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10 Jun 2013

Jihadi Twitter Activism part 2: Jabhat al Nusra

Posted by Wandren PD. Comments Off on Jihadi Twitter Activism part 2: Jabhat al Nusra

For the second instalment of our Jihadi Twitter Activism series Nico Prucha and I explore data collected from Twitter related to the Syrian AQ branch Jabhat al-Nusra.

This post identifies key ‘influence multipliers’ for Jabhat al-Nusra’s strategic communication and an overview of the content that these multipliers disseminate via Twitter.

To analyze jihadi social media networks, their sympathizers and followers we have used an interdisciplinary approach, which combines big data techniques, network analysis and the subsequent analysis of key users and content. In this post we present preliminary analysis of over 76,000 tweets relating to Jabhat al-Nusra collected over 50 days between January and March 2013.

Read more… on Jihadica



28 Apr 2013

Jihadi Twitter activism

Posted by Wandren PD. Comments Off on Jihadi Twitter activism

Hep V

I recently recently exchanged thoughts and data with Nico Prucha regarding the increasing Jihadi use of Twitter. By taking an interdisciplinary approach of social-media analysis and cluster network assessment, we decided to start a series on Jihadica on the parts of the overall jihadi, primarily Arabic language propaganda resonating among the audiences online.

Read our first post in full here: http://bit.ly/10JpLsb


Image by: renjith krishnan

16 Apr 2013

Social Media in Public Diplomacy

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Two posts I have written recently with Jeanette Gaida for the IPDGC Take Five Blog:

The use of Social Media in Public Diplomacy: Scanning e-diplomacy by Embassies in Washington DC

Social media is one of the fastest growing tools of modern public diplomacy. The advantage of social media provides the opportunity to reach citizens of other countries in near real-time.  Social media platforms also provide spaces for interaction, increased engagement, and thus furthering the goals of public diplomacy.  This research has been conducted by Jeanette Gaida as part of a capstone project for the Masters in Global Communication at George Washington University, working with Ali Fisher at InterMedia.

The potential ease with which social media can be accessed and the low cost in comparison to other methods make it an attractive tool for many embassies, as well as other government offices, that are facing budget cuts and demands to increase engagement.  Numerous platforms allow for the use of more dynamic content, such as videos, photos, and links, than traditional methods of giving lectures or passing out pamphlets. In addition, social media are key channels in reaching youth populations, a major goal of current public diplomacy efforts.

However, public diplomacy is not only about reaching a youth audience. It is equally important to listen to and understanding young publics, their thoughts, aspirations, information seeking and sharing behaviors along with the actions they take as a result. With this insight, there is greater potential to engage and collaborate with key communities rather than broadcast to a target audience.

Read more…


Social Media in Public Diplomacy: Twitter and DC Embassies Part 2

The first post in this series explained how many embassies based in Washington DC are using social media and which platforms embassies most frequently use.

After looking at embassy presence across all platforms, Facebook and Twitter proved to be the two most popular – over 50 embassies in Washington DC were identified as having Twitter accounts and 60 embassies had Facebook accounts.

Of the social media platforms identified in our earlier piece, Twitter makes data most easily available and with least restrictions through their API (Automated Programming Interface). As a result, we have focused on Twitter rather than Facebook for this post, although we acknowledge the total number of DC Embassies using Facebook is slightly greater than those using Twitter.

When social media and twitter specifically are discussed within the context of Public Diplomacy, one of the frequently cited metrics is the number of followers. While this is a frequently stated metric, when stated about a single Twitter account it is at very best a tactical question, rather than an indicator of a successful strategy – unless getting followers is the end goal of using a Twitter account for Public Diplomacy. One way this metric can be a little more useful is to put it in the context of others in the same field, or in this case other Embassies in DC. While this is still relatively limited in its utility, there is at least a comparative element.

Read more…

22 Jan 2013

Collaborative Public Diplomacy – Published

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Collaborative Public Diplomacy: How Transnational Networks Influenced American Studies in Europe

During the early Cold War, the complex relationship between communities in Europe and the United States was of concern to those on both sides of the Atlantic. Using archival research and recorded interviews, this book charts the development of American Studies in Europe during that period. It demonstrates how negotiations took place through a network if relationships among the state, philanthropic foundations, and European scholars. Each interaction within this network had the potential to change the odds of a particular outcome occurring. Through analysis of these negotiations the book identifies factors which are influential in the conduct of successful collaborative public diplomacy and draws lessons for public diplomacy in an age when communities are connected through multi-hub, multi-directional networks.

From a collaborative perspective the role of public diplomacy initiatives is to facilitate interaction at a focal point for connection and action. This may be American Studies during the cold war but can equally be digital coordination points around contested elections in the 21st century. Collaborative Public Diplomacy demonstrates that to be successful, strategists require the ability to  identify focal points that already exist within a key population, whether common desires or locations, and the vision to recognise communities who are already likely to take action. However, Collaborative Public Diplomacy also requires space to be left for alternative perspectives to contribute to any initiative.

