How Might the U.S. Utilize Innovative Technologies To Discuss U.S. Foreign Policy?

Posted by DipNote Bloggers
February 20, 2009
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Secretary Clinton recently posted her first DipNote blog entry and is participating in a new online forum, "Ask the Secretary." She also launched an internal State Department website, "The Sounding Board," to solicit feedback from Department staff. Secretary Clinton said, "There is no doubt in my mind that we have barely scratched the surface as to what we can use to communicate with people around the world, and in fact, to use them [new technologies] as further our own work and be smart about it.

"How Might the U.S. Utilize Innovative Technologies To Discuss U.S. Foreign Policy?



District Of Columbia, USA
February 20, 2009

Klint in Washington writes:

First I think any technology that is useful, even if it's a wordless comic strip, should be pursued.

Second the U.S. Air Force has an interesting decision tree flow chart in regards to interacting with things concerning the US Air Force, online. It might help with coming up with ideas/prioritizing reactions when encountering things beyond blog, school/college discussions, public talks within Public Affairs within the U.S. State Dept.

To the question How Might the U.S. utilize Innovative Technologies to Discuss U.S. Foreign Policy?

With whole planet - This blog / / to help share (even if it's just to point to) happenings within the U.S. State Dept. and policies that exist and are coming out. This of course requires organization and people to be active in providing the service and working/communicating with the rest of Government.

Though there are different things, it would be nice to have a focal portal point to keep things efficient for visitors, agencies & law makers to use (I vote U.S. State Dept.). This way an almost single page can be concentrated on. It may not be filled with agreements but at least everyone knows where to look.

Besides websites mp3 podcasts of discussions and speeches, that can be downloaded and listened to.

Perhaps a place where teachers of all grade levels, elementary to college (even homeschool) can discuss / download helpful education & activity packs to help encourage Foreign Policy awareness and what it involves.

With citizens outside the U.S. - Differentiate between what is and what is planned and tell them how they can be affected, how the country or even region can be affected (positive, negative, short term, long term).

With citizens in the U.S. - Sharing of activities where representatives in any of the 3 Federal Branches involves foreign travel or perhaps talking about things that involve foreign policy,

New Jersey, USA
February 20, 2009

Rosemary in New Jersey writes:

Well, I have to think about that but I am smiling because Hillary is such a techie. I can't tell you how much I missed hearing from her. SO glad she's back on the web!

California, USA
February 21, 2009

Nils in California writes:

I am thrilled to be getting DipNote (and other new White House blogs) in my feed reader! It's at least the promise of true openness, which is extremely exciting after the last eight years of secrecy.

I think the biggest challenges with these new technologies for the State Department and the government as a whole are going to be:

1. Scale - the nation has at least 150 million citizens who might have a say on a topic -- imagine one of these blog posts with even 1% of those citizens commenting! This is really an unsolved problem, as far as I know.

2. Enabling the grassroots to be heard above the roar of lobbyists of every stripe who will be trying to overwhelm the conversation with their points of view. This is another hard problem to solve - particular because some of these lobbyists will not only be representing *me*, but they will be doing so in an articulate and honest manner. But the risks of lobbyists and other funded interest groups "gaming" the system is huge.

In any case, please continue to post these very interesting articles about the SoS's trips, meetings, decisions, and speeches.

Jennifer S.
West Virginia, USA
February 21, 2009

Jennifer in West Virginia writes:

I commend Madam Secretary Hillary Clinton and all of the wonderful staff at the State Department for pursuing ways to connect with US citizens and people all over the world through innovative technologies. You're already doing a great job in employing all kinds of social networking/Web 2.0 technologies, and I look forward to more!

I know you have a YouTube site. Would you consider allowing a citizen journalist, just an every day citizen, to accompany Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and/or perhaps U.S. Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke to cover their diplomatic efforts from an every day citizen's point of view?

I think it would be unique and inspiring to provide coverage from the perspective of an average citizen so that those you represent might see what you're doing on our behalf - through the eyes of someone just like them!

