it’s important to clarify what research is trying to do.  In a new area like PD the temptation is to try and do everything at once.

Having identified three areas we can immediately start adding others.
4. Ethical and legal issues: PD raises lots of interesting normative questions. One one hand there are the questions of communication for instance issues about manipulation. On the other hand we are talking about activities that are undertaken by states and this raises questions of international ethics, for example what is the standing of foreigners in domestic debates?

I’m going to stop there for the moment.  I have a feeling that this is a post that I’m going to be coming back to.

Update: 23 April 2010

One additional set of issues that I would add are the determinants of national images.  If part of PD at least is about shaping the perceptions of images in the world we need understand what they are and how they are shaped.


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