Thursday, July 16, 2015

Twitter as an Instrument of Public Diplomacy

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Helen Hoffmann, University of Göttingen


The technological developments of recent years have influenced communication styles and modes in profound ways. While the mere existence of the internet as a medium has changed people’s everyday lives already 15 years ago, the emergence of the so-called Web 2.0 challenged the way we interact even more intensely. By now, it has become inevitable also for the political dialogue to acknowledge the demands and offers the internet and their communities make: Political actors can “no longer ignore the digital sphere". The new technologies that allow anyone to broadcast their opinion have prompted the potential for a power shift in discussing politics. The individual has been given “the communication power that was the monopoly of the nation state in the previous century." Thus, political narratives are challenged, and especially in the delicate realm of international relations, scholars maintain that this new stage in communication has had a strong effect. New ways of communication have changed the way diplomats tackle foreign policy. Communication with foreign audiences has become a multi layered dialogue in which non-state communicators have more power than ever before. It is no longer clearly definable who is a diplomat and who is not, and public diplomacy is faced with the demand of becoming “public diplomacy 2.0”. Assessing two cases of public diplomacy conducted online, this paper aims to shed light on how states react to these circumstances. What can new media, specifically the Web 2.0, and even more precisely for this paper, the micro-blogging site Twitter, offer for international public diplomacy? What strategic demands are made on the new public diplomacy approaches and in how far have the German Goethe-Institut and the Swedish Institute together with Visit Sweden succeeded in adapting their conduct?

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