Saturday, September 26, 2009

Cultural Diplomacy Through Blogging


Earlier this week I blogged about a cultural diplomacy panel discussion I attended at Syracuse University. One of the topics of discussion was social media and how Marjane Satrapi did not think it was an effective tool for improving diplomatic relations, and how panelist David Pogue disagreed. As I stated in that blog, I also believe that social media is a great tool for cultural diplomacy. The more I thought about, I began to believe it even more and I got to thinking about a book I read last year.

The book is called "Baghdad Burning," and it is a compilation of blog posts written by an anonymous female only known as Riverbend, who lives in Baghdad. She blogs about her experiences and feelings in regards to the Iraqi War. Her story is incredible and moving and I learned a lot from reading this book.

Riverbend began blogging in 2003 and was last heard from in October of 2007, after arriving safely in Syria with her family. Her posts were well-written and insightful; providing her honest political insight as well as cultural information about her family and her country.

I do not mean to review this book, though I do highly recommend it. This blog though, is a prime example of cultural diplomacy achieved through social media. Through her emotional and insightful story-telling, people from across the globe are able to share her experiences. Many disagreed with her viewpoints, I'm sure, many learned things about the war, and many wept for her and her family and friends. Everyone who read it though, had a better understanding of what it is like to live through that, on the other side of this war. Whether or not you support the war, which I will not get into because this is not a political blog, a sense of understanding and sympathy went out to this girl and her family.

That is cultural diplomacy. Many people felt a connection to this girl, and therefore to the people of Iraq. Many had greater understandings after reading her blog. In this case, and in other similar to it, social media has proven its use for the good of cultural diplomacy.

Social media isn't just an online marketing tool, it's a tool to help us understand one another and provide connections and sense of understanding across cultures and countries. That's my PR thought for the day.

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