Public Diplomacy and Social Media

January 24, 2011

I’ve just got back from a week in India where one of the things that I was doing was talking about social media and public diplomacy so I was interested to see that Giles Scott-Smith has posted a summary of a talk that Alec Ross, Senior Advisor for Innovation at the State Department gave in the Netherlands.

On my travels I was reading Evgeny Morozov’s The Net Delusion: How Not to Liberate the World  and the new paper from Linda Khatib, William Dutton and Michael Thelwall on State Department Digital Outreach Team so it’s  probably not too surprising that I’m sceptical about the Alec Ross world view.

Broadly speaking there are two sets of issues here.  Firstly the institutional ones of how you integrate social media into diplomacy.  What priority should you give to it and what resources should you allocate?  One of the lessons that I see in many of these initiatives like the Digital Outreach Team is the simple inadequacy of the resources relative to the size of the problem.  The second set of issues are more fundamental – what is the impact and potential impact of PD2.o initiatives.   This in turn feeds back into the resource problem.  Some effects might be feasible in theory but not with any likely level of resourcing.



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