Talk about engagement! Wouldn't it be cool, then, to post videos by this citizen journalist to some of your social networking sites? Your diplomatic efforts could go viral through YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc. and this would give you another way to get out the message of what you're doing without the filter of the mainstream media.

Another idea I have and have been working on in small measure is how to engage an entire class of students in thinking about, researching and writing about a world issue under the purview of the Secretary of State and the State Department. Some of my journalism students have already been posting to the State Department's Facebook site on the issue of the treatment of women under strict Islamic Sharia Law.

Although it's their first attempt and not formal pieces of writing, their Facebook postings have offered them a way to exercise their mass communication skills on an important issue in a pretty impressive venue - the State Department's Facebook page! I've also noticed that at least one person not from my class or our university also has responded, which is so exciting because at least in a small way the conversation has extended beyond my class.

I can foresee using your social networking sites to engage classes of students all over the country -- perhaps all over the world. You could attempt to connect a class in the United States (whatever level you desire -- middle school, high school, college) with a comparable class in another country on a specific issue. The State Department's Facebook page or blog or whatever venue you choose could be the common ground and host, and just imagine what goodwill, tolerance and respect for differences might result (and potentially some innovative solutions from these inspired and engaged students)!

Keep up the great work, and thank you so much for being so open to new and exciting ways to interact with and engage not only U.S. citizens, but also the world!

P.S. If you like the citizen journalist idea and would like to give it a try, I would be delighted and honored to participate! ;) I thoroughly enjoyed doing some video podcasting/vodcasting as a "citizen journalist" this past year!,,,

While I have been in education as a high school teacher and now an associate professor at Marshall University, I've never stopped being a student! I love learning from and right along with my students!


New Mexico, USA
February 21, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

Dipnote Staff: To the remote villages cut off from hi-tech communications, "meet and greet" is still done face to face.

Now what if the Presidents of the U.S. and Afghanistan could simultaneously hold a "fire-side chat" on a directly interactive, real-time video conference link-up with remote Afghan villages?

(Afghanistan not being the only nation that may benefit from such a program.)

No pre-recorded anything and virtually in person.

Well, you'd need a high-tech traveling PRT to put the show on the road.

If a complete mobile health clinic and dental surgical van were to convoy along with, staying up to a week in each place, you'll have an audience that can reach out and touch progress. Change not that folks can simply believe in, but can actually live with.

If the President's of both nations could coordinate a live weekly appearance, take questions, and reach out and touch some folks to let them know they are part of the process, then that's how you'll turn separatists into democrats, and win hearts and minds.

It's not too hard to figure out, so maybe the good folks at State will take the bare bones of these thoughts, and pass them on to those it very much concerns.


Joerg W.
February 23, 2009

Joerg in Germany writes:

I applaud Secretary Clinton for posting on Dipnote.

It's great that the State Department intends to utilize innovative technologies. I think going on Facebook and Youtube and Twitter has been a great start. There are so many tools out there, and I am still thinking what tools are best for which purposes. I will let you know about my conclusions.

I would like to point out that NATO is working on new public diplomacy initiatives as well:

Dr. Stefanie Babst, NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy Strategy, argues in our Open Think Tank

"NATO should be more courageous in using digital tools to directly interact with the public. Why not host a permanent blog on the NATO website? Why not widen the debate about NATO's new Strategic Concept beyond the "usual suspects" and try to obtain new thinking through, for instance, online discussions with citizens on specific aspects of NATO's future role?"Here is a Link

Virginia, USA
February 22, 2009

Rob in Virginia writes:

One of the things I find most useful is the use of aggregator to combine the various blogs and news feeds into one interface, specifically Google's iGoogle and Google Reader. I have been using My Yahoo for some time as well. What interests me here would be to have State Dept. staff present material from other agencies and trusted news sources within the U.S.A. as well as around the world to create a wider context in which to frame the actions of the Secretary as well as key staff. One might add a section under each Dipnote post entitled "related news" or "more on this topic in-depth". What I seek is a historical narrative that describes world affairs and the role of the U.S.A. in a way that a student of history or international affairs could develop theses or research from an authoritative source.

