Described by the Washington Post as “the U.S. State Department’s Upworthy clone,” ShareAmerica is a website allowing people to easily share viral pro-American content on social media.  The site certainly has a feel like Upworthy or other social media feel good sites.  The articles usually have a short write-up along with accompanying video and have easy options for sharing on Facebook and Twitter.  There are different categories of content, or “themes,” as the site calls them ranging from visa information to human rights.

On Facebook, the ShareAmerica has a little of 11,000 likes, which questions the overall reach of the program.  Additionally, as we discussed in class, what is the purpose of this site.  Is it to actually win hearts and minds, or is it to just push out pro-American propaganda regardless of the overall message.  In other words, what how will State define success of the program?  Number of likes and shares, or effectiveness of the messaging in the content?  Guess we’ll have to wait and see….


Governance vs. Government

Governance and government.  Two words that sound a lot alike but actually are different.  Government is the actual system that governs a state: makes rules, regulations, etc.  It’s the official, structural form of regulations within a state.  Governance is much broader and can be various types of organizations or groups making rules and regulations; sometimes official, sometimes unofficial.  When thinking of governance, the power is much more widely distributed.  The ability to set standards, rules, expectations, etc can be divided between the official government, corporations, society, NGO’s, or any group.

For example, as we discussed in class, the role of society and governance.  While the federal government and the FCC may not restrict certain images or words being used on broadcast television, society can certainly regulate by their consumption habits.  Right or wrong, we as Americans have a low threshold for graphic images of war, certainly compared to other international news organization’s standards.  While legally the American news could show more graphic images, their viewers would probably either change the channel or write letters in anger.  Thus, society is governing the news media, not just the government.

Music as Global Diplomacy

Music brings people together arguably unlike any other form of entertainment. You don’t need to understand the lyrics to bond with someone over good sounds and start dancing. It can also be a form of public diplomacy when musicians from one country travel to another either for a performance or some other reason. It’s easy to understand how the music business is a global entity, but what I really love is the more creative aspects of sharing music from all over the world and musicians collaborating together from different places. One example:

In this video Dave Matthews of the Dave Matthews Band and Trey Anastasio of the band Phish travel to Senegal to meet and perform with Orchestra Baobab. There’s some really great highlights from this 45-minute VH1 documentary (Dave walking down the street holding hands with his Senegalese tour guide and talking about how nice it was and different from what is “normal” in America, etc) but skip to 38-minutes to see them perform one of the band’s song and then watch Orchestra Baobob play one of Phish’s songs during which you hear Trey comment, “…you know the fantasy of having that song handed to the people who could actually play that style of music that I was trying to copy. I knew that they could take it over because it was an Americanization of their language.”

Grainy quality but fun to watch!

Glocalization Gone Bad

The globalization theory helps us understand how interconnected the world is. While not new it still provides useful insight for IC practitioners, especially people working in global corporate marketing and advertising. Take for example, a KFC ad from Australia that aired a few years ago.

The ad was created by the Australian ad team and intended only to air in Australia and nowhere else. A little background: the Australian and West Indies cricket teams have a long history and strong rivalry. When I was living in Australia and talking to a friend who is the news director of Channel 7 about race relations in the US, he was telling me about the ad. He explained to me that Australia doesn’t have the same history of race issues like the US does given their lack of slavery, segregation, etc.

The ad shows a white guy in his Australian jersey in the stands surrounded by West Indies fans. Paraphrasing, he says “Need some help when in an awkward situation?” Then pulls out a bucket of KFC chicken and all the West Indies fans start dancing and having fun with him. Believe it or not, it did not cause much of a stink in Australia. However, due to the power of the internet and YouTube, Americans found it and got very upset (rightfully so by our standards). The ad was pulled from Australian TV and KFC had to issue apologies.

The ad is as well as an interesting discussion from the Today show are below.

Nationalism in Media

In today’s world, media continues to play a huge role in sustaining nationalism. While media technology is moving away from the traditional forms of communication such as print news and radio/TV, the internet and social media still help form ideas of nationalism.

