How do you think social media can be used (or not) for the three types of PD identified by Cowan and Arsenault?
As Cowan and Arsenault describe, “each of the three ‘layers’ of public diplomacy—monologue, dialogue, and collaboration—is essential at certain times and under certain situations. Nothing can match the poetry, clarity, emotional power, and memorability of a beautifully crafted speech or proclamation. Nothing helps build mutual understanding as well as a thoughtful dialogue. And nothing creates a sense of trust and mutual respect as fully as a meaningful collaboration” (p.11). What’s interesting to me when thinking about these layers is that social media tools can be utilized for all three levels to effectively complement each other, reaching a wider audience and spreading cross-cultural communication in ways that evolve by the moment.
Monologue is perhaps least compatible with the spirit of social media, but this one-way, self-contained communication outlet could still be achieved through, for instance, a blog post with the option for commenting disabled. In contrast, dialogue (encouraging the participation in the exchange of ideas and information) can be easily facilitated by allowing for free-flowing commentary on that blog post (with opportunity for the author to clarify and respond to readers), as well as through tools like Twitter or open online discussion forums. Collaboration (the “third layer”) refers to initiatives and outreach campaigns that feature an effort by citizens of different countries to complete a common project or achieve a common goal. Collaboration serves public diplomacy by promoting the building of trust and social capital, which are key elements that build cross-cultural understanding.
Though monologue and dialogue are not in opposition to each other, social media can play an incredible part in turning monologue into dialogue. Though it’s impossible to control what Cowan and Arsenault refer to as incendiary dialogue, “by expanding the range of voices and opinions that flow across borders, governments may help to contain negative opinion of state governments while retaining positive perceptions of the nation as a whole” (15). Voice of America multi-lingual programming successfully shifted from monologue to dialogue with the use of technology, starting back in 1994. The “live” nature of social media could be seen during the events of the Arab spring and reports of the uprising spreading through Egypt through young people’s Twitter postings – truly a beautiful example of the power of the ease of intercultural communication through social media.
Each of these layers of public diplomacy described are heavily contingent on the needs of the moment, the characteristics of the communicator and the target audience, and the conditions of their interactions: to me, the beauty of social media as a tool of PD is the flexibility and ability to adapt to and represent the current moment and reach across international audiences. Cowan and Arsenault say that “communication formulated by a president has different implications than one issued by a media celebrity or social advocate, and people from different backgrounds, different governmental systems, and different religions receive it differently;” (p.12) the power of social media is that ostensibly, an average college student has the capability to have their voice and views reach a comparable audience to that of the President of the United States. In the spirit of collaboration, including these new voices can be an incredibly powerful tool in spreading diplomacy.