Optional Blog: Gastrodiplomacy – Delicious and Informative

I thoroughly enjoyed the presentation on Thai gastrodiplomacy, both in terms of the food and the actual presentation. I thought that the group worked seamlessly and incorporated treats as an incentive to get us to participate. The powerpoint was simple and effective, and the content was engaging. The culinary diplomacy program that the Thai government is implementing was interesting to me because it is a nice way for both the restaurant owners to stay connected to their culture and for new Thai eaters to become better acquainted with what the food should taste like. The Thai program is interesting too because it provides categories of authenticity and can be used as a tool for customers to assess the food they are consuming.

Their program reminded me of the Italian version in which pizza restaurants can apply to be a member of the Neopolitan Pizza association and receive  D.O.C (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) certification, which specifies methods of preparation and ingredients for traditional Neapolitan Pizza. Two Amy’s, on Wisconsin, is a member of this Association and as such, has been recognized by the Italian government. I think that programs like the Thai and Italian certification are a fun way to engage foodies with diplomacy. The Thai program, more so than the Italian one, requires certain products to be from Thailand and therefore raises imports to the Untied States for certain goods. I think this component makes the program more effective in terms of continuing a connection between the Thai restaurants and Thailand. I do not think the Italian version has any such requirements or classifications but it is an interesting idea nonetheless.

The Thai program was interesting and exposed me to a new viewpoint when thinking about Thai food. The group posed a series of questions related to the amount of money people spend on Thai food related to that of a “developed” country like France, and while I would not spend as much money on Thai food as I would on French food, I may be more likely to check out a Thai restaurant that has been categorized as “authentic”.

International Visitor Leadership Program

http://eca.state.gov/ivlp/video/international-visitor-leadership-program-70th-anniversary-2011

The International Visitor Leadership Program first started in 1940 when Nelson Rockefeller, the Coordinator of Commercial and Cultural Affairs, invited Latin American journalists the US. This  cultural exchange would later become the IVLP and since it’s inception it has hosted around 5,000 visitors annually. A wide variety of former and current leaders have gone through the program, which is typically three weeks, and involves meetings, dinners, and cultural events that pair the foreign officer’s interests with similar ones held by Americans. For example, people interested in free speech have been partnered with NPR and other news outlets, while those interested in journalism would be placed with a news agency. The program, from all the information I could find, seems to be a way to bring rising leaders to the United States who otherwise might lack a solid comprehension of our culture. How this plays into how favorably these people view the United States is up for debate; however, the end goal of the program is to raise awareness of our culture, politics, and people. The part I liked about the program was the ability of citizens to become “citizen diplomats” through hosting the visiting leaders either socially or professionally. If properly implemented, this part of the program could provide visiting leaders with exposure to “normal” Americans who may have a different agenda than higher ranked leaders who are wholly committed to maintaining a perfect image of the US (which arguably we lack anyway).

By all accounts, the program seems to work well for providing an initial exposure for foreign leaders to the US “way”. I like that the foreign leaders are nominated by worldwide US embassies to come the United States, and I REALLY like that for certain countries this could be the first exposure to conversations with normal Americans who work in jobs the visitors would like the in the future. The projects that the foreign visitors are engaged with vary from women’s rights, to education, to energy security. I think that the program on it’s face looks very beneficial for both the US and the foreign visitor as a method for exposure and in many cases, the US professional becomes acquainted with a person who, in many cases, becomes their counterpart. Measurement of success of the program isn’t really tangible from the sources I could find; rather, the program provides a small foundation to United States society.

Resources:

http://eca.state.gov/files/bureau/ivlp-fact-sheet.pdf

http://eca.state.gov/ivlp/about-ivlp/questions-about-ivlp#question-1254

http://eca.state.gov/ivlp/about-ivlp/program-history

How Narrative Shapes Opinion

A country’s narrative construction can take many forms and can shift and evolve over time. Take the United States, for example. Following World War II and through the Cold War, the United States maintained a narrative of good versus evil. The United States capitalized on its status as the victor following World War II and established a narrative which allowed Americans to feel safe and secure in a post-war society. The simplistic, relatable narrative has been reiterated throughout the past few decades and has been maintained by multiple Presidents. The Miskimmon reading does an excellent job of describing the evolution in the United States’ narrative structure from President Bush’s first and second terms.

The 2002 narrative was focused on coalition building around a common threat following a newly initiated war. This narrative surrounded partnerships, states as players in maintaining peace, and cooperation. The 2002 narrative was focused more on recognizing the importance of emerging and developed states while the 2006 narrative was more focused on the success (however questionable) of the war. The 2006 narrative, in contrast to the 2002 narrative, was focused more on reiterating positive outcomes from the war than with maintenance of partnerships and relationships. Miskimmon writes that a reason for this was the international backlash and condemnation of the war. What is most interesting to me through the shift in this narrative is the continuation of the United States to assert that it is the leader of the international community, even when this may no longer be (if it every was) true.

The notion of United States supremacy has been reiterated by many Presidents, and that key narrative aspect does not seem to know one party or one President. The supremacy structure continues to show the American public (at least in speeches and in official) that the United States is a super power and will be successful in eliminating whatever enemy it has because they are evil and the United States is ultimately good. This projection of power is also important when understanding the United States’ position in relation to other people. Through this narrative where the United States is the ultimate power, it could be noted that alliances are not really necessary, because the United States could go at it (whatever the target is) alone if the country had to. This is more in line with the 2006 narrative that focused more on our enemies and maintained that the United States would be (as it has been in the past) victorious.

