Public Diplomacy & New Technologies

Briefly, Public Diplomacy & New Technologies by John Matel:

Initial use of the web for public diplomacy and strategic communications involved online versions of familiar delivery methods, such as magazines, radio and television. Despite vast differences among them, all these shared the paradigm of one-way communications, where a set message was delivered to a passive audience in a one speaker to many recipients model. It ignored the web's special capacity for interaction. ... We tend to focus on the instant communication aspect of the Internet, but the sinews of its influence are its capacity to find, sort and distribute information. Powerful search engines give individuals the power enjoyed only by world leaders few decades ago and before that time by nobody at all. Governments have lost what monopolies they once enjoyed and are now sometimes not even the most prominent voices. Controlling information is no longer possible. ... The ubiquity and interactive aspects of Web 2.0 offer public diplomacy the possibility of direct engagement with thousands of individuals on a global scale. We can bypass the state run media and the various despotic gatekeepers that have long hounded the quest for truth & knowledge. In the exchange, however, we get a world of constant change, requiring flexibility and creativity, where you have to earn attention again and again every day. ... Internet 2.0 will strengthen "tribes" as people can go online to find others with whom they identify even across great geographical distances. (Of course, the tribes I am not talking about are not kinship of linage, but kinship of ideas.) This may lead to greater trust within groups, as they become more uniform and homogeneous, but also lead to a general decline in tolerance overall, since most people will be out-groups to any particular in groups. Early hopes that Internet would weave the world together in a kind of cyber age of Aquarius have been dashed against the reality of self-selection and segregation. In a mass information market, differing viewpoints must be tolerated, not so in the case of core groups of believers autoerotically communicating among themselves on the Internet. Where websites and blogs are most developed, disagreements have become sharper and more venomous. ... [W]eb 2.0 has as much or more capacity to puncture and disassemble public diplomacy messages as it does to deliver them. ... We cannot prescribe the particular technological tools for any public affairs task until we have assessed the task and the environment. ... There is no silver bullet or Holy Grail of communications. It is easy to be beguiled by the new or the latest big thing, but technology is not communication and the medium is not the message. It is only the method.

Read the whole post here.

This confirmed completely with MountainRunner's #1 Rule of Public Diplomacy: think and operate by, with, and through "locals" (socially, ideologically, culturally, not necessarily geographically) because the medium is not the message, the people are.

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