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Public Diplomacy and the Web 2.0

by on April 22, 2012

Personal computers with Internet are now available to citizens across the globe (despite of an uneven distribution) and for this reason, newspapers and TV news have significantly lost their importance for “web 2.0” or social media (Wikileaks, public diplomacy 2011:3). Social media refers to user-generated content online such as blogs, Facebook, YouTube, and so on.  These new communication platforms are democratic since, unlike newspapers, they do not have a hierarchical structure and gatekeepers to stop the free flow of information and the user is free to publish anything (Hanson 2011:2). Plus, news and events are reported in real-time which requires governments to respond much quicker to these. Also, social media is now a “new solution to old problems”, as these platforms can influence democratic change in an authoritarian regime (Hanson 2011:4). For instance, Facebook played an important role in the Arab Spring. For these reasons, it is undeniable how powerful these platforms can be in the 21st century.

The new platforms of communication require commitment from the diplomats to listen, not to overload people with their own message since people now have a “voice” in international affairs (Rana 2011:240). Engaging with foreign publics became an objective in public diplomacy. The following video provides a very good overview of the importance of social media and some initiatives of the American government (is lengthy but interesting).

It, also, mentions “Twitter briefings” as an initiative to engage with the public. This innovative approach from the American State Department consists on collecting questions people published on twitter in ten different languages plus English regarding policy issues. Then, the Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland answer these in Youtube videos. The videos are translated in the other ten languages to reach the people who submitted the questions. This initiative demonstrates the strategies the American government is implementing to engage with the public as they are listening to national and international audiences.

The social media became an important tool in Public diplomacy. Communication platforms have empowered the public and, currently, people want to be heard by governments. For this reason, nowadays listening is as important as talking. Initiatives as the “Twitter Briefings” from the American government are important and essential in the practise of public diplomacy.

References

Hanson, F.  (2011) The New Public Diplomacy [online] Australian Institute of International Affairs. Available at: <http://www.aiia.asn.au/act-papers/doc_download/654-aiia-policy-commentary-ict4ir&gt;

New America Foundation (2012) Public Diplomacy in the Age of Social Media [online]. [Accessed 10th March 2012] Available from: <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZI_cMjlgOpc&gt;

Rana, K. (2011) 21st century diplomacy: a practitioner’s guide

New York: Continuum International

Wikileaks, public diplomacy 2.0 and the state of digital public diplomacy [Editorial] (2011) Place Branding and Public Diplomacy. 7, 1–8

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