Response to the book: 

This is a remarkable manuscript by one of today’s leading and highly respected young scholars specializing in the theory and practice of public diplomacy – a rapidly growing field of academic study. Fisher’s book marshals and critically examines an extraordinary range of scholarly literature in two distinct but related areas of inquiry – current theories of networks and collaborative public diplomacy and the origins and development of American Studies in Europe  during the second half of the 20th century. Scholars in the field, and increasingly forward-leaning practitioners, will not be disappointed with Collaborative Public Diplomacy, given its scholarship and erudition.

Bruce Gregory, Professorial Lecturer, School of Media and Public Diplomacy, George Washington University

A path breaking book of immense significance to both the study and practice of public diplomacy; Ali Fisher goes beyond the loose endorsements of the value of partnerships and networks seen elsewhere to make a complex case for what should be done.  He illuminates his discussion with an impressive case study of the US creation of networks in the field of American Studies during the early Cold War.  His archival work for this case study alone is a major contribution to the field.  This complete book should be a game changer.

Nicholas J Cull, director USC Masters Program in Public Diplomacy and author of ‘The Decline and Fall of the United States Information Agency: American public diplomacy, 1989-2001 (Palgrave, 2012). 

Fisher has proven to be an adept story weaver as well as network weaver. In retelling the tale of American Studies during the cold war, Fisher identifies the key points that can facilitate or undermine successful collaborative public diplomacy.  Whereas collaboration may have been an option among allies during the cold war, in the future, collaborative public diplomacy [it] will be  an imperative and not all the partners will be friends. Learning how to increase the odds in collaborative public diplomacy is vital for not only playing, but staying relevant in today’s international arena.

RS Zaharna, author of Battles to Bridges: U.S. Strategic Communication and Public Diplomacy After 9/11

With this book, Ali Fisher has done both scholars and students of leading-edge public diplomacy an enormous service. By tracing the post-war development of American Studies in Europe, the author not only identifies and elaborates the three essential drivers of effective PD – connectivity, networks and collaboration –  but also analyzes and illustrates a cross section of their historical antecedents. In a contested, competitive world still beset by state preferences for defence over diplomacy, for fighting over talking, Fisher illuminates an alternative, and entirely compelling way forward.

Daryl Copeland, author of Guerrilla Diplomacy: Rethinking International Relations



14 Oct 2012

Guest post on Guerrilla Diplomacy: Tools for a more resilient public diplomacy

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I had the pleasure of presenting via videoconference to Daryl Copeland’s MA class at Ottawa University on October 10. The guest post on his blog, Guerrilla Diplomacy,  approximates the thoughts I presented.

Tools for a more resilient public diplomacy

With the right tools, smarter networks and collaborative strategies there is potential to deliver a more resilient and sustainable public diplomacy.


  • Public diplomacy is regularly cast as a long term activity, often around building lasting relationships or impact and frequently focused on engaging young people or the ‘next generation’.

On the other hand;

  • We know shock events will happen that cause rapid shifts in emphasis, policy, and resources. This Michael Oppenheimer has referred to as the inevitability of surprise in an environment that exhibits rapid change, fluid alignments, wide policy choice and strategic surprise.

The resulting challenge:

The full article can be found on Guerrilla Diplomacy.

3 Oct 2012

The True Measures of Success

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The True Measures of Success” by Michael J. Mauboussin in the Harvard Business Review this month is well worth a read for many things, not least of all is an anecdote:

What happened? We made a mistake that’s exceedingly common in business: We measured the wrong thing

The article is available here and while it is naturally focused on commercial business, many of the insights the article contains would add much to the attempts made in Public Diplomacy to measure success.

28 Sep 2012

Was Monday the first “duvet day” of autumn?

Posted by Wandren PD. 1 Comment

Social intelligence signals for identifying impact in public diplomacy and philanthropy.

“Defo feeling a duvet day with lots of movies” – one of many popular sentiments expressed on Twitter last Monday as the UK’s disappointing summer entered autumn.

Unlike many ideas about large social movements and information sharing networks, there are events which numerous individuals experience independently but at a similar time. This is not an ‘information cascade’ – or the idea of ‘going viral’ – where experience passes from one user to another. It is seen when expression of independent signals from individuals with common thought or experience are captured and aggregated.

Independent signals, in effect providing social intelligence as demonstrated by this review from Kenya and Google Flu trends, show the potential for organisations, philanthropists and investors to locate potential indicators of success or impact.

Still early days, and plenty of work to be done refining the techniques used to analyse data, and identifying the most important indicators of human behaviour.

So, Monday 24th September may well not be noted in history for it, but it seems likely to have been the first duvet day of this British autumn.

Duvet Day, what are people talking about…?

