Cultural advantage and new media

Two seemingly unrelated events made me start thinking about competitive cultural advantage in social media.

From Toddlers and Youtube…

Albeit not necessarily its main point, an article published in the Atlantic was discussing the globalization of content on Youtube. ChuChu TV, the example in the article, has over 20 million subscribers, which makes it one of the top 50 channels on Youtube. The channel was based in Chennai, India.

We rarely talk about the country of origin when it comes to digital content. Content is shared on the same platform (Youtube), in the same language (well, mostly, English), with similar formatting (edited in a dilettantish manner). PewDiePie can easily be from any country. His nationality becomes irrelevant.

to Donald Trump and Voice of America

While I was contemplating my final goodbye to country of origin concept as digital content pushed it towards obscurity, Donald Trump came to the rescue. In his tweet on November 26th, he reminded me that my farewell was premature.

Screen Shot 2018-11-28 at 3.55.14 PM

If only there was an outlet that was the Voice of America…I wonder what we would have called that TV station.

Quickly putting aside the fact that Trump has disregarded almost a century-long tradition of international broadcasting in the US with a bad pun on Voice of America, I moved onto comparing some readily available numbers.

A control, or dominance, on cultural production is an invaluable competitive advantage for public diplomacy. The attractiveness of its pop-culture has been such an asset for the US for decades. American movies, for instance, still dominate the list of highest-grossing films. Of course, liking movies does not equate a public diplomacy victory (as I tried to explain in around 300 pages here). But it is an ‘ice-breaker’. There is constant exposure.

Yet, the social media scene is different – the list of most-subscribed Youtube channels tells us a more global story. Most Americans on the list are offline celebrities. I will refrain from making any normative suggestions or causality arguments. It is not the time to invest on training the next generation of patriotic Youtubers. This did not happen because we failed to appreciate the role of soft power or to see the digital wave coming – there is a plethora of work in either field. The question is if the cultural advantage is nullified, how will the practice change? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Call for Chapters: Book Project on Internationalization of Cities

I will be co-editing a book, tentatively entitled From Branding to Diplomacy: Cities in the International Arena,  with Sohaela Amiri of Pardee RAND Graduate School on the internationalization of cities.

One of the areas I wanted to expand on as part of my research on  cities and communication  has been how cities – our homes – have been spending time and resources to be active in the ‘outside’ world. Let that be through city diplomacy or city diplomacy, our hometowns now have new identities. We are looking for chapters that investigates these new identities, the new roles and functions undertaking by cities, and the ways to study them.

Below, you can find a more formal call (or download the call in PDF format here).

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions. Deadline for abstract submission is November 1st.

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Teaching Reflections: Punching Down and Read the Syllabus

The spring semester is coming to an end – which means social media is full of students complaining about faculty and vice-versa. Recently, a Twitter account, College Professor (@ReadtheSyllabus), came under punching down / arrogance / ignorance accusations after a tweet making fun of the “dead grandparent” excuse. Since then, there is actually an interesting conversation on student shaming.

As I was writing my course reflections, I realized it was very difficult to talk about higher education without, well,  some level of student shaming. At the end of the day, the students are part of the learning process and they need to invest heavily in their own learning both inside and outside the classroom. During the last four years, I found myself to give instructions that I thought were just common sense:

  • Such as the interpersonal communication tips,
  • Please take off your headphones in the classroom.
  • Please take off your headphones when we are having a one-to-one meeting.
  • Or ‘there is a reason why you are given those documents’ trope,
  • Refer to the textbook and in-class discussions in your final paper.
  • Your grading will be based on the rubric – that is why it is called the grading rubric.
  • Read the syllabus.
  • Keep the handouts I am distributing in class.
  • Or ‘who on earth would consider this to be okay’ part,
  • Do not fall asleep in the classroom
  • Do not fall asleep in the classroom two weeks in a row.
  • Do not fall asleep in the classroom three weeks in a row.
  • Or my favorite one – I have no idea how many times I sent this e-mail:
  • You realize that you sent me this e-mail while you were in my class…while I was lecturing…while you were supposed to be listening…

 My two cents on why this is happening and what we (or I) can do:

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Convergence and Hyphenated Diplomacy (or a New Hyphenated Diplomacy)

I have a “teaching affects my research” moment! After a few months of discussing transmedia storytelling with my senior students, my take on diplomacy and public diplomacy is changing. I surely am not the first person to come up with this idea of taking a transmedia approach to public diplomacy. James Pamment of Lund University had a similar article published in 2015. Building on his work and my teaching experience, I argue that a transmedia approach that acknowledges media convergence might help different hyphenated diplomacy terms to converge (or might create Transmedia Diplomacy)

 

 

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Creating a Different DMO for Place Branding

This semester’s COM 490 Transmedia Storytelling (or Capstone) course has finally reached its more concrete marketing part. We started reading Anne Zeiser’s Transmedia Marketing book. I should admit that the book is ancient in digital media terms. It was published in 2012 – or few digital eons ago. Yet, its take on marketing and promotion is solid. The first few chapters where Zeiser lays down the conceptual frameworks made me reconsider how one can re-organize a destination management organization (DMO) into one that can implement a transmedia marketing campaign.

organizational chart

Newport News Tourism Organizational Chart

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Re-marketing Classics (Or the Failure of Pop Culture)

My transmedia storytelling course is reading an amazing book by Michael Saler, called “As If: Modern Enchantment and the Literary PreHistory of Virtual Reality“. In a nutshell, Saler talks about how modernity rationalized our world, causing us to be disenchanted, and how we are doing our best to be enchanted again. I use his work to launch discussions on marketing and advertising – or in general strategic communication. All our work is based on creating enchantment actually. We are, for instance, creating a world where a body wash creates amazing men (Yes, Old Spice). I am not going through the shelves in my local Target trying to find the cheapest deal (Yes, this is exactly what I was doing when I saw the buy one get two free deal for Old Spice). I am consuming to be a part of this magical experience.

Saler presents literary cases: Arthur Donan Doyle, H.P. Lovecraft, and J.R.R. Tolkien. He discusses how these authors crafted their stories to enchant the masses, how people took the worlds they created and repurposed them in several other platforms. For me, he also presents a horrific case of the gap between us – faculty members – and students.

With my apologies, I’d like to welcome you to my rant on millenials and future of strategic communication.

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Don’t brand, create a world!

This year, I am teaching a course entitled “Transmedia Storytelling” at Reinhardt University. It is basically our capstone course (or senior seminar or however you would like to call it). When my overly-ambitous self gets ridiculously excited about academic ventures, I end up doing not-so-smart things… In this episode of “getting myself overworked”, I promised my students that I will do all the assignments with them. Basically, over the next few months, I will write four reflection blog posts and create a transmedia storytelling campaign for a client of my choice (it will be a place branding campaign for Waleska, GA – a city most famous for being home to Reinhardt University, and also for me.)

The first reading I assigned was Mark Wolf’s Building Imaginary Worlds. I wanted to encourage my students to think about marketing (or strategic communication) as a way to create a fictional world. I want to expand a little bit more on why I chose this particular reading and connect it with my own project.

Turkayfe1

Our first homepage for Turkayfe.org – A website dedicated to telling Turkey’s story

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