I started this blog in mid-May 2005, partly out of curiousity about blogging and partly out of frustration about the quality of discourse on public diplomacy both on and off the Web.
I'm a former USIA Foreign Service Officer. I was with USIA from late 1984 until mid-1998. My posts were Rome, Amman, Algiers, Colombo, and Ulaanbaatar.
I resigned from the Foreign Service in 1998, before USIA was absorbed into the State Department. I should do a post sometime on why I quit the Foreign Service. I'll stick to a short version here, which is that I loved working in public diplomacy but that my last embassy proved beyond a doubt that PD was not valued at State; and that, in any case, I was increasingly unhappy living with the cultures of embassies and expat 'bubbles.'
In 2003-2004 I studied for a master's degree in public communication at American University. I thought about doing something on public diplomacy for my thesis, but didn't find enough decent material to base a thesis on. (I wrote about the US propaganda activities of the Cuban Junta in the lead-up to the Spanish-American War instead. It's a great topic.)
There seems to be a lot more material on PD available now than there was even a year and a half ago, when I was starting thesis research. I still find most of it ill-informed, shallow, or just silly. Very little of it strikes me as being of any practical use in understanding what PD is or how it should be carried out.
So that's the purpose of this is a blog. It will have links to relevant news stories and commentary, along with links to other Web sites, and perhaps an occasional deep thought of my own. So far (I've been posting for about a month) it's been a surprisingly productive exercise for me, in terms of clarifying my own ideas about what goes on in PD, and why.
Over time, I'd like to see this blog (or another) become a place for an exchange of ideas and views on PD by anyone with a serious interest in the field - practitioners, academics, students, 'audience members,' etc. Comments can be added to any post (look for the 'Comment' button at the bottom of the entry). I can also be reached by email, at email@example.com
I'm learning blogging by doing it and no doubt am doing things that make the blog harder to read or search than it should be. I'm grateful for feedback or suggestions on that, and on content.
Thanks for visiting!
Why 'Eccentric Star'?
The name is a fluke. I entered it as a user name when I set up the Typepad account, not realizing it would appear as the blog name as well - and then, when I saw it on screen, decided I liked it.
Besides, it has the great virtue, this far into the Internet age, of not already being taken.
Eccentric Star is a traditional American quilt block pattern. I came across the name during my college arts-and-craftsy phase. I've always liked it, and the idea it evokes of a guiding star shining a bit to the side of the one most people are following.
The 'logo' at the top left side of the page is a very free-form rendition of the pattern. Any competent quilter would probably be horrified by it. (The authentic pattern can be found at any one of a number of Web sites - just do a Google, Yahoo!, or other search on the name. Frankly, as much as I like the name, I think the authentic version starts to look too much like the bad kind of swastika if you look at it too long.) There's no particular reason for the logo, beyond providing a spot of color at the top of the page.
I value transparency. I'll always try to provide citations for and links to the full and original version of material cited, so that anyone interested can read and judge it for themselves.
I respect copyright. I'll post excerpts of news reports and other items, but not the whole thing. [Amended 29 June 2005: The day after I posted this, I turned around and posted the entire text of a Reuters report on President Bush's UN Support for Victims of Torture Day statement, as carried by The Times of India. Everything the Times had was necessary to understand the story, and none of it superfluous. What can I say - I'm helpless in the face of good editing. So let me change this line to, I'll hardly ever post an entire item.]
I respect good reporting and writing. I'll provide a reporter's or author's name whenever I can.
Public diplomacy, public communication, international communication, cross cultural communication, image restoration, crisis communication, US Information Agency, US Information Service, conflict management