I read an interesting document by Frances Fortune and Oscar Bloh called "Strategic Communication: The Heart of Post-Conflict Processes" published in Conflict Trends. I can't figure out where the source document is, but I received it via my subscription to the Human Security Gateway, which I highly recommend. The Human Security Gateway can be found here:http://www.humansecuritygateway.info/ and has LOTS of great resources.
The interesting thing about this piece is that the authors posit that if done well, a post-conflict government's communications can: a) manage citizen's expectations; b) engender ownership; c)promote inclusivity; d) strengthen transparency; e) improve credibility and confidence, and so forth. I think these are rose-colored-glasses statements. No doubt good communication is "good" on a binary scale of good and bad, and will enable citizens to understand their government. However the article starts off with this statement, which gives definition to "goodness" : "The overriding objective of any strategic communication is to engender change: a shift in citizens' attitudes (their perceptions) and behaviors (their actions) toward development and governance processes and how they own it." This statement elevates "strategic communication" into the mind-bending realm rather unrealistically.
The U.S. military is all wrapped around the information/communications pole similarly. And nobody seems to be reading the more than 30-years of literature on mass communications and its effect on populations' perceptions and behaviors. We know, for example, that there are very few mass media techniques that can change public behavior. We know that individuals can decide to change their behavior and can articulate the psychological stages that lead up to those changes. We also know what obstacles people face when trying to change their behavior and ways around those obstacles (thanks to Bandura, among others). Hence the idea that mass communication can change attitudes and perception as well as behaviors is very optimistic indeed. In fact, it's way over stated.
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