I had the good fortune to attend a discussion last week between Alec Ross, the Senior Advisor for Innovation in the office of Secretary of State Clinton and Marc Lynch, professor of political science at George Washington University and a featured blogger on Foreign Policy.com. The focus of the discussion was primarily about the use of media technology for outreach and public diplomacy in the Arab world. Each gave a short presentation that talked about the need for embracing technology, and for sustaining realistic attitudes towards what communication technology can accomplish for the US State Department. For this blog post, I’ll summarize a few of the interesting points they raised:
I just posted a somewhat lengthy blog essay over at the USC Center on Public Diplomacy blog. It promotes Robin Brown‘s argument for a social network approach to the practice and study of public diplomacy.
As academics from various disciplines begin to look more aggressively at theoretical frameworks for public diplomacy scholarship, I think that social network analysis will be prominent. This insight isn’t exactly new -see the interesting work of Ali Fisher and Steven Corman – but I think it bears repeating. More importantly, I think that a social network approach isn’t just a programmatic way to study public diplomacy. It’s a valuable tool for evaluation and measurement that can directly impact how PD is both assessed and formulated.
There’s of course “room” for other theoretical perspectives and contributions (especially in normative, media, and critical theory), but social networks will increasingly offer compelling empirical measures that can speak to immediate concerns over the structures of influence – the terrain that PD and diplomacy must navigate in an informed way.