The International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) is one of many public diplomacy programs funded by the U.S. Department of State.  This particular initiative is a professional exchange directed towards current and emerging international leaders to enrich their knowledge of American history, culture and society.  To provide some background on the program’s implementation, in 1940, Nelson Rockefeller was designated Coordinator of Commercial and Cultural Affairs and invited 130 Latin American Journalists to the the United States.  This exchanged continued through several administrations and was eventually realized as the IVLP.  There are several aspects of this public diplomacy program that I admire.

For one, the IVLP has dedicated itself to the cultural exchange of foreign leaders into the American way of life.  Visitors have the opportunity travel to different cities, experience the the classroom setting and converse with their counterpart leaders.  They are also able to share their own cultural experiences and perspectives with us.  The website provides plenty of anecdotal evidence that the program expands the horizon of both the visitor and the host.  This is important, because as a communicative concept, culture can either represent a barrier or a pathway to a fruitful relationship.  Public diplomacy is meant to arm the positive aspects of any country’s public image and the IVLP represents just that.   It breaks down the cultural barriers between the host and visitor and provides an avenue to a mutual learning experience.  Ashraf Gamal of Egypt had this to say:

“I came to the conclusion that I come from a different culture from yours, but through food and culinary arts we can cooperate and understand each other.  I have a dream to fight hunger and poverty…..And we can work together to protect the planet and feed future generations.” – See more at: http://eca.state.gov/ivlp/story/food-diplomacy-brings-egyptian-culinary-professional-table-taste-america#sthash.6VIidUGZ.dpuf

Vuvuzela Diplomacy

The 2010 World Cup in South Africa was a spectacle for the football fans and the world alike to witness.  It was the first time the international tournament was ever held in Africa, and brought large hopes for the participating African nations to make their mark in the world-football stage.  In the end, Spain emerged victorious while only a select few nations (Ghana, in particular) demonstrated that they were able to compete with football’s world elites.  In any case, the World Cup was spectacle to hear (yes, the vuvuzelas) and watch.  The country’s hosting embodied a national initiative in cultural diplomacy, in which, the intended narrative was that of a peaceful, democratic and inclusive South Africa — and Africa as a whole.

Far removed from the apartheid era, a dark and troubling time in South African history, football has become an instrument of the nation’s post-segregation foreign policy.  South Africa was banned from FIFA in 1960. Prime Minister John Vorster, notably of the apartheid regime, only supported small racial integration measures within the sports in hopes of ending international isolation.  Moving forward, the country’s emphasis in foreign policy shifted toward promoting “trade, finance, culture and sports relations that will benefit the country as a whole”.  Apartheid was ended in 1994 after years of negotiations and the country was ready to embark on a new path.

Pan-Africanism, concerned with the values of freedom, equality, solidarity and tolerance, was meant to enhance the image of the whole continent.  Focusing on sports diplomacy posed a significant opportunity to rally positive attitudes and media attention to the world’s most popular sport on its biggest stage.  South Africa’s bid to host the tournament centered around the ideal that the Cup was all for Africans – on the rest of the continent, the United States, the Caribbean,Brazil and around the world.  In addition, the Cup was meant to signify an international commitment to human rights and the combatting of racism.

Several African players, most notably forward Samuel Eto’o, became poster for the fight against racism.  The striker said, “I’d like my country to win but I am first African before being a Cameroonian”.  Such a statement not only created a continental solidarity but also demonstrated that South Africa is less concerned with exceptionalism and is in touch with its continental neighbors.  Using the Cup as a platform for human rights and the end of racism did wonders for the nation’s international image as it sought to distance itself from the white apartheid institution.  The vision of a “better South Africa, a better Africa, a better world” was finally being cultivated.

Ndlovu, Silfslo Mxolisi. “Sports as Cultural Diplomacy: The 2010 World Cup as South Africa’s Foreign Policy.” <i>Soccer and Society</i> 11, no. 1-2 (2009): 144-53.

Does Governance Still Matter?

Yes, it does; however, it must be noted that the rapidly changing information environment spurred by technological advancements is shifting the significance to non-state actors rather than governments themselves. The rampant growth of mobile telephone access in Africa is a great example of how non-states are acting swiftly to seize upon the opportunity to ” seed mobile systems to gain the social, economic and political benefits accrued to publics by the formation of networks”.  In fact, the race to provide network access to emerging countries is more than just a business venture but rather a “political project” as Mo Ibrahim described.

The takeaway is that non-state governance empowers and creates advantages previously unknown.  There used to be a hegemonic control over information resources by the government, but with new breakthroughs, a plurality of actors are now relevant in this discussion.  High-resolution remote sensing satellite was utilized by an NGO, not the state, to detect Iran’s nuclear program in the early 2000s.  Such access to information used to be vested in government power and was rather costly but its low cost makes it readily disposable tool for all.

