One of the questions that our guest speaker, Chris Dufour, brought up in class was if there can be a coordinated web 2.0 effort (in terms of PD). I think that there is a coordination to have 2.0 as a goal, but that one of the fundamental aspects of 2.0, whether web, government or diplomacy is a de-centralization, which is difficult to coordinate and control. But maybe this is the point! If the State Department is the “convener” than its goal is not to control, but rather to bring people together and let them then take the projects into their own hands and run with them. While maybe this has unintended consequences, the point is to decentralize control and let other actors have more agency.
Relating this to Clay Shirky’s Foreign Affairs Jan-Feb 2011 article, this convener approach does consider his “environmental” view of statecraft. How and what does this mean? My understanding of Shirky’s article is that he wants the state to focus less on a view of the Internet as simply access to information, and to instead look more at creating an effective public sphere. He believes that the “instrumental mode of internet statecraft” focuses too much on Internet access as a way to communicate ideas from the west instead of allowing for the development of social media tools and how they can help “local coordination”. He advocates an approach that gives people on the ground integral involvement in the development of tools that address their specific goals and needs. I think that this relates to our discussion of Web 2.0 tools and our guest speaker’s question. Because if the US, as a PD strategy, supports on the ground interactive collaborative web 2.0 tools, it will mean less central coordination, but perhaps more local networked activism coordination.
And I don’t think this idea works in opposition to Gladwell’s October 2010 New Yorker article, where he looks at past activist models such as the civil right’s movement as successful because they were defined by cause rather than by tools. If the US supports tools in an “environmental” way as proposed by Shirky, the stronger ties Gladwell articulates as necessary for high- risk activism will be in place. This also relates to Robin Brown’s article “Diplomacy, Public Diplomacy and Social Networks”, where he looks at how diplomacy is embedded in a social network. Diplomats and activists are more effective and active when they are working in embedded networks because the stronger ties do give actors more influence. As Brown points out, diplomacy involves coalition building, and actors are more likely to join when they trust other actors already in the network. In the Web 2.0 environment, this may mean that diplomats are more able to join into local networks and have access to local activism and debates in areas of interest.