But, then there are those moments when you see that all that noise is distracting and not necessarily productive. In fact, it becomes counter-productive.
But, what projects and stories do get heard and why? Many times it is the most sincere and grassroots efforts that will ultimately resonate with an audience. The shaky camera citizen journalist images that will break through the noise, giving the audience a perspective that is refreshing because it is raw and real. The home recording of a simply produced but poignant group of songs that launches an independent artist.
This is where the noöpolitik idea is so powerful (you’ll see the connection eventually, really). The Arquilla and Ronfeldt article, “The promise of noöpolitik” reflects the optimism of the 1990s about the possibilities coming from interconnectivity. Non-state actors will be able to participate separately from the state in terms of building power through relationships and knowledge. This power will give non-state actors more power to pressure states to take actions. Non-state actors will be able to take actions separately and above traditional forms of power (such as the Kumar Google Maps example). And individual actors have the potential to reach audiences through knowledge networks in order to make changes to social and other structures. (No wonder the music industry freaked about how independent artists could potentially bypass the big recording industry companies). And independent media producers can frame stories that shed light on a political situation that speaks to a transnational audience and gains more coverage. These changes from the grassroots and individual level that are sincere can make changes happen in other organizations as well.
Government agencies, such as the State Department, are making changes that consider these new networks of non-state power. But, if the public diplomacy efforts don’t use frames that are sincere, they will most likely be sniffed out as propaganda. Probably the most effective way to build soft power would be for the US government to truly provide funding for the arts in the education system, in grants, for international exchanges, and for the State Department. And to have a cabinet member - Secretary of Culture, as many have suggested. The State Department does fund a number of artistic and educational exchanges, but it does not receive enough funding. If Diplomacy is going to shift to include more non-state actors, then non-state actors who create the tools of public diplomacy (music, dance, film, other media) need to be supported and valued as not just as creators of products of commercial enterprise, but also as part of our diplomatic and public policy planning. (But, then that would shake up the the WTO debate about how to have media and other cultural products considered with the same laws as other products.)
An example of a project that is non-state actor initiated is America's Unofficial Ambassadors, a new project with Creative Learning http://www.creativelearning.org/ambassadors.html. There is a survey you can take to join, if you have worked or volunteered in a Muslim majority country. They are gathering information to put into a book. They are also building a community and knowledge base. Citizen diplomats have more flexibility in terms of how and what they can communicate when they do go abroad.
I do think it still boils down to who you know, how you present yourself, and if your story sells (as in if your communication is effective and resonates). But all of these ingredients must have authenticity and sincerity mixed in for effective and successful diplomacy (in terms of communication about a nation-state and its ideals) and other products (media).