Thursday, July 14, 2016

Found on the Web: Exploring Public Diplomacy 2.0: A Comparison of German and U.S. Digital Public Diplomacy in Theory and Practice (2014)

From: file:///C:/Users/J.Brown/Downloads/UPLOAD%20(1).pdf

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To obtain the academic degree „Doktorin der Philosophie” (Dr. phil.)
Faculty for Cultural Studies, European University Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder)
Submitted in 2013 by Maïté Kersaint, defended in June 2014


Designed as an exploratory study, this dissertation consists of a policy analysis of German and
U.S. American approaches to public diplomacy 2.0, understood as public diplomacy by means of
social media. The study’s main argument is that in spite of claims to the contrary, social media
did not substantially change the practice of public diplomacy. No digital turn took place: Both
countries’ governments act according to their respective foreign policy tradition and public
diplomacy doctrines and, by doing so, confirm a historical institutionalist view on politics.

After developing public diplomacy as an integrated concept that incorporates facets of several
other related ones like propaganda, branding and cultural relations, it will be demonstrated that
public diplomacy remains an instrument of power employed by a given state to reaffirm its
might; it is not destined to empower other groups. It will also be shown how social media’s
premises like transparency and decentralization clash with those of public diplomacy and
government administration, and how this impedes public diplomacy’s operationalisation on the
Internet. It will be explored how that contradiction affects the practice of public diplomacy 2.0
and how its stakeholders deal with given implications by laying out a methodological framework
based on historical institutionalism that combines content analysis and expert interviews.

On a doctrinal strategic level, the dissertation will then show how the U.S. public diplomacy
endeavour is strategically embedded into a wider concept, driven by post-9/11 feelings of
vulnerability and the desire to win back hearts and minds. The German approach, on the other
hand, refuses such a take, which is partly due to the country’s history and negative experiences
with propaganda especially during World War II. To Germany, distancing itself from its eventful
past through presenting the country as a peaceful, stable democracy is paramount. Combined
with the process of coming to terms with the major shakeup the country’s reunification brought
about, this attitude leads to a struggle to find a new political identity. The body of rules
restricting and guiding public diplomacy 2.0 reflects these elements of both countries’ respective
history and foreign policy tradition. This underscores the weight of history and reaffirms its
centrality as a factor for understanding politics.

The paper’s centrepiece is constituted by a comparative content analysis of the Facebook pages
and Twitter feeds belonging to the German embassy in Great Britain (UK) and its American
counterpart. The comparison was made over three months in 2011 during discussions about the
possible adoption of a financial transaction tax. This particular conflict situation – the UK
opposed the measure, backed by the USA, while Germany advocated for it – could have provided
a textbook case for the use of social media in public diplomacy. The analysis will, however,
reaffirm the allegations made in the dissertation’s theoretical parts: Contrary to public opinion,
social media are neither interactive nor a mass phenomenon. Communication is employed to
echo official government positions as stated in national foreign policy and public diplomacy
doctrines as well as to legitimize general policy through subtle rhetorical strategies.

The dissertation on hand will further come to the conclusion that the effects of public diplomacy
2.0 can hardly be assessed (if at all), mainly because of a lack of reliable measuring frameworks
and monitoring tools. Rather, social media are a listening and opinion gathering device, providing
governments with big data on their audience.

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