Thanks, and great job so far.

Virginia, USA
February 23, 2009

John in Virginia writes:

First, superb choice in keeping the DipNote Twitter feed--there is always the temptation to jettison the ideas from the previous administration. Even better that the Secretary is going to personally blog! Second: content, content, content. Too many government web sites are little more than fluff. It would be wonderful if the updated DoS Strategic Plan could be on the site linked to the associated parts of the NSS, linked to the regional bureaus, even linked to country team plans, if they aren't too sensitive. Third: ensure that the Facebook site is also content-heavy. You might even consider requiring assistant secretaries to maintain a presence linked off the main Facebook page, or at least to comment there.

California, USA
February 24, 2009

Wendy in California writes:

I think Eric New Mexico has an utterly stunning idea with these virtual meetings in places like Afghanistan. Also Jennifer W Va re kids participating. I've sent the following email to my city & county's superintendents. I implore all Dipnote folk to sent it to their educators.

I think we could do such widespread good if people and schools started following the increasingly excellent statedotgov and Dipnote. I have already sent the following to my local and county school folk with encouraging feedback. (Unfortunately I don't know how to get the live links to show up here in Dipnote.)
Dear [Your Friend],
I'd be grateful if you'd forward this information to the appropriate educators in your area. It's an extraordinary -- and free! -- classroom resource.
Dear [Superintendent &/or Curriculum Superintendent],

I hope you can forward the following info to our local history, government, and social studies teachers, K-12.

The [U.S. State Department website (live link)] has a cool new feature that they might want to use with their students. It's called Ask the Secretary and any student could ask her/his own question of Secretary of State Clinton as she makes her historic journeys. I just asked a question myself.

I'm learning so much from this website. There's an extensive [Youth & Education (live link)] section with a special website for students and specific info for parents & educators. There's a [Speaker Request (live link)] area where one can ask for a nearby State Dept. person to speak to your school.

I think Traveling with the Secretary of State is such an astounding opportunity to broaden our horizons. In addition to the broad general interest, I imagine these 5 kids in any school who are just lit on fire by curiosity. It's so cool that they can ask questions thru Ask the Secretary.

I would love to get this information out around [your state] and the rest of the country. I would appreciate any advice you might have on how to do that. Gosh, I would have loved such a resource back in the Pleistocene when I was a teacher.

Cheers & thanks,
City, State, zipcode
phone #

Veyry C.
California, USA
February 24, 2009

Veyry in California writes:

Hillary; we're really proud of you. You already are the best SOS that this Country could have. I wish you were the President, but I know you'll shine with your intelligence and charm, not only in U.S.A. but in the whole world.You're in God's great plans and in all our prayers! We're with you ever, God bless you!

February 24, 2009

D.T. writes:

Excellent job with the site and related communications. And of course what an amazing SOS we have in Hillary.

I would like to see something similar but with a eye towards kids and education. Perhaps a travelog with maps, a bit about the particular country and their leaders, a bit about issues and problems, and of course something about what ideas are being discussed as solutions.

Thanks for everything and keep up the good work!

Texas, USA
February 25, 2009

Eric in Texas writes:

Fully intergrate all DoD websites to update immediately...

Jonathan B.
California, USA
February 25, 2009

Jonathan B. in California writes:

I absolutely love that the DOS is using this blog and twitter. I also hope to see more use of Facebook and other social media. I would love to see a YouTube channel as well as a series of video podcasts -- that would be truly remarkable. I love this blog and being able to comment on it is great.

