Friday, October 26, 2012

Hollow Pursuaders

Joshua Midgett
SIS 628
Applied Public Diplomacy
Professor Hayden

             The "New Persuaders" takes on the challenge that has been present since week 2 of this class to me, and likely long before this to the rest of the Public Diplomacy world: How does one measure who has 'soft power' and how much do they have? McClory boldly attempts to subtract the subjective from measurement and achieve an objective quantification of what is otherwise rather opaque and elusive. This is done by refocusing on the contributors to soft power and building an index to track these inputs in various countries, compiling them and then building a formula with which to rank them.
             This seems like trying to insert math into magic. To strip away the personal ideologies and experiences of the individual discard the majority of what makes up 'soft power'. Were soft power to be defined as the potential positive influence one government has within a foreign public, it is inherent that the public's opinion and subjective thoughts are at its core. This leaves the measurement detailed within the study fairly hollow. The reduction of varied subjective responses in such categories as International Purpose, Cultural Output, Global Leadership, Soft Power Icons, Cuisine, National Airline, and Commercial Brands to simple digits seems to strip the usefulness of what is attempting to be measured away. 
            While the effort is courageous and inspired I think it is lacking a flexibility that is necessary in such a measurement. Much how quarterbacks are measured by completion percentage, TD-INT ratio, as well as the comprehensive QBR, I feel that this measure could at best be a piece of the puzzle. I do enjoy how their are multiple measurement within different categories, but I would prefer measurements on the same data via different methods. The more directions that the information is viewed from the better chance there is to have a comprehensive understanding of the true soft power landscape. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Josh:

    You’ve done a great job of making the argument that not all soft power can be measured quantitatively. This index is only one piece to the puzzle and could definitely be used to influence policy makers in the near future. The subjective framework of this approach could be better improved if there were more categories available to measure public diplomacy. The index does not adequately give room to showcase public diplomacy efforts that may not be as popular, but are just as effective. Thanks for challenging this notion and giving us all more to think about. By the way, I like the quarterback example. I personally like Tim Tebow, but others would argue that he’s not a great quarterback based on the measurements you indicated. His ability as a quarterback cannot be measured by a few indicators, but room must also be made to talk about his leadership and work- ethic. Great post!