PhD in Communication Sciences, BA in International Journalism
The central topic of this article is the importance of communication and, especially, the media, in two interconnected aspects of international relations – game theory and public diplomacy. The latter examines the possibility of influencing various audiences through the media. Last but not least, this piece also emphasizes counter-public diplomacy.
Keywords: media; international relations; game theory; public diplomacy.
In this article, I maintain that, within the sphere of international relations, game theory and public diplomacy can be articulated and put into practice through the media. This implies combining several fields, such as Mathematics, Rhetoric and Communication Sciences. Thus, we specifically enter the field of media diplomacy. Throughout History, international communication by some States has met with opposition from other States with certain actions: counter-public diplomacy. The understanding of these matters involves addressing a few basic notions.
Game theory and international relations
As part of this article, it is considered that “A game is a formal description of a strategic situation.” (Turocy, von Stengel). This topic has given rise to several research studies. According to Theodore Turocy and Bernhard von Stengel, “Game theory is the formal study of conflict and cooperation. Game theoretic concepts apply whenever the actions of several agents are interdependent. These agents may be individuals, groups, firms, or any combination of these.” (Turocy, von Stengel). We need to start off by pointing out that these agents can also be countries (Camerer). With regard to partakers, “A game consists of a collection of decision-makers, called the players.” (Tesfatsion). There are relationships between game theory and decision theory (Colman / Game Theory / Kelly).
Among the various spheres to which game theory applies, I highlight international relations (Aggarwal, Dupont). This is fertile ground: “Indeed, it was in the general area of interstate conflict and its resolution that game theory would make its earliest and most significant contributions.” (Zagare, Slantchev). For instance, in 2014, Gerson Damiani submitted a Ph.D thesis at the University of São Paulo’s Institute of International Relations (Brazil): “The present thesis sheds light on contemporary game theoretical approaches in International Relations, in particular as they pertain to the role of strategy setting in cross-border trade.” (Damiani). Within the context of relations between countries, game theory is chiefly used for analyzing situations of war and peace (Damiani). However, the application of game theory is not limited to issues pertaining to armed conflicts and security, to the extent that it also includes other topics, such as the following examples: the environment, foreign trade, the economy and politics (Damiani).
The way game theory envisions international relations matches models that are simplifications and stylizations of established interactions between States (Guner). In principle, “Naturally, no one has an obligation to learn game theory. Yet, those motivated students can try to master it and enjoy its power in generating explanations.” (Guner). In this regard, Guner adds something else: “However, students must realize that game models are abstractions; they are not equivalent to real interactions. If they construct a game, they must be aware that the assumptions of the model lead to constrained and stylized explanations.” (Guner). According to the said author, “There is, in fact, a trade-off: game theory cannot help students to understand and predict international phenomena if it has no connection with empirical facts, and, if too many observed details are included in the model, deductions become intractable. In gist, the creativity of modelers is of utmost importance in using game theory.” (Guner).
Also as concerns deficiencies, “Game theorists have not paid much attention to emotions. This seems odd, since our theory's object of study is social conflict, where emotions are sure to arise. (…). Game theory needs an account of emotions (…)” (O’Neill). Certain specialists acknowledge that “Emotions are an important belief-dependent motivation. Anxiety, disappointment, elation, frustration, guilt, joy, regret, and shame, among other emotions, can all be conceived of as belief‐dependent incentives or motivations and incorporated into models of behavior using tools from psychological game theory.” (Camerer, Smith).
Currently, the combination of elements of a rational nature with emotions should be considered when an analysis is performed on the factors that influence decision-making (Pfister, Bohm / Damasio 1994 / Damasio 2003). This way, the said combination should also be brought into persuasion research. Game theory is related to the study of persuasion and communication (Glazer, Rubinstein / Honryo).
Public diplomacy and the media
In the field of international negotiations, a ruler or government official can make statements through the media, based on game theory, for the purpose of influencing the nation’s population, the population of (an)other country(ies) and, especially, decision-makers. Therefore, domestic policy and foreign policy are not kept in airtight compartments. Domestic and foreign attempts to pressure rulers can occur more when they have to make decisions. In democracy, the opinion of the majority can constitute a concern for politicians. As part of this, the media have a role to play.
Kejin Zhao states that “Improving a country's international discursive power is a combination of the discourse fact and the discourse system in practice. It promotes the national capacity for shaping and even solidifies the international game theory of diplomacy” (Zhao). This statement seeks to satisfy the central focus of this article: the importance of communication and the media, in the field of international relations, and, therefore, including game theory and public diplomacy. According to Alan Henrikson, “ ‘Public’ diplomacy is thus to be differentiated from the rest of diplomacy only in that the influence to be exerted on other countries’ governments is indirect i.e., exerted via channels other than the formal or ‘official’ ones—notably, via the press and other such media of mass communication, today including the Internet (…).” (Henrikson). The goal is to influence populations which, in turn, are taken into account on the part of decision-makers: “Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs functions are premised on the knowledge that public opinion affects official decision-making almost everywhere in the world today.” (Strategic Goal 11: Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs). Laura Merickova thinks that “Public diplomacy is focused on changing attitudes and opinions.” (Merickova). This is why Rhetoric has special relevance (Hayden). The art of persuasion is applied to public diplomacy, to influence audiences in other countries (Ozyilmaz). Rhetoric is not only present in direct contacts between persons, that is, in interpersonal communication, but also, with proper adaptations, in situations where the messages are disclosed via traditional and new media.
As concerns the U.S. Government, for example, “The Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Richard Stengel, leads America's public diplomacy outreach, which includes communications with international audiences, cultural programming, academic grants, educational exchanges, international visitor programs (…).” (Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs). Within this context, it is relevant to refer to media diplomacy (Afsharpur), to public diplomacy 2.0 (Khatib, Dutton, Thelwall) and to cultural diplomacy (Kim). The latter, while related to the concept of soft power (Kim), generates medium- to long-term effects.
We should not ignore the fact that “Media diplomacy in psychological operations of international status refers to formation of hatred and envy against definite state, government or authorities by another state or government. It includes political, cultural and psychological pressure, as well as rousing interest or sympathy towards definite other states.” (Afsharpur). As part of this, the international media can be manipulated and a certain person can also be the target (Afsharpur).
In the domain of public diplomacy, “Radio and television have been invaluable political tools for nations that have used them wisely. From the U.S. initiating radio broadcasts on the Voice of America during World War II, to China’s recent multi-billion dollar investment in its CCTV, governments have calculated the value of delivering information to people’s homes across the globe.” (Seib).
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Published by Marinho Media Analysis / March 18, 2016