Archive for June, 2010


New Issue of Journal of International Communication

June 25, 2010

Voume 16: 1, 2010 of Journal of International Communication, edited by Naren Chitty at MacQuarrie University has just turned up in my mail box there are several pieces that might interest readers of this blog

Li Xiguang and Wang Jing, ‘Web Based Public Diplomacy: The Role of Social Media in the Iranian and Xinjiang Riots’  (7-22)  this concludes by arguing that China should develop its own social media PD strategy.

There is a lecture by Mark Scott, managing director of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on ‘A Global ABC: Soft Diplomacy and the World of International Broadcasting’  that discusses the international strategy of ABC (75-85).

And for those of you who sometimes wonder what the field of of International Communication is (this includes me even though IC is part of my job title) there is a a report on the field based on interviews with ‘experts’ .  I’m looking forward to reading this to find out what I do.

Unfortunately Journal of International Communication does not have much of a web presence so no links.


Football, Soft Power and the Decline of Europe

June 24, 2010

A couple of weeks ago John Brown posted on the waning influence of American popular culture in part because of the failure to export American sports.   ( Of course the US has the UFC but I’m not sure that’s the image the State Department wants to promote*)

Over this side of the Atlantic we’re now wondering about the the decline in European football.   I’m particularly fascinated by the fact that President Sarko is personally investigating the state of the French team.  The last time the Italians were knocked out of the Mondiale at this stage they were pelted with rotten fruit on their return home.  What’s Silvio going to do?

I’m rambling:  the reason I started  this post was simply to point out that Nation Branding has an interesting analysis of the impact of the world cup on national brands.

*Note to self: This blog is getting far too heavy – must write a  post on the globalization of mixed martial arts to lower the tone a bit.


Thinking About Relationships

June 23, 2010

Ok so we are convinced that PD needs to take a relational turn.  That is we ought to stop obsessing about messages and communication and think about how we can build relationships.

As I pointed out in an earlier post there are several different genres of relational PD in the literature eg PR, technological, dialogical, organizational but they are mostly vague about what constitutes a relationship.

From the PR literature we get the idea that relationships are supposed to be symmetrical and/or based in dialogue.  I think  that it is important to note that this is a very particular perspective on relationships;  network analysis,  social theory (and our own experience)  offer a range of alternative perspectives.

A few propositions:

Social relationships involve more than communications.  Relationships can be thought of in terms of exchanges of material and non-material resources.   Foreign publics (lets be more concrete – individuals, groups, organizations) enter into relationships with states either because they feel some affinity already (diaspora groups?) or because they think that they are going to get something out of it – resources, prestige, information, help toward a desired goal.

Some relationships are tied to a particular activity (eg people you see at work but not outside of it) or to a particular period (if you change your job how many of your former colleagues do you stay in touch with?) Some relationships are more transposable – eg close friends.   To what are the relationships constructed by PD activities self-sustaining?

Relationships compete for attention and resources.  You can only judge the importance of a relationship    relative to someone else’s set of relationships.  I think that this is one of the basic problems of diplomacy: your relationship with someone else is really good.   Unfortunately their relationship with somebody else is even better.

Relationships aren’t necessarily positive.  You may have a very strong relationship with someone based on the idea that you’d like to put them out of business.

There is a lot more to be said about the characteristics of relationships but the take away for now is that most relationships have little to do with Habermasian dialogue and a lot more to do with standard human interests.


What Academics Say About PD (Revisited)

June 21, 2010

At the moment I’m working though a huge stack of PD reading and it keeps getting bigger because I keep finding interesting references to follow up.  So   today via a citation in Kathy Fitzpatrick’s piece in the Hague Journal of Diplomacy it’s Kristin Lord’s 2005 conference paper ‘What Academics (Should Have to) Say About Public Diplomacy‘ that that got to the top of the reading pile.

The starting point is that most of the post 9/11 writing on PD was by practitioners, policy types and think tankers not the academy.   In the paper she examines the resources that the research literature  can provide.  In particular she  focuses on work in constructivist international relations and social psychology.   (I’ll come back to constructivist IR in a later post as I’ve been meaning to write about the Thomas Risse piece that Kristen cites).

Lord reviews studies from a number of areas.  She looks at the circumstances under which contact will produce positive feelings, the dynamics of  ingroup and outgroup identity and its role in conflict, the way in which relations conceptualized as hostile and friendly shape the reception of messages.  Her conclusion is that public diplomacy should seek to promote complex, cross cutting identities  and to be aware of the impact of categories that practitioners use for instance talking about the ‘Muslim world’  as well as the categories that exist in groups whose attitudes are relevant.   This engagement with the social psychology literature is not something that I’ve seen picked up on in other recent work but it does make a couple of connections to older work that in turn connects the work that I’m doing that underpins this blog.

