public diplomacy

Welcome to the Take Five blog!

Welcome to Take Five, the new blog of GW’s Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication (IPDGC)! The purpose of this multi-authored blog will primarily be two-fold.

~ To comment on the most interesting developments in the practice of public diplomacy (PD) and global communication.

~ To discuss relevant scholarly research in both of these fields, as befits our academic home. Take Five will thus join a growing body of scholarly blogs that serve as layperson-friendly bridges to academia. Here we follow especially in the footsteps of the award-winning blog founded by our GW colleagues in the Political Science department,  The Monkey Cage.

A brief note about our areas of interest, “public diplomacy and global communication.” Admittedly, these are broad topics. Public diplomacy, sometimes called “soft power,” is a subject rich in history (think: Voice of America, Edward R. Murrow, etc.), but until recently of scant academic interest.

That is changing. At places like GW (which hosted the first course in public diplomacy, taught by IPDGC founder and benefactor Walter Roberts more than 25 years ago), USC’s Annenberg School, Syracuse University, American University, Tufts, and a growing number of places around the world such as the Clingendael Institute of International Relations, PD has become a subject of growing interest in the academic, practitioner, and think tank communities. This gives us a lot to talk about, and an increasing number of people to talk to.

“Global communication” is an even broader concept, but one with a well-established record of scholarly research across multiple academic domains, ranging from communication studies to international relations to sociology and so forth. Yet it, too, is a field changing rapidly with the onset of new technologies that make us rethink old paradigms about media influence, development, and the relative power of traditional nation states versus non-state actors such as terrorist groups.

So at Take Five we are interested in questions like:

  • What role did social media really play in the Arab Spring?
  • Are information and communication technologies (ICTs) empowering the poor in the developing world, or are the rich just getting richer?
  • How effective has the Obama Administration’s effort to create a “whole of government” approach to soft and hard power been, how can it be improved, and what can it learn from the experiences of other countries?
  • Do we need to rethink the very notion of “diplomacy” in a 2.0 world, and if so what would that mean?
  • Does the spread of citizen-generated videos of regime violence in places like Syria and Libya through social media pressure other nations to get involved in those conflicts, especially in an era guided by concerns about “Responsibility to Protect”? And if so, does that mean we are less likely to see more Rwandas, or more likely to see more Iraq-style quagmires?

This is just a hint of what lies ahead. The list of possible topics, after all, is as diverse and dynamic as the internet itself.

About our name: Like many blog titles, “Take Five” is part pun, part inside joke. On one level, we are asking readers interested in these issues to “take five” from their day and read the blog.

On another, the title is rooted in one of the legendary soft power initiatives of the last fifty years: The Jazz Diplomacy tours organized by the U.S. State Department since the early days of the Cold War. Along with Louis Armstrong (AKA: “Ambassador Satch”), the most notable of the musicians who toured the world to share America’s greatest home-grown musical tradition was Dave Brubeck,  who would eventually receive the Benjamin Franklin Award for Public Diplomacy. And of course “Take Five” was probably Brubeck’s most famous song, recorded on the seminal masterpiece “Time Out” in 1959.

This blog will have several main authors, but many other contributors. The primary authors will be the following folks:

  • Myself, an associate professor of media and international affairs at GW and director of IPDGC.
  • Mary Jeffers, the IPDGC Public Diplomacy Fellow, is a public diplomacy practitioner with over two decades of experience in the State Department and (former) U.S. Information Agency. Jeffers most recently served as Public Affairs Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Rabat, Morocco (2008 -11), where “Arab Spring” issues and the impact of social media took center stage.
  • PJ Crowley, currently an IPDGC Fellow, was nominated by President Obama as the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs in 2009 and confirmed by the United States Senate. He served as the Assistant Secretary and Spokesman at the Department of State until March 2011. He was the primary U.S. government interlocutor with major media regarding the release of classified diplomatic cables by Wikileaks.

In addition, contributions will come from many of the other faculty at GW, which has a well-deserved reputation in the study and practice of PD and global communication issues; guest bloggers from prominent members of the scholarly and practitioner worlds; and GW’s own exceptional graduate students, especially those in the Global Communication and Media and Public Affairs Masters programs.

So from time to time during your day, take five and keep up with the latest news, research, and commentary about soft power and global communication. And be sure and follow IPDGC on its Twitter feed: @ipdgc, and visit us at our website:


About Sean Aday

Sean Aday is an associate professor of media and international affairs at George Washington University. He is also the director of the Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication and director of the Global Communication M.A. Program. His research interests include: media and foreign policy/war, new media and politics, public diplomacy, media effects, and public opinion.


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