Take, for example. When you go to the site you have two options: the US version, or the International version. As a US-based news outlet, CNN gives its readers the “Us or them” option. As we discussed in class, take the Fox News logo, with its ever-present American flag waving in the corner. Social media can be used to sustain nationalism as well. On Facebook or Twitter, we are likely to find groups of follow users we have interests with: often related to our ideas of nationalism. The internet is probably the biggest form of “mass” communication yet. While traditional media is limited by signal strength, geography, airwave availability, etc, the internet can be reached by anyone anywhere. There are of course countries that restrict access to certain sites or social networks, but even that can be bypassed with technology masking your IP Address. While you can probably argue that the internet is more niche focused than general such as traditional news, its ability to reach the masses is much greater than any traditional news outlet.

The internet also can work to create cross-boundary nationalism much greater than traditional outlets. If you are a citizen abroad, depending on where you are located, getting a copy of the New York Times every day, or even weekly, may be very difficult. However assuming you have internet access, you could continue to read your nation’s news or connect with groups that share your common ideas.

While I focused mostly on news media, which is my interest, other forms of media play roles in nationalism as well. The entertainment world is dominated by Hollywood, where the movies shown across the globe mostly focus on the American way of life. Music is often a very powerful way of forming nationalism. Take country music in America, for example, which is full of American nationalism (As Toby Keith once eloquently wrote, “We’ll stick a boot in your ass, it’s the American way”

Public Spheres in IC, yo

Let’s talk about a sphere, that is public.  The public sphere is term given to the area, whether physical or cyber, where people can come together to share common interests or ideas to shape political policies.  Meaning that the “public sphere” can be physical locations such as coffee shops, or community halls where people will meet to discuss current events and political ideas.  In today’s world, the public sphere can also be a digital or cyber sphere.  Social networks like Twitter and Facebook allow people who can’t physically meet up to still engage in dialogue and share ideas.

it’s important to International Relations because the public sphere shapes political and social policy, which in today’s world will usually have effects outside a country’s borders.  Governments must be aware of what hte public sphere is saying and thinking if they want to remain relevant and in power.  If the public sphere is feeling mistreated or ignored, they will react.  A great example of course is the Arab Spring.  The Arab Spring included both traditional public spheres and online/cyber public spheres.  People would meet at tea houses to organize the movement, while people from across the world took to Twitter and Facebook to support the movement, share ideas and keep people informed of what was going on.  As we often talk about the “shrinking globe,” the public sphere will pretty much always have effects across borders which is why its so important to think about in regards to international communication.

Sadly, I could not find a funny gif to illustrate the public sphere, but there is this.

How Old School IC Is Still Relevant Today

This week we were asked to blog about what aspects of historical international communication are still relevant today. In my opinion, all the purposes of historical international communication are still being used today, of course enhanced greatly due to new technology. Historical international communication was used for a number of ways including trade, education, news and war/peace (propoganda and public diplomacy). It’s not hard to see how international communication still serves these functions today. As the “world shrinks” it becomes increasingly easy to communicate across borders: from 24-hour news networks and every major news organization have stringers across the globe, to international trade and business, to world leaders communicating daily to address pressing international issues.

From a more theoretical or psychological standpoint, international communication was a way to provide national identity, give a voice to dissent, or just bring groups of like minded people together. Again, it is clearly an important aspect of international communication that we still see today. Many people identify with groups based on the news outlets they read or watch, we use international communication as a way of providing national identity (the American flag on the the Fox News logo, plane liveries painted with red, white and blue that fly across the globe, etc), and groups from around the world can unite over a common cause via social media.

An interesting example of an event that encompassed multiple aspects of international communication was during the riots in Ferguson, MO. Obviously the news spread around the globe via traditional and new (social) media. In addition to news organizations around the world covering the events, groups on social media with members spanning the globe popped up in support of the protestors and bringing awareness to similar issues in their parts of the world, while leaders in other countries that the U.S. typically lectures on human rights ending up lecturing America. As Reuters reported, “Governments scolded by the United States over their human rights records have seized on racial unrest and a police crackdown in the Missouri town of Ferguson to wag their fingers back in disapproval. Adversaries and uneasy allies from Russia and Iran to China and Egypt have accused the United States of hypocrisy as images of police brandishing lethal weapons and tear-gassing protesters have been shown around the world.” This brought an interesting public diplomacy aspect to the events as well.

We could talk at length about how the original components of international communication are still relevant and active in today’s world. Heightened by technology that has allowed the “world to shrink,” the original concepts are still alive and well.