Friday, February 25, 2011

Just a little... Chaos!

I just realized that despite the name of the blog itself, I've never had a post that carried the "Chaos" title. I guess now is the perfect time...

Firstly - apologies for my silence over the past days. Besides all the craziness that somehow decided to take over my life this particular week, I also got the great news I had been impatiently waiting for... three months, now. I'll be proudly joining the 2011 incoming doctoral class at the School of International Service, American University this fall, and continue my work in the area of the chaotic nexus of international relations and (strategic) communication! Public Diplomacy will certainly stay on top of the agenda, and this blog will - hopefully - not disappear after May (expected graduation). Received many congrats, but also expressions of sympathy... Oh well, I guess I had sold my soul to the devil of "The Academe" a while back, so right now I can confidently say that I'm super-excited and am, indeed, looking forward to continuing my work with all the great people at AU and in DC I have come to know and admire since getting here.

Inspiring...? From PhD Comics.

Some other highlights: as all those who follow the Public Diplomacy Press and Blog Review already know, Chris Dufour (a.k.a. Du4) was at our Public Diplomacy class today, for an AWESOME discussion on public diplomacy, strategic communication, and strategic coordination, or rather, lack thereof. After all the recent arguments and discussions on the subject of "social media revolutions", the absence of such, and the implications for U.S. foreign policy and public diplomacy, it was refreshing to hear Du4's perspective. I guess I would categorize him as a "cyber realist", who did spell it out in one sentence: "There is no such thing as a 'Twitter Revolution'; there is a revolution that uses Twitter as a tool."

Thank you. Gladwell and Shirky can calm down, now.

Courtesy of Denver Post.

He also talked about the lack of interagency coordination and the absence of a coherent strategy in the U.S. public diplomacy. Certainly, not a new concern; however, ever more urgent, as the State Department (though, not only) seems to be rapidly enhancing its "new media" fetish. After all, in the current context not only does the "right hand" of the public diplomacy "structure" have to know what the "left hand" is doing (which, apparently, happens rarely), but it might also have to keep track of all that is blogged, tweeted, Facebooked, YouTube-d, flicker-ed, etc...

Impossible? Perhaps. Well, then, can the "open source" approach to public diplomacy be a viable alternative? Not so, Du4 says, unless there is a "grand strategy" behind it all. Somewhat reflects Zaharna's argument, with which I tend to agree. Yes, social networking is a good tool for enhancing people-to-people communication (P2P - the term seems so old now!), encouraging conversations, and promoting what Shirky called the "environmental"  approach to social media.

"Twitterhea", from HubSpot Blog.

Yet, it cannot and should not be the only "approach" to the U.S. public diplomacy, no matter how "cheap" or "easily available". All that is good, particularly in terms of communicating the value of "plurality" that America seems to have patented (many different voices, multiple messages...); but it's only good insofar as it complements a well-coordinated, multi-dimensional and multi-faceted strategy, with a time frame that ranges from "immediate" (remember the "now media"?) to the "very-long-term" (and here, I mean decades). Some of it can be outsourced, of course, whether to "professionals" or the public itself; but with many in the world now getting the "public diplomacy" (traditional style) fever, completely discarding the notion of a coherent public diplomacy strategy (please note, I am not referring to the tools, here), might prove disastrous for U.S. interests, especially in the mid-to-long-run.

And to highlight what Du4 himself referred to: in the end of the day, credibility is what matters, especially for a government. And certainly, the number of tweeters or tweets, or the YouTube video uploads will not automatically bring that about, as long as the source itself is seen as lacking credibility or trustworthiness.  

Today, I also came across this new, very weird Russia Today TV promo. Thought I should share here, too.

I don't know what RT is trying to convey through this "ad", but seems to be attempting to respond to criticism of it essentially being Moscow's propaganda tool and incorporate some key public diplomacy "concepts" such as "truth" or "listening".

Hmm... Don't know about you, but to me this just looks ridiculous (yes, yet again!). The tone, the people featured, the approach... And most of all, the prominence of the word "propaganda", which, in English, has strong negative connotations and does not bring about any "truth"- or "listening"-related associations to mind.

And to leave you with, perhaps, the most memorable quote from Du4, tonight:
"Find the passion groups in what you're passionate about, and engage with them."

Well, that's inspiring!

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