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? 









I think Sweden just won #Eurovision 2017

I know Portugal won the Eurovision Song Contest, but Sweden won the Eurovision. As I am obsessed (not only with Eurovision but also) with nation branding and perception, I look at the results from a branding perspective. And I will argue that Sweden – not Portugal, not even the host country Ukraine – won the Eurovision.


“Celebrate Diversity” was the ‘theme’ at Kyiv (Photo from

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Lose-lose deal in soft power: Turkey and the Netherlands

By now, most of us have heard about the tension between Turkey and the Netherlands (and for those who have not heard about it, CNN has a nice summary). As both countries are heading into elections, they once again showed us that the combination of “irrational voters” and “universal suffrage” might lead to really crazy rhetoric. I argue that this focus on “winning” the elections also influences how Turkey and the Netherlands portray the events in the international arena. And when everybody tries to win the game of soft power, everybody loses. Here is why and how:

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That is not how soft power works: A rant and an ad

With the proposed budget cuts for the U.S. State Department – and USAID -, we once again started seeing soft power discussions on mainstream news outlets. For a scholar, seeing his/her research topic on news outlets is an interesting experience. On one hand, it is a validation of one’s research and academic expertise. If people are talking about your research topic, you are not irrelevant. On the other hand, after hearing the arguments made, all you want to do is to yell “YOU ARE ALL WRONG”. Well, thanks to internet, it is a lot easier to yell that!

You are all wrong, your understanding of soft power is incomplete and flawed. Here is why:


<advertisement> There is an edited book, available here, on the topic. I have a chapter on soft power and public diplomacy </advertisement>.

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Passport, Power, and Measurement: Perfect Trio

If you have been on any kind of social media platform during the last couple of weeks, you must have seen the new “Passport Index” that ranks each and every passport in the world according to their power – or according to how many visa-free travel opportunities they provide to their holder. But my own travel experience (and obsession with proper measurement techniques) make me wonder whether “visa-free travel opportunity” is a suitable way to assess the power of a passport. Is there a better way to capture the power of a passport? (Hint: The answer is yes. This is why I am writing this blog post.)

It is visa free, but do you really want to go?

It is visa free, but do you really want to go?

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International students and public diplomacy

International students and student exchanges are topics that I personally feel close to. Coincidentally, I was exposed to the studiy of public diplomacy (and nation branding) when I was (not knowingly) part of the Foreign Fulbright Program – the flagship exchange project of the US. Thus, I feel almost upset if I don’t get to write about the 2014 Open Doors report of the Institute of International Education.

I basically want to talk about on two points: (i) What do these new numbers mean? (ii) Can we international students as an agent/actor in public diplomacy.

Places of Origin for International Students Studying in the States

Places of Origin for International Students Studying in the States

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Happy Birthday to AKP and to the New Turkish Identity

I am well aware of the fact that my ‘career’ as a scholar is too short to start re-visiting some of my earlier works. Yet, Erdogan’s speech – which marked the 10th anniversary of AKP (Justice and Development Party) – made me go back to a short rhetorical analysis I carried out three years ago about Erdogan. A blog post is definitely not the place to visit this research. Here, I simply want to discuss my conclusions, state the fundamental rhetorical threats coming from AKP to Turkish identity directly and Turkish soft power indirectly, and take a closer look at Erdogan’s celebratory speech.

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Blog Updated: Dissertation Time

As you might have realized, I haven’t been writing any blog posts lately. It is mostly because I started writing subject-based posts on Place Management & Branding blog and didn’t want to cross-post. I decided to keep writing about more current practical events on the PMB blog and save this blog for more theoretical, methodological, and method discussions. In other words, I will be using this blog as a ‘draft’ for my dissertation – which will be hopefully about the use of soft power in international relations.

The subject is not solely ‘branding’. However, my focus will be on branding. I will try to assess whether the recent changes in international relations are, well, changes or not. Did all these discussions on place branding, public diplomacy, soft power, etc. change the way we conceptualize international relations? Or is social media practically the communication version of an ICBM?

Long story short,
– Interesting place branding posts: Place Management & Branding blog
– Public diplomacy, politics, Turkey related posts: Reaching the Public
– Technical / methods-oriented posts: Again, Reaching the Public