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Ranch State and CitizenSpace: Digital Democracy and Web Strategies for the United States and the United Kingdom
Unformatted Document Text:  2 “We’re selling. We’re selling a product. That product we are selling is democracy.” -Secretary of State Colin Powell, at the 2001 NetDiplomacy Conference in Washington, D.C., speaking on the mission of the Dept. of State and its use of information technologies. On September 5-7, 2001 – hundreds of foreign service employees, IT specialists, and one distinguished advertising guru gathered for NetDiplomacy2001 – a conference dedicated to re- thinking the use of IT technologies by the United States Department of State. Drawing on the growing sentiment in U.S. foreign policy circles that the process and content of diplomatic activity is fundamentally altered by new information and communication technologies (ICTs), NetDiplomacy2001 was a stage for a new consensus on the utilization of ICTs in US foreign affairs. For the United States to maintain its foreign policy objectives, the State Department would have to “manage and master IT” (Kurata, 2001). In addition, to address a range of new issues facing the United States foreign policy establishment, a coherent strategy for the use of ICTs must be deployed – thus fundamentally altering the process of how foreign policy is conducted and, by extension, altering the objectives of the State Department as a governmental organization. This process begins, as some conference speakers proclaimed, as a matter of internet-based “branding” of the United States on the Web. At first glance, the issue of “internet branding” seems a far cry from the use of the Internet as a tool for advancing any sort notion of neo-Athenian democracy on-line. What is striking about NetDiplomacy 2001 is how the notion of governmental usage of ICTs and, specifically the Internet, has transformed. Absent in the State Department’s discussion are utopian proclamations about civic participation and an enlightened citizenry. The focus of this conference (arguably a trend-setting moment in the development of ICT policy at the State Department), was primarily on the promotion of American ideas in a one-way delivery system, couched in the terminology of online advertising and derived from a market research-based understanding of public opinion. What does this say about the capacity for civic participation, education, and “social capital” facilitated through internet technologies in foreign policy in the United States?

Authors: Hayden, Craig.
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“We’re selling. We’re selling a product. That product we are selling is democracy.”
-Secretary of State Colin Powell, at the 2001 NetDiplomacy Conference in Washington, D.C.,
speaking on the mission of the Dept. of State and its use of information technologies.
On September 5-7, 2001 – hundreds of foreign service employees, IT specialists, and one
distinguished advertising guru gathered for NetDiplomacy2001 – a conference dedicated to re-
thinking the use of IT technologies by the United States Department of State. Drawing on the
growing sentiment in U.S. foreign policy circles that the process and content of diplomatic
activity is fundamentally altered by new information and communication technologies (ICTs),
NetDiplomacy2001 was a stage for a new consensus on the utilization of ICTs in US foreign
affairs. For the United States to maintain its foreign policy objectives, the State Department
would have to “manage and master IT” (Kurata, 2001). In addition, to address a range of new
issues facing the United States foreign policy establishment, a coherent strategy for the use of
ICTs must be deployed – thus fundamentally altering the process of how foreign policy is
conducted and, by extension, altering the objectives of the State Department as a governmental
organization. This process begins, as some conference speakers proclaimed, as a matter of
internet-based “branding” of the United States on the Web.
At first glance, the issue of “internet branding” seems a far cry from the use of the
Internet as a tool for advancing any sort notion of neo-Athenian democracy on-line. What is
striking about NetDiplomacy 2001 is how the notion of governmental usage of ICTs and,
specifically the Internet, has transformed. Absent in the State Department’s discussion are utopian
proclamations about civic participation and an enlightened citizenry. The focus of this conference
(arguably a trend-setting moment in the development of ICT policy at the State Department), was
primarily on the promotion of American ideas in a one-way delivery system, couched in the
terminology of online advertising and derived from a market research-based understanding of
public opinion. What does this say about the capacity for civic participation, education, and
“social capital” facilitated through internet technologies in foreign policy in the United States?


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