I think this is an interesting narrative position for the United States that may do more harm than good in a variety of ways. First, the rise of social media and alternative news sources for Americans, such as Al-Jazeera, showcase an alternative side to the United States narrative where the United States is not always correct in their approach to targeting an enemy. Second, a globalized world presents a necessity for partnerships and cooperation which may not be possible if the United States maintains a dominant position and continues to push a narrative that does not include the importance of alliances. The narrative wherein the United States will be successful with or without international cooperation does little to help its international image and even less to gain sympathy and support for controversial military actions.

Th good versus evil narrative is successful in projecting a strong image to the American public but with varying degrees as people continue to expand their news sources and knowledge base. Narratives like good versus evil are successful because they are simplistic and project a lasting image around which people can rally. As international pressure mounted following the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions, the good versus evil narrative provided a continued source of justification for President Bush.

Governments and Governance

What distinguishes governance from government, and how does this help us understand how power is distributed?

There are many significant distinguishing features between government and governance. Put broadly, governance is the process through which governments operate. For domestic governance, the government is a group of elected officials who enact laws and principles and “provide and oversee maintenance of infrastructure for the economy” as well as “steer activities in abroad selection of areas, ranging from defense to healthcare, and from enterprise to education” – all completed through the process of governance. The government establishes entities through which governance is enacted. While the United States government operates through the process of governance, not ALL governance is conducted through the government. There is also global governance, historically comprised of intergovernmental agencies, but rapidly changing to involve non- governmental organization and the private sector. While true global governance does not currently exist, the closest organization would be the United Nations. The United Nations members agree, under the Charter, to certain collective actions and governance mandates. I think the Girard reading provides a good summary on the future of global governance, stating: “Successful adaptation and evolution of the United Nations and of global governance will focus on institutional change, participation and legitimacy.” – Global governance can occur but only through the expansion and acceptance of United Nations principles, as well as the agreement by governments to be subjected to the governance of the United Nations.

Domestically, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), a United States agency, is the most important means of United States governance in relation to international communication. The FCC is important because of its role as a regulator of media and communications. The FCC is a good example of governance because it is a government agency that is authorized to place regulations on an industry. The FCC, and all true governance agencies, are “instruments of government policy” and I would agree with Girard in asserting that these agencies cannot ever have a “fully independent power.” For the FCC, power is distributed to the agency through the government for the purpose of enacting regulation on the communications industry. The FCC’s role in the communications world is prescribed by the government and therefore their governance abilities are limited only to the scope given by the government. Governance entities like the FCC do not operate with autonomy; rather, they operate through a set of guidelines, or a constitution, established by the government and their power comes only from the government creating it.

Seán Ó Siochrú and Bruce Girard with Amy Mahan (2002) Global
Governance: A Beginners Guide

Al Jazeera America – Murrow Symposium

Al Jazeera anchor John Seigenthaler and  former CBS News executive Marcy McGinnis, who heads up news operations for AJAM speak at the Murrow Symposium. The video is long so I would recommend watching between minute 9 – 16 for a general overview.

The speakers, who have both worked for American news sources, explain the importance and effectiveness of Al Jazeera. The speakers discuss the different approaches Al Jazeera uses when formulating news stories.

Globalization

1) What does globalization theory still provide that is useful for practitioners of international communication?

Globalization still provides a general overview of understanding the interconnectivity of different cultures especially through the ever increasing mediatization of our daily lives. While no longer a new concept, understand of globalization (and the definition of the word) continue to evolve and grow as different forms of media shape international communication. A decade ago, the use of social media in a drastically different place than it is today and as social media has changed so too has the general understanding of globalization. I would argue that globalization as a theory is somewhat dated, but is still an important concept in understanding how different groups of people interact. Globalization theory takes for granted the privilege aspect that we discussed in class, and for me, this is the theory’s biggest flaw. From a point of privilege, globalization seems like a wonderful concept, but for others, it is another form of exploitation. I think the theory is still important especially in relation to the use of the internet because there are so many more opportunities to watch different tv shows or read different news when there is more interconnection between countries.

Sustaining Nationalism

1) Does media still play a role in sustaining nationalism, even if media technology is less about broadcast or “mass” communication?

Yes, I would say that the media still plays a major role in sustaining nationalism, even without the emphasis on “mass” communication or broadcasting. I tend to agree with Michael Billig’s argument that “politicians and the mass media “flag” nationhood daily in the eyes of the citizens of established Western democracies,” especially in the United States. Nationalism is sustained through the flagging of nationhood in a variety of ways, some of which are very small and subliminal. I like the example Professor Hayden gave in class of the flag at the bottom of the Fox News screen, for example. The “flagging” (lol) serves as a very small but effective reiteration of nationhood. The media sustains nationalism best through coverage of nationwide events, especially crises. For example, the media coverage of the deaths of both Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin enabled the issues of race and police brutality to the become a main source of conversation. The national coverage regarding these deaths was presented in many viewpoints through varying types of media but across the board people were making the same point – these deaths and the issues of race were not limited solely to communities in Florida and Missouri, they were representative of a problem throughout the nation. The media still has the ability sustain nationalism through “devoting endless time and space” to events which may have an impact the country as a whole, and fostering national dialogue on everything from Kim Kardashian’s pregnancy rumors to the potential impact of the midterm election on GOP control of the Senate. The media creates and fosters a national dialogue through framing events as bigger and perhaps more fundamentally important than they actually are (in the case of Kim Kardashian), and I would agree with Waisbord in the assertion that there is still a pull toward nationalism when it is reinforced through constant media coverage and debate.