Disclaimer: My questions of Public Diplomacy in this blog post are within the context of use of New Media communication platforms.
One reason that I remain skeptical about use of Web 2.0 and new media by large organizations, is that I wonder how much actual interaction is going on versus how much of it is what I’ve seen referred to as a “glorified news feed”. By that I mean, yes an organization has a facebook page, yes “they’re on twitter” and yes, they have a blog. However, how much actual interaction is going on? I’d posed a similar question as a comment on a blog post a few weeks ago that I read and I think someone from the state department said something to the effect of “they have people monitoring”.
Here are some twitter feeds by public organizations or state governments. I’m not really seeing interaction (i.e. responses or retweets). I picked random ones: UNICEF , NATO , and Russia Ministry of Foreign Affairs .
I’m not trying to be obtuse here, but I’m hoping to shed more light on this. Now perhaps it is not appropriate or possible for an organization to be talking to random citizens in public because of messaging issues…..but if that’s the case, there shouldn’t be the self-congratulatory vibes off of having a twitter account or a YouTube channel.
In his speech on Public Diplomacy in 2008, then Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, James K. Glassman in arguing against Al-Qaeda quoted an analyst that said, “…If Web 1.0 was about creating the snazzziest official Web resources and Web 2.0 is about letting users run wild with self-created content and interactivity, Al Qaeda and it’s affiliates are stuck in 1.0″ But as I’m harping on ad infinitum here, I’m not really seeing ” users runnin gwild with self-created content and interactivity” with public institutions. Perhaps calling use of new media as it exists is more appropriately charecterized as minor 1.x update rather than an entire 2.0 transformation since that aspect is lacking? To be fair, in some cases, like the State Department for example, they do have a blog and they actually allow commenting on it (I’m assuming comments are not censored other than for national security issues/secrets), though I don’t know if the comments are read–many high profile blogs are notorious for (ghost) authors that don’t read the feedback received. Nonetheless, all of this might be an inherent dilemna faced by public institutions, and as social media expert Clay Shirky says in the recent article Innovating Public Diplomacy for a New Digital World, it is problematic to imagine use of social media platforms like say twitter, due to conflicts between the type of transparency expected of social media and the inherently
secretive nuanced nature of international diplomacy.
This is not just an issue with public institutions by the way. I’ve seen similar issues with large corporations in the private sector. Or is my skepticism misdirected, and is it audiences/consumers or the technologies themselves that are the problems?