The Spectrum of Listening

Routledge Handbook of Public Diplomacy (2nd edition), pp. 21-29, 2020.

Although there is a general consensus on the need for listening in public diplomacy, a clear definition of this activity and clear parameters defining how listening should be conducted and evaluated has largely been missing. In this chapter I describe the “spectrum of listening”, a framework which makes explicit public diplomacy listening approaches, ranging from the ideal type of apophatic listening to surreptitious listening activities. In between these two extremes, there are four approaches for listening in public diplomacy: active, tactical, listening in, and background/casual listening. The spectrum brings epistemological awareness in public diplomacy listening activities, in particular in relation to social media listening. I argue that the spectrum of listening can help practitioners to rethink listening as a range of methodological options and as a representational act, rather than as a mere tool shaped and driven only by technological advancements.

Fear and empathy in international relations: Diplomacy, cyber engagement and Australian foreign policy

Place Branding and Public Diplomacy, 2021

Emotions in international relations, as in human relations, are invisible but leave traces in the policy articulation. Such traces can reveal how emotional interpretations of the environment in which national states operate shape and frame certain policy and strategic choices. Drawing on the concept of the “institutionalisation of empathy and fear” developed by Crawford (Int Theory 6(3):535–557, 2014), I first operationalise and then apply this concept to the Australian foreign policy. This framework is applied to the analysis of the foreign policy documents and strategies published by the Australian government in the last decade. In particular, I focus on Australia’s foreign policy articulation and interpretation of the internet and digital technologies. New, pressing problems are emerging in the digital environment due to a range of cybersecurity threats, including an increase in the frequency of automated accounts and the dissemination of fake news and digital propaganda. From perceiving the internet as a communication platform that allows for listening to and dialogue with foreign publics, Australian foreign policy is increasingly framing the internet as strategic infrastructure that requires defending and guarding. The attention is, thus, moving towards short-term ‘defensive’ goals—as a result of a higher perceived fear of the latest evolution in the geopolitical context. The shift in Australian foreign policy indicates a form of institutionalisation of fear in response to the challenges emerging from the digital environment. I conclude by arguing that a more belligerent international environment highlights the tension between national interest—which evolves and changes due to political shifts and contextual elements—and the understanding of public diplomacy engagement as mutual understanding and mutual influence.

Conceptualising public diplomacy listening on social media

Place Branding and Public Diplomacy, 16, pp. 131–142, 2020.

Public diplomacy consists of the public and interactive dimensions of diplomacy. Although listening is one of its core activities, public diplomacy scholarship has not yet engaged with listening theory. This paper connects public diplomacy scholarship with a new wave of literature that has argued that listening is a critical and previously neglected component of dialogic engagement. By reviewing this literature, this paper develops a framework for the ‘spectrum of listening’ and categorises five types of public diplomacy listening on social media. The review is followed by a descriptive profile of each type of listening. Using this spectrum, this paper endorses active listening and the embedded concept of dialogic engagement as a concrete yardstick by which to assess successful public diplomacy listening on social media. Listening could be narrowly interpreted as a way to implement and readjust a national strategy, or more broadly and ambitiously as an activity that aims to advance international understanding. The paper considers listening to be a representational force: a public and active response to publics who are increasingly demanding not only to participate, but also to be listened to.

Blog post: The Spectrum of Listening

Article published for the USC Centre on Public Diplomacy blog site.

Listening is a representational force: a public and active response to publics who are increasingly demanding not only to participate, but also to be listened to.