Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Public Diplomacy

This weeks readings proved to be quite interesting and I particularly enjoyed Joseph Nye’s article entitled, “Public Diplomacy and Soft Power.” There are two points in particular that I found to be quite interesting.

First, I found Nye’s discussion of the “paradox of plenty” to be interesting. “Paradox of plenty” means that “when people are overwhelmed with the volume of information confronting them, it is hard for them to know what to focus on.” He then states that those who can distinguish what is valuable from the massive amount of information will gain power. This reminds me of a previous discussion we had in class about teaching people media literacy. In order to develop informed opinions, people should learn how to critically analyze the information they receive. Similarly, I believe that having “plenty” of information is not necessarily the issue, but rather, educating the public on how to extract what is relevant is.

Secondly, Nye makes the argument that a dimension of public diplomacy should include the “development of lasting relationships.” In particular, he uses the example of exchange programs to highlight his point. As an alumna of the Japanese exchange program to which he refers, I can personally attest to the benefits of these programs. While incorporating these programs into a country’s public diplomacy efforts is important, the key to their success lies in having an alumni association, or some way for participants to keep in touch after they complete the program. Without this type of connection, a government will not be able to harness the goodwill that was experienced during the program into something that is beneficial for them in the long-term. Additionally, I think that more exchange programs should require the participants to educate their home community upon returning. These community education programs should focus on building a greater cross-culture appreciation, which is currently lacking in our nation. While some programs do this, unfortunately, many of them do not. Only when the citizens of the “sending country” are educated about other cultures can the mutual understanding process that is crucial for the success of public diplomacy begin to take place.

1 comment:

  1. Zainabu,
    I didn't know you did the JET program - it sounds fascinating. I was also struck with the discussion of the "paradox of plenty" and find myself facing this same dilemma when I'm looking up information online. But I also agree that bountiful information is not the issue, but rather, and as the authors note - the role of trusted editor is now all the more important. I also think the role of alumni associations is critically important to the success of these cultural exchange programs. Good university development departments have show that when done well, keeping ties with alumni is key to not only sources of donations but also a new stream of applicants. I think this works the same for these programs.