Posted by Wandren


These research projects seek to push the boundaries of what is imagined to be possible within Diplomacy, Development or Defence. From engaging with activists in closed societies to countering the efforts of Jihadist groups; there has never been a better time for diplomats, foundations and NGO to get into data.

There is an opportunity to use network analysis to push the boundaries of what is imagined possible in identifying meaningful networks in public diplomacy and specific events. For example during events like President Obama’s trip to Brazil, information sharing during the Arab Spring, or the protests following the 2009 Presidential Election in Iran. Studies such as these can allow diplomats to understand the ‘greater network’ to identify individuals or communities with which to engage, understand the nuance in their discussion, and find ways to collaborate. For example these studies could facilitate the achievement of their objectives where they intersect with the aims of diplomats.

Equally, there is an opportunity to use data to analyse the strategic communication of groups a diplomat is responsible for challenging. This can give diplomats an edge over adversaries in contested environments. For example, an article I wrote with Nico Prucha published in the CTC Sentinel showed how Jabhat al-Nusra (JN) is using Twitter as a beacon for sharing shortlinks to content dispersed across numerous digital platforms. This method means videos shot on the battlefield in Syria are being uploaded onto YouTube and shared with followers via Twitter. Knowing which content is being most frequently shared and the nature of that content can help diplomats frame their responses and develop strategies to disrupt the networks disseminating content.

Read more in a recent post on the USC CPD Blog: Diplomats get into data

Netwar in Cyberia: Decoding the Media Mujahedeen and the Jihadist Swarmcast

This project is part of the CPD Research Fellowship (2015-17)

At the dawn of mass access to the internet some, including Douglas Rushkoff, foresaw that dissident groups would use technological innovation and the networks of our postmodern society in unconventional ways and toward subversive goals. That time has come.

The mobile phone network has been used to detonate IEDs. Video footage of the resulting explosions is captured via cameras intended for home movies. Go-Pro, more often seen on the helmets of snowboarders, are now mounted on the barrel of an AK-47 to give a game console inspired ‘first-person-shooter’ perspective of the battle. Video sequences from the battlefield, edited into high quality HD movies are distributed via social media and file sharing platforms.

Read the full project outline on the USC CPD website.

Humans Huddle

Humans Huddle investigates how networks can change the odds of individuals and organisations achieving desired outcomes.

In a world of connections Humans Huddle; whether to shelter, trade, and live or in terms of networks with clusters around ideas and spaces.

What does this mean to me?
Networks influence success in;
– Government and policy
– Commerce and industry
– Charities and fund raising
– Lobbying and NGO activity

Humans Huddle seeks to understand that influence on behaviour and develop ways to represent network data in ways that are accessible to those that need to make decisions on the basis of that information.

Collaborative Public Diplomacy

Public diplomacy takes place in complex multi-hub, multi-directional networks. Within these networks diplomacy is a process of dynamic and ongoing negotiation between interlocutors. The analysis of these negotiated relationships extends recent scholarship in relational, multilateral and networked approaches to communication and the role of sub-state groups in diplomacy. Ultimately, each interaction between members of a network has the potential to change the odds of a particular outcome occurring.

During the early cold war the complex relationship between communities in Europe and the United States was of concern to individuals on both sides of the Atlantic. Using archival research and recorded interviews, this project charts the development of American Studies in Europe during that period. An academic discipline focused on studying America was one opportunity to strengthen the relationship between Europe and the US. This study shows the negotiation within the network of relationships between the State, philanthropic foundations and European scholars. It identifies together factors shown through the narrative to enable or inhibit successful collaborative public diplomacy.

The Trials of Engagement: The Future of US Public Diplomacy

In the last decade public diplomacy has become one of the most important concepts in the development and implementation of foreign policy. Trials of Engagement: The Future of US Public Diplomacy with contributors from leading scholars in disciplines from international relations to communications, considers the challenges for this ‘new’ public diplomacy, especially as it is pursued by the US Government. It highlights the challenges of aligning policy and projection, overcoming bureaucratic tensions, and the language used by public diplomats. Most importantly, the volume illustrates that the issues for public diplomacy are more than those of a producer seeking to win the hearts and minds of passive ‘audiences’.

Trials of Engagement portrays public diplomacy as an increasingly public project. To overcome the trials of engagement, public diplomacy must provide more than a rhetorical nod to a “twoway” process. Ultimately, a collaborative public diplomacy must be built on a broad understanding of those involved, the recognition of stakeholders as peers, and effective interaction with networks made up of traditional and new interlocutors.

The Playbook

Based on contributions from an international network of practitioners and academics this large scale project has been initiated to collate experience in Cultural Relations and Public Diplomacy practice from around the world. It draws together past and present experience, and recognises the importance of recording programmes that were both successful and unsuccessful, to facilitate the sharing of that experience and good practice. This will provide examples upon which practitioners can draw in designing programmes in the future as well as create a resource for education about the discipline.

Read more about the Playbook

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  • The Connective Mindshift

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