Public Diplomacy 2.0: Presentation by Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy James Glassman

Today I attended the presentation “Public Diplomacy 2.0” by the State Department’s Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy James Glassman at the New America Foundation. The presentation and discussion was on using web 2.0 technologies for public diplomacy, with a focus on specific examples, both within the State Department and in the wider world. Audio (MP3) and video of the event are both available.

Glassman focused a good deal on the “war of ideas”, basically idea that the U.S. needs to use public diplomacy (and strategic communications) more to encourage people to choose alternatives to violence instead of trying to make the U.S. more popular. Much as been written on this, so I will keep my notes in this area limited. Nonetheless, it is important to understand that much of the following was presented through this lens.

As I saw it, Glassman had two main points:

  1. Not the technology: Public diplomacy 2.0 is not, and should not be, about the technology. Instead, public diplomacy 2.0 is a (somewhat) new process for communication and, more importantly, engagement. Indeed, Glassman noted that the State Department has long been doing web 2.0 style public diplomacy, just without (or with different) technology. He pointed to cultural exchanges and encouraging foreigners to study in the U.S. as exemplifying “web 2.0” type two-way engagement the U.S. government has long been involved with.

    One of the primary examples Glassman gave of this point was the Columbian movement against FARC which, by utilizing the social networking site Facebook, put millions of people on streets around the world to protest against the rebel group. While he noted that Facebook was important to facilitate the marches, there had to be a preexisting enabling environment.

  2. Web 2.0 gives the U.S. a significant competitive advantage: This new conversational medium gives the United States a significant competitive advantage over our opponents, most specifically Al Qaeda. Glassman’s argument is that the U.S.’s fundamental message (democracy, personal freedom, etc) is more compatible with the web 2.0 world than Al Qaeda’s (war of cultures, global jihad, etc). Ultimately, Glassman argues that, to be successful, Al Qaeda needs to control the message, which is not possible in the web 2.0 marketplace of ideas. To quote directly: “There is a reason Al Qaeda blows up marketplaces”.

    To support this point, Glassman highlighted Al Qaeda’s difficulty with engaging on social networks and video sharing sites since that opens them up to direct criticism which then dilutes their message. In contrast, Glassman mentioned the Democracy Video Challenge, which encourages the public to submit a video on how they view democracy. Importantly, the winning video may not share the Department of State or U.S. government’s perspective on democracy.

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Brookings Institution Report, Voices of America: U.S. Public Diplomacy for the 21st Century

I typically don’t post much on my work, but expect that to change as I get more involved in public diplomacy and social media.

Today I attended the launch for Brookings Institution‘s report Voices of America: U.S. Public Diplomacy for the 21st Century (full report, PDF). I’ve yet to read the report and others are probably better suited to critique it than me, so I will give a brief overview of the proposal and then focus on summarizing the panel discussion.

Report Proposals

Voices of America: U.S. Public Diplomacy for the 21st CenturyAs most of the recent reports have argued, the United States government needs a coordinated public diplomacy plan that includes all agencies who are participating in this type of engagement. This is clear for a variety of reasons and pretty much universally accepted.

What’s unique about the Brookings report is the proposal to create a new independent, non-profit, organization, similar to RAND or the British Council, which would work in service of U.S. public diplomacy efforts. Importantly, existing responsibility for public diplomacy in the U.S. government would remain unchanged. This is a key distinction, since other reports (such as this one from Heritage) have suggested consolidating all public diplomacy and strategic communication activities in a new agency (such as a reconstituted USIA).

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The 2008 Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta

Corvette C6R of GM Racing is overtaken by the LMP2 Acura ARX-01b of De Farran Motorsports

Coming out of turn 6, the Corvette C6R of GM Racing is overtaken by the LMP2 Acura ARX-01b of De Farran Motorsports. The Corvette would later run into mechanical trouble and finish several laps behind their #3 Corvette teammates.

This past weekend, I attended the 11th annual Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. This was the penultimate race of the American Le Mans (ALMS) season and the season’s second endurance race, clocking in at 10 hours (or 1,000 miles). While I am a Formula One fan at heart, ALMS is great for the looser atmosphere and greater public access to pit lanes, garages drivers and crew, and, of course, the cars. This was the first auto race I’ve been to, and I was not disappointed.

With perfect weather, a strong field of competitors (including the evenly matched challengers of Audi and Peugeot for LMP1 victory), and a qualifying session which smashed the record books, the race to the finish of the 11th Petit Le Mans was sure to be exciting. And exciting it was. Not only was it the longest Petit Le Mans in history, it also saw one of the closest margins of victory.

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Why we know less than ever about the world (Alisa Miller, from Ted Talks)

Following up on my earlier post on the death of the foreign desk is this fascinating presentation by Alisa Miller, head of Public Radio International. She focuses on why the United States’ news media is showing even less about the world than ever – despite everyone professing to wanting to know more.

The most arresting fact? In US news coverage for February 2007, one story eclipsed news reports of all countries except Iraq: the death of Anna Nicole Smith. This was the same month that the IPCC released a report saying climate change is unequivocal and caused by human activity, Iran continued its nuclear enrichment program, North Korea decided to dismantle its nuclear facilities, and unrest was unabated in Afghanistan, Palestine, Pakistan, Somalia, Thailand, throughout Africa and in many other counties.

A few other important points:

  • In the past few years, news networks have reduced the number of their foreign bureaus by 50%.
  • There are almost no network news bureaus in all of Africa, India or South America.

Pink News also has an interesting interview with Miller, where she discusses PRI’s challenges and recent successes.