… mostly staying under or being wrapped up in a duvet.

Removing the standard ‘noise’ words we find the weather being a common factor alongside the lure of hot chocolate, hot water bottles and watching films or DVDs:

The #tags people use to consciously identify the content or their tweets, show similar emphasis.

The volume of tweets shows a relatively constant stream of discussion.

Early on comments focused on people going to work (or not), subsequently there were tweets about having a duvet day rather than going to school, and later college. Tweets also provide updates on what people were doing during their duvet day – including watching ‘jezza’ (Jeremy Kyle).

Final thought on duvet day; there were very few users who were mentioned frequently. (Names have been obscured due to the likely age of some users – as their tweets were about school).

This is in part that ‘duvet days’ is not an issue space which is likely to generate wide ranging discussion with people a user doesn’t know reducing the potential for an information cascade. However, it is an example of capturing and aggregating signals of independent experience.

17 Sep 2012

Article: Innovation in the big data era

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Everybody’s getting hooked up; Building innovative strategies in the era of big data

The potential in the era of big data comes not from drowning in a sea of data but navigating the most useful ways to derive insight and develop innovative strategies from that data.

Faced with complex problems, limited resources, and an increasingly small world many private and public diplomacy organisations are seeking to increase reach and influence through developing partnerships or unlocking their innovative potential through collaboration. At the same time the development of new technology has spawned new ideas, opportunities, and approaches to engaging with people around the world. Protesters demonstrated the ability to construct dispersed communication networks and coordinate action in the ‘battle in Seattle’, as recorded by John Sullivan. Similar network based approaches to public diplomacy have been identified in a recent article in Foreign Service Journal and at a conceptual level by Brian Hocking. As a result of these shifts, there is now potential to develop innovation in public diplomacy through “Big data”.

As a UN Global Pulse white paper noted big data is “an umbrella term for the explosion in the quantity and diversity of high frequency digital data. These data hold the potential—as yet largely untapped—to allow decision makers to track development progress, improve social protection, and understand where existing policies and programmes require adjustment”. In the context of public diplomacy big data allows organisations to look far beyond the daily tactical data, whether web metrics or shifting numbers of ”friends”, ”followers” and klout scores. Today public diplomacy strategists and practitioners are able to develop innovative strategy using insight from diverse sources of big data.

Read the full article online in Public Diplomacy Magazine, or download the PDF.

14 Aug 2012

Inaugural School of International Futures

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The inaugural School of International Futures started yesterday at Wilton Park, Britain’s foremost global policy centre, on the theme of Strategic Foresight.

Interest in foresight among the international policy community has grown in this period of financial and geopolitical turbulence. Foresight provides a way of apprehending and addressing uncertainties associated with demographic, environmental, economic and resource challenges, and the increasing interconnectedness of societies and nations. In such a context, it is clear that we must build resilience in the face of new and often complex risks.

The School has enlisted a top team of futurists, strategists and scenario experts to develop awareness of global trends. The School of international futures aims to engage participants in a deep exploration of global scenarios, and to provide participants with the tools and techniques to think through the future of their organisation and policy area.

Anne-Marie Slaughter, Lord Peter Hennessy, David Gordon, Michael Oppenheimer, and Peter Apps will be speaking supported by a faculty of futures and horizon scanning experts. Other participants come from governments and civil society across the world, along with some private sector foresight experts policy planners, business leaders, analysts and activists.

As researcher-in-residence I’ll be providing commentary on some of the issues and ideas discussed.

4 Apr 2012

Public Diplomacy and Power: To What End

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The ISA panel: “Public Diplomacy and Power: To What End?” chaired by Philip Seib delivered a forward looking discussion of the term power within Public Diplomacy.

Quick description of the panel:

“Soft power” as a conceptual foundation for public diplomacy has contributed significantly to public diplomacy’s rise in global affairs. Yet, links between power and public diplomacy remain ill-defined, particularly in the context of the “new” public diplomacy, which calls for a more symmetrical, dialogic approach to international relations. This panel of experts will consider the contested relationship between public diplomacy and power and examine the role of power in contemporary public diplomacy theory and practice. They will explore the analytical boundaries of public diplomacy as a distinct instrument of power used for both coercive and cooperative purposes and consider the desired outcomes of public diplomacy efforts.

Questions included:

  • If public diplomacy is viewed as an extension of power over others, then how does relationship building fit within such a construct? What does power mean in a collaborative public diplomacy context?
  • What influence does the relative power of nation-states (or other international actors) have on cross-border relationship building? What moral aspects should be considered in discussions of power in public diplomacy?
  • Finally, do links between public diplomacy and power define (or mask) public diplomacy’s purpose and value to nations and other international actors, as well as to global society?

For an additional perspective Indra Adnan and the Power of Soft Power is worth watching:


WE-NATO: Indra Adnan and the Power of Soft Power

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