Monday, November 16, 2009

Soft power, public diplomacy and technology...what next?

I liked this week’s readings because I found that for the first time actually understand what soft power is and the role it plays in the field of public diplomacy. Joseph Nye defines soft power as “the ability to affect others to obtain the outcomes one wants through attraction rather than coercion and payment”. He goes on to say, “A country’s soft power rests on its resources of culture, values, and policies”. In essence soft power is the attempt to promote a country’s culture and values to the public in foreign countries, and hopefully create a positive image and understanding, so foreigners will be more willing to help and support that country’s policies.

Joseph Nye in his reading, “Public Diplomacy and Soft Power”, mentions how the United States had a very good handle on the use of soft power during the cold war, but after it, its soft power initiatives began to decline because of the thought for its lack of importance. Many people thought soft power was merely a war tactic, and after the war well we had no use for it, so many cuts were made in programs, such as educational exchanges. The author also points out that the efforts for soft power after 9/11 have not been the best or the most successful.

Public diplomacy helps disseminate soft power efforts through broadcasting, subsidizing cultural exports, and arranging exchanges. Soft power is divulged through many types of mediums, such as: television, internet, radio, and actual face-to-face interaction. The export of television shows and Hollywood movies has a great impact on how foreigners view American culture, but it is a one way flow of information as are too the radio and usually the internet. Although the internet is capable of providing feedback, it can’t really substitute a face-to-face interaction. The mutual understanding of each other’s culture gives way to a stronger relationship and provides know-how on how to promote one’s culture elsewhere considering different values and customs.

In talking about the internet and face-to-face interaction, it is important to mention the Public Diplomacy 2.0 (PD 2.0) approach which James Glassman describes in his speech, “Public Diplomacy 2.0”. He first emphasizes that PD 2.0 is not a new technology; it is an approach to public diplomacy which uses social networking technologies to its advantage and in keeping up with the changing information age. The Internet today is based on interactivity and conversation; it is a democratic virtual world. There are so many sources of information if you don’t trust one go to another source, or read through many sources and then make your own informed decisions. PD 2.0 initiatives include the use of blogs, websites, webchats, social networking sites, virtual worlds, etc. I found an example Glassman gives particularly interesting, that in Columbia a young man started a facebook group called, One Million Voices Against the FARC, which is a terrorist group, and got 400,000 members and the group got 12 million people around the world to participate in an activity where they all took to the streets. I remember in one of my classes someone had pointed out how influential can becoming a member of a facebook group actually be? This example shows exactly how influential it can be and how it can make a difference. Finally, the integration of new technologies into public diplomacy and soft power efforts can be very beneficial, especially in our constantly changing world. Initiatives must keep up with the changes, for them to be effective.

1 comment:

  1. Totally agree with your summary!! This week helped me as well, especially since I am a "foreigner" to the IC program. When the terms "hard power and soft power" were used I was able to understand the points being made, but this week's readings definitely helped me to better understand and associate levels of significance with each term. Nye's closing statements of successful and unsuccessful uses of soft and hard power were very enlightening for me as well. Now the only question that remains for me (not sure about you) is what is an example of "smart power?" :)