Traditional Meets Digital (Diplomacy)

Currently, I am working on a research project on “digital” diplomacy. I will keep using my beloved quotation marks until I find a better concept to describe what I am doing without resorting to another instance of neologism.

Basically, I am still arguing that any kind of hyphenated diplomacy is still diplomacy. Let it be public diplomacy or nation branding or digital diplomacy, at the end of the day, we are looking at the same old traditional diplomatic processes such as recognition and signaling. In Traditional Meets Digital, I am exploring how these processes might take place within the digital media landscape. In more concrete things, I am trying to find the equivalents of diplomatic practices – such as alliance formation and power projection – on Twitter. Why Twitter? Well, because (i) everybody is on Twitter, (ii) Twitter is a ‘directed’ social network (i.e. I can follow you without you following me, whereas in most other social networks, we need to mutually be “friends”), and (iii) Twitter gives us great data!

Here are some preliminary visuals and a dynamic graph from the research:

Network of Ministers

Network of Ministers

So, basically, here is what I have done together with a research assistant:

  • We went through a list of countries and looked at whether the minister and/or the ministry of foreign affairs (or its equivalent in a country’s system) was on Twitter.
  • We then gathered descriptive data on all these Twitter accounts.
  • We also looked at all the accounts followed by the Ministers and Ministries of Foreign Affairs.
  • We are currently analyzing connected components / cliques / any kind of patterns we can find within the overall network.

The visual above shows the network of ministers. Each node is a Twitter user, with green nodes being ministers and blue nodes being ‘others’. Each edge represents a following relationship. The size of the nodes is based on their degree counts. The location of the nodes in the network is based on the user’s physical location.

For an interactive map, please follow this link: Interactive Map of Ministers of Foreign Affairs

PS: Network calculations and visualizations were done on Gephi, interactive map is done through GEXF-js


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