My interest in networks partly stems from the belief that a network perspective allows us to pull together some apparently disparate strands of literature and work towards a more integrated perspective on Public Diplomacy.    The social psychology literature connects both to the development of network thinking and to the pre history of PD research in psychological warfare.  Firstly, the development of social psychology in the middle of the 20th Century was very much tied to the development of network analysis as a tool for analysing group dynamics.  Indeed the journal Social Psychology was originally called Sociometry for the method of its founder Jacob Moreno who is regarded by many as the father of social network analysis.  Paul Lazarsfeld, the founder of the Columbia School, actually collaborated with Moreno and as Columbia studies developed they increasingly gave prominence to the role of social networks in shaping communication effects. The irony is that Lazarsfeld’s work on surveys and statistical methods was one of the factors that pushed American social science away from networks and towards a focus on the individual.  What I mean here is thinking about the effects of communication as something that happens to an individual divorced from any social context.

Secondly,  one of the major sources of theoretical and empirical development in American social science in the 1940s and 1950s was psychological warfare research.  I think that is important for the new generation of PD scholars to know some of the history of this work,  because some of it is helpful and relevant to current concerns  but also to avoid some of the dead ends.  Simpson covers some of the history and there are interesting overlaps between the characters in his story and the stories told in the books by Freeman and Gilman.

A third connection that occurred to me in reading the paper  is  with New York School of relational sociology and  the emphasis on categorization as an aspect of identity.  People consider themselves as groups and in defining themselves define others.  How we categorize people, how they categorize us and how they categorize themselves has significant impacts on social dynamics.  One of the major strands of the New York School, going back to Harrison White’s recently published lectures at Havard in the 1960s is precisely the consideration of intersection between culture and social structure or between categories and networks.  The important point is that groups emerge from the intersection of relations and categories – and are potentially constructed from either side.  This makes explicit the relationship between categories, identities and relations.

What this says to me is that the current generation of PD scholars should be thinking about the intellectual history of the field not just its institutional history.

Fitzpatrick, K. (2007) ‘Advancing the New Public Diplomacy: A Public Relations Perspective’, Hague Journal of Diplomacy, 2: 187-211.

Freeman, L.C. (2004) The Development of Social Network Analysis: A Study in the Sociology of Science. Vancouver, BC: Empirical Press.

Gilman, N. (2004) Mandarins of the Future: Modernization Theory in Cold War America. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Lord, K.M. (2005) ‘What Academics (Should Have To Say) About Public Diplomacy’, Washington DC: APSA

Simpson, C. (1994) Science of Coercion: Communication Research and Psychological Warfare 1945-1960. New York: Oxford University Press.

White, H.C. (2008) ‘Notes on the Constituents of Social Structure: Soc. Rel. 10 – Spring ’65’, Sociologica, 1/2008: 1-14.  Available here


Public Diplomacy vs Political Campaigns

June 17, 2010

Reading the Lord and Lynch CNAS report about Obama’s public diplomacy strategy crystallized a couple thoughts about the differences between public diplomacy and election campaigns.

  1. (Some) Election campaigns have a lot more money.  On the first page of Battles to Bridges Rhonda Zaharna says that the US Shared Values advertising campaign in the Islamic World in 2001-02 cost $12m.  The Obama Campaign spent $730m to influence a much smaller number of people.  (Yes I know I’m not talking constant dollars)but this comparison is misleading because political campaigns are much easier than public diplomacy.
  2. Election campaigns only have one objective: to produce a victory on election day, having said that campaigns regularly fail because of their inability to focus on the objective and maintain a coherent strategy.  Public Diplomacy frequently lacks such a clear focus.  Lynch and Lord list seven objectives of the US engagement strategy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan.
  3. Producing an action (voting) is often easier than changing somebody’s attitude or opinion.  A vote cast by somebody acting on impulse or out of ignorance counts just as much as one cast on the basis of a rational consideration of the alternatives. The effect of an electoral campaign can be quite short lived by still effective.

In considering PD activities the relationship between the desired effect and the necessary resources is a central strategic question.


CNAS Report on Obama’s Engagement Strategy

June 17, 2010

I’ve been reading the report on the Obama Administration’s global engagement strategy that was put out by the Center for a New American Security  a few weeks ago.  Given that the report was put together by Kristin Lord  and Marc Lynch (both of whom have done important work at the IR/Communication interface)  it’s not surprising that it’s an excellent and substantive work.  I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to get an up to date understanding of where the Administration is at the moment.


Four Questions on Resource Allocation

June 11, 2010
      Rushing off to meetings but four quick questions

    1. How much resource should a country devote to PD?
    2. How do countries decide how to allocate resources to PD?
    3. How should this resource be divided up between different countries/issues/activities?
    4. How do countries allocate PD resources to different activities?

It seems to be me that Public Diplomacy studies should have a way to answer these questions.

Questions 1 and 3 really require us to develop some ideas  about measures and methodologies.  If anyone can point me towards some efforts to do this I’d be really interested.

Questions 2 and 3 need comparative research.  My guess at the answer to these is a standard institutionalist answer that you get what you got last year plus or minus x%.  The question is then why did these patterns of resource allocation appear?  This points us towards ideas of punctuated equilibrium and path dependency.  One of the criticisms that has been made of British PD over the past 10-15 years (for instance in the studies that Mark Leonard did for the Foreign Policy Centre) is that resources have not been allocated on the basis of strategic priorities but because we’ve always done that.

See also this post More Questions on Resource Allocation