DipNote Blogger Luke Forgerson writes:

@ Jonathan B. in California -- Thanks to you and others for your great comments and suggestions. Glad to count you among our readers. Thought you might be interested in knowing that we do have a YouTube channel and also produce audio podcasts. I encourage you to take a look at these resources, and let us know if there is anything you would like to see in terms of video podcasts. Thanks!

Tennessee, USA
February 25, 2009

Joe in Tennessee writes:

This is probably one of the most interesting questions which have to be asked.

Communications and information technologies will be responsible for everything from Social Change, Political Reform, Investing, Health Care, Invention, Education and the National Security of every single country on earth.

It is a new Science, in some ways, which encompasses many identified Sciences and has yet to be developed. Psychology, Politics, Economics, Military, Security, Culture all have to be mixed into the answers and a new developing Sociology will emerge?after all that is what sociology is: a work in progress.

I don?t know how to answer this question without departmentalization of specific topic as it is a work in progress for all.

Hopefully, the prime directive will be for the enhancement of human interaction world wide and the betterment of this planets people, resources and peace.

United States
February 25, 2009

Zharkov in U.S.A. writes:

The question explicitly states that the State Department wants to communicate directly with foreign citizens and discuss U.S. foreign policy without filtering this information through foreign officials and without the consent of foreign officials.

If this idea was reversed, and U.S. citizens had direct communications with foreign officials, it could constitute a violation of the Logan Act.

However, the nations most likely to benefit from direct contact with their citizens also censor internet communications and are unlikely to permit their citizens to be exposed to such information.

Foreign citizens in those nations may be subject to arrest and imprisonment for communicating directly with U.S. government employees. The people most likely to want to be friends with the U.S. in those nations may be the first to lose their freedom.

So the first step is to begin an effort to remove internet censorship of speech to allow freedom of speech to become a reality. U.S. companies which help foreign nations attempt to regulate free speech on the internet should be prosecuted in the U.S. for their violation of human rights.

Kentucky, USA
February 25, 2009

Vernon C. in Kentucky writes:

How do you like your new job?

A G.
Maryland, USA
February 25, 2009

Gibbons in Maryland writes:

I think that the best thing the federal government can do to harness and perfect the world of technology is to become the top utilizer of it.

What the State Department can do with technology is create a network for people who want to stay in contact with foreign policy. This could include an ability for U.S. citizens to enter into a 'list serve' of sorts to get the information that they want. For example, they could sign up for information from specific countries, topics or people.

I also think that they could make the State Department interactive for many age groups. There should be a way to learn about foreign countries and our interactions with them (past and present) in a way school age children can get into, college age students can use for research, and adults can use to stay informed. This can include up to date alerts, maps and routes of travel and information on all of the pertinent countries and their governments.

Great job Hillary!

b w.
District Of Columbia, USA
February 25, 2009

B.W. in Washington, DC writes:

I visited the "Ask the Secretary" website, and I was surprised that the questions were not posted in a manner similar to this. I have not asked any questions of the secretary, but I can imagine that a fair amount of people have the same or similar questions. Also if it was set up more like a blog then people could have potential questions answered as well.

I agree with what Gibbons from Maryland said, "I think that the best thing the federal government can do to harness and perfect the world of technology is to become the top utilizer of it." At this point we need to be able to express ideas across the chain of command with the American public. This is something I feel Obama did well in his campaign and I see this blog as an extension of that idea!

Tennessee, USA
February 26, 2009

Joe in Tennessee writes:

"I think that the best thing the federal government can do to harness and perfect the world of technology is to become the top utilizer of it."

WE do not have the resources nor the people in numbers to do so. Even the multi level advanced computer Intelligence system installed for and by MI5 in England a few years ago is now superseded by China. To be quite honest, we never will at this junction; which is why the concept to relate Person to Person cross culturally would work best for all.

