APDS hosts annual conference

Authorities on cultural diplomacy, communication and international relations spoke Friday about the transnational advocacy networks and their impact on the field of public diplomacy as part of the Association of Public Diplomacy Scholars’ annual conference.

APDS aims to bring together students interested in the field to form a network promoting public diplomacy. This weekend’s event was the second annual conference.

Colin Robertson, the keynote speaker and a senior research fellow of the Canadian Defense and Foreign Affairs Institute, spoke about his experiences with public diplomacy and international relations.

“Transnational advocacy is a very timely concept in public diplomacy right now,” Robertson, director of the Canada-U.S. Project, said.

“Technologies like Facebook, Google, iChat, etc. are changing transnational communication in so many ways. Our societies are becoming increasingly global and diverse, which puts a premium on diplomacy with other countries.”

Robertson’s opening address was followed by two panels, “Hollywood, Human Rights and Transnational Advocacy” and “Social Media and Transnational Advocacy Networks.”

Alex Franklin, a professor in the School of Cinematic Arts, spoke at the first panel about the role of Hollywood in cultural diplomacy and the role the media plays in breaking down international barriers.

“What people in public diplomacy need to understand is that creating a dialogue between nations or even between separate cultures is always key,” Franklin said. “In Hollywood, for instance, if you want to make an impact as an outsider you need to speak their language, to know who to talk to and what to say.”

Franklin is currently working to develop a cultural diplomacy course at the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism.

The conference was chaired by Nicholas J. Cull, director of the masters program in public diplomacy. Cull is a USC professor of public diplomacy and volunteered to chair after working closely with his students to select this year’s conference theme. All the members of APDS are Cull’s students.

“It’s great to see leaders in these fields come together to share their most effective practices with each other and with the next generation of advocates. I think the conference as a whole was very eye-opening to everyone there — that’s what a top grad school should be about,” Cull said.