Trying to Define Digital Diplomacy

Being in the field of digital diplomacy, talking about it and wanting to write about it has driven me to Google ‘digital diplomacy definition’ every once in a while. Guess what. Every time I do it, I come across the same things:

  1. An opening sentence that reads ” There is yet and official definition for digital diplomacy” (mine included)
  2. “The differences between diplomacy and digital diplomacy are…”
  3. Stories and articles by or about professionals who engage citizens in the name of the government via their own websites and social media networks.

At first I thought it to be the fact that the field is still in its infancy and that no one is ready to set something in stone when it is still crystallizing. Interestingly enough, even the ancient practice of defense/military diplomacy doesn’t yet have an official definition.

I am in no position to try to define digital diplomacy. But I do hope that by sharing some of my thoughts I will be able to contribute to the work process of whoever steps up to the challenge and is accepted by most.

Let’s take a look at a few simplistic definitions of diplomacy and see if and how digital diplomacy applies to them.

Diplomacy:

  • The art and practice of conducting negotiations between nations.
  • A process of conducting activities with tact in order to bring about good relationships.

Public Diplomacy:

Any of the ways in which a country or organization communicates with citizens in other societies as opposed to diplomacy carried out between 2 or more national governments.

Defense and Military Diplomacy:

Peaceful application of military and defense resources to contribute to the development and maintenance of a country’s foreign relations via attachés who help facilitate agreements, treaties, visits joint drills and other forms of peaceful military engagement.

Given those definitions, is it safe to say that digital diplomacy is a form of public diplomacy in which a government engages citizens in other societies? Yes.

Can we also say that it is a means to facilitate activities (‘with tact’) in order to bring about good relations between countries? Yes.

Can it also be said that peaceful application of military resources to the development and maintenance of a country’s foreign relations can also include secure online portals, messaging, instant messaging, forums and information shares? Yes.

Can we also include a government’s engagement with its own citizens, as well as UN and consular corps diplomats’ online engagements into this whole one-to-many conversation? Yes.

I don’t want to get too wordy, but I did promise to dig deep… So I will be taking these definitions apart separately in future blog posts. Hopefully giving more answers than posing questions.

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