Many on this board have been in war or traveled to other countries, many of which have governmental systems in place adversarial to the interest of democracy or U.S. policy. What you did realize is that people were for the most part the same by nature and need. A mother in Africa has the same dreams as the mother in America, Canada, Russia, Iran, China, Korea, etc., when their child is born. It is to this nature of humanity the democratic ideology which provides health care, education and opportunity must be addressed. Not necessarily the philosophy of Religions and Politics which identify separation, but a democratic world ideology of human dignity and rights to self sufficiency in the least.

There are many, many more people than there are leaders in this small universe of ours. The concept of unrestricted communication between cultures can be used productively so all the peoples needs will overcome whatever partisan separatism keeps limitations upon them.

While Utopian in thought, it is the direction communication will have. It is one reason why even young children adapt so readily to new communication concepts today. They are equal when conversing one to one.

We will not be able to control it, but we can direct it productively and set that example.

Issues of Security are a separate function; but, we must realize that what can be transmitted, can be intercepted and that stream viewed to its source by almost any country today.

California, USA
February 26, 2009

Georgiann in California writes:

The good old vis-a-vis ( face to face) cannot be ignored and continues to be significant. Technology is only as good as it information can be disseminated. The information RECEIVED has to go somewhere, to someone and then Action must be taken.

Today more than ever, our State Department needs to continue to escalate and move more quickly, individuals into the global arena and then see that these diplomat's can access the local populations. Communication time lines between field diplomats and Washington might be streamlined and afford better results by having larger dissemination and action teams in Washington ready to address real time issues. And to plan a course of ACTION.

Kudo's to the State Department for having an interactive young adult's and children's site access. I agree with so many of the posting proponents wishing to increase the American youth's knowledge base. We need World globes and maps in every single elementary, middle school and high school classroom. Children should be tested on their knowledge of Geography. How can we as a country anticipate continuing to be global players if most of our young people can't find Mexico and Canada on a map??

My best, Secretary Clinton! You're off to a wonderful start.

Maryland, USA
February 26, 2009

Phil in Maryland writes:

Something a little more specific than previous posters: DoS used to post daily briefings -- audio and video -- as well as other "breaking news" and key speeches on iTunes as podcasts. Nothing has been posted since October of 2008. It would be worthwhile to resume those posts in order to reach the growing number of people who use iTunes for non-entertainment audio and video content. No doubt items posted there could include a tagline to encourage people to discuss content on DoS-run sites like this one.

February 27, 2009

Dave in Canada writes:

I think the U.S could use innovative technologies to diffuse world crises and strengthen relations with its allies. there could be instant messaging or text messaging between lower level diplomat to get a better under standing of the situation and transmit that information to the secretary of state.

Virginia, USA
February 27, 2009

Jack in Virginia writes:

State has been using Interactive and electronic technologies for a long time. I know that overseas posts have had audio files on their webpages since around 2001 and the president was featured on live video streams in 2002. State was among the first big organization to have a web presence back the early 1990s.

State has been blogging, doing Twitter feeds, using Facebook, podcasting etc for some time now. The fact that so many people think this is something new shows that it hasn't reached enough people, I suppose. Unfortunately, I know we will be having this same debate next year and the year after that and ? This is a hardy perennial and somebody new discovers it each year. Solution are proposed; steps are taken.

We have a significant structural dilemma using interactive technologies -- they are interactive. One person can only interact -- really interact -- with a limited number of people. Experts usually say it is around 150 maximum, and strong interaction is probably limited to a dozen or so. With larger groups, is more like a broadcast, which is the old paradigm.

In the last five or six years, State has become a lot more open to speaking freely. Dipnote is about a year and a half old and I know from experience that State employees are free to express themselves on this and many other fora. But even if you empower every single one of State's employees to interact in the new media -- and you assume they have something interesting to say -- that still is a drop in the sea of the world population. The State Department never will have the resources to do mass marketing.

Fortunately for us of all, the American nation is greater than the American government. Our citizens are reaching out and communicating using the new technologies. The people are discussing foreign policy, among many other things.

The debate never ends and that is a good sign. But don't expect a solution. More correctly, remember that yesterday's solution is today's problem.


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