Over the course of the past few months I have been conducting research for an article on “Digital Diplomacy” and the implications of the “WikiLeaks/Cablegate” revelations for diplomatic practice and international relations. That piece, when finished and peer reviewed, is scheduled to appear in a forthcoming reference text entitled the Oxford Handbook on Modern Diplomacy.
Reflecting on that enterprise, it has occurred to me that much of what is new in contemporary diplomacy may one way or another be attributed to the emergence of the Internet. Over the space of about twenty years it has displaced other venues as the principal medium for global information exchange and interaction. As more and more people look to the Web as a primary source of information and communication, including e-mail, social networking, video conferencing, and telephony, and as higher transmission speeds and greater bandwidth expand audio and visual streaming possibilities, communications media are converging. In recent years the Internet has edged out newspapers, TV, radio, and conventional telephones as the primary communications medium. Current Web 2.0 applications, featuring an emphasis on networks, wikis, interactivity, file sharing and downloadable “podcasts” – in marked contrast to the simple Web 1.0 presentation of static information – promise to further accelerate this trend.