The question is not whether governance still matters, but rather what kind is emerging as more relevant in today’s information society.  The evidence above paints a clear picture.

Livingston, Steven. “The CNN Effect Reconsidered (again): Problematizing ICT and Global Governance in the CNN Effect Research Agenda.” Sage, Media, War & Conflict , .


Convergence Culture

As a whole, this emerging culture is intriguing as both a theoretical concept and practical application in international communication.  The fact that one of the world’s largest social platforms (and one I particularly use for self-entertainment) was once a venue for wartime information flows among military and non-state actors speaks wonders to how our communication infrastructure is constantly evolving.  There are, however, drawbacks to this phenomenon that the author of this piece eluded to: state and civilian actors whose objectives are crossing paths.

“Patriotic hackers….who have the necessary technical expertise to generate knowledge, and respond to threats to their respective state, [blurr] the lines between citizen and state”. Groups such as the Cyber Minutemen, who effectively occupy a vigilante role in our law enforcement system, are dangerous and undermine our current enforcement apparatus.  They consider themselves vital to our border-security efforts but operate without any official state authorization and don’t work in conjunction with state authorities either.  This is unsettling, as other civilian groups with network power, under the auspice of ulterior motives, potentially represent a threat to the civilians they are seeking to protect.

Going forward, we must be mindful of how increased access to cyberspace is a instrument for innovation and peril.  It’s also a slippery-slope because on the surface, readily available technologies for the purposes of information dissemination is a positive attribute of democracy and perhaps an objection to the idea of hegemonic control over communication.  In that same breath, we continually witness the jeopardization of our own national interests by a select-few.


Fiore-Silfvast, Brittany. 2012. “User Generated Warfare: A Case of Converging Wartime Information Networks and Coproductive Regulation of Youtube.” International Journal of Communication 6.

MJ Takes Brazil By Storm

Michael Jackson is using his superstar-brand as a social platform.  The music and video production is very localized as you can observe from the various articles of clothing worn by MJ, the physical setting, and the rhythmic beat selection.  This catchy, but controversial, song was well-received by the natives of Brazil but reproached by Brazilian officials in the wake of the country’s bid to host the 2004 Summer Olympics.

Why Globalization Still Matters

This is a term that has been popularized–and perhaps overused by the media advocates today.  Thomas Friedman of the New York Times has written several books about his elation and infatuation with the current trend.  Developing countries take a strong stand against Western hegemony that is impeding their own respective growths.  For the practitioner of international communication, the value of globalization lies in the fact that it has not only made the world flat, but also shrinking to the point where borders no longer define cultures and therefore do not pose communicative barriers.  One aspect, which I deem essential for practitioners, is the extension of networks.

Taken from a passage in the Hanson reading, the global network is characterized as the “meganet” which involves a “patchwork of networks, big and small, local and global, primitive and high tech, that fit together because they use compatible technologies”.  The facilitation of communication across borders through technology has changed our culture tremendously.  Our own government, once inclined to monopolize communication services, has responded to this trend in recent years by encouraging competition among rivaling service providers.  A big takeaway is that globalization continues to influence our culture of doing business, whether it’s a commercial or public entity.  It is also impossible predict how integrated our society will become as a result.

New Media and Nationalism (Question 2)

The simple answer is yes, but a very dangerous kind.

New media is a juggernaut and represents a double-edged sword (for lack of a better words). Technological innovations have allowed consumers to digest their daily news in a myriad of new forms and by-in-large engages social movements and the youth.  In the same token, however, new is of particular to the espionage community i.e the Erik Snowdens of the world.  Now, there is a important debate as to what constitutes journalism and what constitutes espionage, the latter of which is expressly outlawed.

While it is significant to note the positive effects of new media in our new information society, it can not be understated that these new forms of consumption represent a threat to the existing national order.  These days, opinions and information are dispersed by millions of people through use of medium such as Facebook and Twitter, a trend that contradicts what our politicians seek to deem as legitimate journalism (Journalism or Espionage).  Classified information is concealed from the general public in the best of interest of national security and it’s dissemination is strictly prohibited, and punished, under the law.  That being said, The New York Times tells us that such activities, by the espionage community and foreign journalists alike, are integral to the “fundamental freedoms of the press to gather news.”  Furthermore, the federal government’s effort to distinguish legitimate forms of journalism is both “impractical and anathema to our constitutional traditions” (Journalism or Espionage).

Bearing this in mind, the advent of new media is a rallying tool for all kinds of audiences and represents a new frontier in the nationalism we are accustomed to.  The difficult question to consider is whether they support the constitutional processes we adore, by supporting an unprecedented openness and transparency, or worse, if they pose an existential threat to our existing order.

0-100, real quick



Schoenfield, Gabriel. 2013. “Journalism or Espionage?,” National Affairs, , no. 17 (Autumn).http://www.nationalaffairs.com/publications/detail/journalism-or-espionage.