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CULTURAL DIPLOMACY IN THE DIGITAL AGE

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“My God, this is the end of diplomacy!”

Such was the reported reaction of Palmerston, British Prime Minister, on receiving the first telegraph message in the 1850s. He was apparently expressing his opposition to the beneficial technological progress, appraising that the subversion of the established methodology of receiving and transmitting information would be to the detriment of the practice of effective diplomacy. Fortunately for humanity, diplomacy survived Palmerston’s statement, not only when it comes to the telegraph, but also with the discovery and application of other technologies, including digital, which was made available to diplomacy, creating both advantages and challenges.

In the digital age, the role of emerging technologies in the management and modernization of cultural diplomacy is becoming increasingly crucial, as modern tools are linked to the quality and effectiveness of information. Enhanced digitalization and targeted re-use of content through innovative processes empower cultural operators and contribute to achieving cultural diplomacy objectives such as promoting intercultural dialogue, understanding cultural diversity and cultural heritage, enhancing education and entrepreneurship.

In the field of education, cultural diplomacy is implemented through exchange programs for students, academics, artists and other representatives of a nation’s culture. The most dominant trend at global level introduces the concept of ‘edutainment’, which has a huge appeal to ‘digital natives’. In this case, ‘edutainment multimedia games’ are applied, drawing on themes from cultural heritage content. This method is aimed primarily at children, as they become familiar with different cultures from a very early a gein an entertaining and intellectual way.

The evolution from traditional literary archives to augmented reality marks an important step in the evolution of cultural institutions, since this process engages audiences in environments between physical space and magical realism. In short, the wider application of virtual reality addresses the problems and limitations arising from a crisis, exhibition space, collection movement and other technical issues.

From the development of e-learning, gamification and story-telling methods, to the integration of digital communication systems, it is becoming clear that multimedia allows access to education in effective ways. The development of technology in fields of application related to cultural heritage offers the general public new and enriched experiences with greater interactivity, stronger expression and messages that enhance mutual understanding.

Practices such as augmented reality, virtual reality, 3D digital photogrammetry and digital content enrich the experience that a destination with a strong cultural and heritage interest offers to the general public. Therefore, innovation and multimedia technologies applied to cultural and educational institutions contribute to the development of a modern ecosystem in which cultural diplomacy reach its objectives more effectively.

All of the above are encompassed in the concept of digital diplomacy, which includes the use of digital technologies and social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.). States use these tools to pursue their foreign policy objectives, to shape their image and reputation abroad and influence international public opinion in the age of the information revolution, where citizens have access to an expanded amount of information. Thus, states can adapt their narratives by facilitating the acceptance of their image. In this context, Noam Katz underlines that “the diplomat nowadays if he wants to have interaction then he has to find where the world is. If it is in the social networks, then that is where he should head”.

In the new global information society, digital diplomacy uses technological advances to promote and advance interests or to address new challenges, despite any weaknesses regarding security and misinformation issues. The ongoing pandemic, due to the prevention of physical meetings, has strengthened the practice of digital contacts and data communication. With some of the advantages that digital technology has offered visible, it is certain that some of its manifestations and practices will remain and develop further, even after the pandemic has ended globally.

The civilizations that have left a strong imprint on humanity and survive to this day, maintaining their prestige, seek to apply these methods in every available field of action. Technology, advanced telecommunications, trade and tourism are multiplying contacts between cultures and people are attaching greater importance to their cultural identity. According to the historian, Fernand Braudel, modernization enhances the survival of cultures, and indeed, even non-Western societies have already modernized without abandoning their cultural heritage and adopting entirely practices, values and institutions that are alien to their core.

George Stavropoulos

Bibliography

Ηλιόπουλος, Δ. (2021,July 13). Ψηφιακός μετασχηματισμός της διπλωματίας. ΕΛΙΑΜΕΠ. Retrievedfrom: https://www.eliamep.gr/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/

Πανδή, Ν. (2021, January 5). Η ανατέλλουσα παγκόσμια πολιτική και ο εκσυγχρονισμός της πολιτιστικής διπλωματίας στην ψηφιακή εποχή. Huffpost. Retrievedfrom: https://www.huffingtonpost.gr/entry/e-anatelloesa-paykosmia-politike-kai-o-ekseychronismos-tes-politistikes-diplomatias-sten-psefiake-epoche

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