Professor Rebecca Adler-Nissen asks what happens to diplomacy when it becomes socially distant or is forced to move online, replacing handshakes with touchless greetings and video conferencing? This presentation, co-authored with Dr Kristin Enggeling, explores how the practice of multilateral diplomacy, which understands itself as bringing people and polities together, copes with lockdowns, social distancing and the move into digital settings. The starting point is the Covid-19 pandemic, but the presentation addresses how the very composition of international social interaction is undergoing transformation. The argument speaks to ongoing debates in IR scholarship on international practices; specifically the role of face-to-face encounters, technological change, and the political sociology of diplomacy.
Associate Professor Corneliu Bjola looks back at how the Covid-19 pandemic has influenced the conduct of diplomatic affairs in the past year, and the surprising aspect is not the scope of the digital adaptation undertaken by Ministries of Foreign Affairs and international organisations around the world during this period. The remarkable aspect is that it has worked so well. The pandemic has served as an accelerator for pre-existing digital transformation trends especially in consular affairs and virtual diplomacy, it has activated new trends with respect to the use of new technologies (AI) in decision-making, but it has also shelved the illusion that the post-truth environment is likely to recede into oblivion any time soon. Drawing on a comprehensive survey conducted with 104 digital diplomats, the presentation will take stock of recent trends of digital transformation in diplomatic affairs and examine potential trajectories of digital disruption in the post-pandemic period.
About the Panellists
Rebecca Adler-Nissen is particularly interested in international political sociology, stigma, status, recognition, norms, diplomacy, sovereignty, European integration, social media and digital technologies.
Rebecca is the PI of the ERC-project DIPLOFACE investigating the relationship between diplomatic negotiations and the public, taking the concept of ‘face-work’ to the international level. She also direct the research group Digital Disinformation exploring how disinformation spreads in the context of international conflicts and how it impacts public debate. Moreover, she is a member of the steering committee of the Copenhagen Centre for Social Data Science (SODAS). She is also co-PI of the interdisciplinary research project HOPE: How Democracies Cope with Covid-19.
Rebecca is the author of Opting Out of the European Union: Diplomacy, Sovereignty and European Integration (Cambridge University Press, 2014), which develops a political sociology and practice theory of European integration, drawing on Bourdieu and Goffman, to explore the everyday diplomacy and stigmatisation of the UK and Denmark due their opt-outs from the EU. The book has received the 2015 Susan Strange Book Prize from the British International Studies Association and was the co-winner of the 2015 IPS Book Award, International Political Sociology Section, International Studies Association.
Rebecca is member of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), the board of the Danish Institute for International Studies’ and the Danish Intelligence Oversight Board.
Corneliu Bjola is Associate Professor in Diplomatic Studies at the University of Oxford and Head of the Oxford Digital Diplomacy Research Group. He also serves as a Faculty Fellow at the Center on Public Diplomacy at the University of Southern California and as a Professorial Lecturer at the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna. He has published extensively on issues related to the impact of digital technology on the conduct of diplomacy with a recent focus on public diplomacy, international negotiations and methods for countering digital propaganda. His recent co-edited volume Digital Diplomacy and International Organizations: Autonomy, Legitimacy and Contestation (Routledge, 2020) examines the broader ramifications of digital technologies on the internal dynamics, multilateral policies and strategic engagements of international organisations.
He is currently working on a new co-edited volume – Digital International Relations examining how digital disruption changes the technological parameters of ordering processes in world politics. @cbjola