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A Digital State: Off the Campaign Trail, Clinton Takes to New Media

BY Nancy Scola | Tuesday, March 24 2009

2638_68411237165_19003252165_2169522_6011369_nIn an exit interview with the new Public Diplomacy Magazine, former State Department point person on online/offline diplomacy James Glassman reports, "In my humble opinion Web 2.0 has completely changed this game." But with Bush-appointee Glassman taking leave of Foggy Bottom, there has been some questioning inside and outside State of how well his Facebook/YouTube/Twitter-powered "Public Diplomacy 2.0" had a place in Hillary Clinton's universe. The Associated Press's Matthew Lee, at least, sees signs that PD 2.0, as Glassman liked to call it, is a natural fit for the Clinton era. "In less than three months, Clinton's State Department has embarked on a digital diplomacy drive," he writes, "aimed at spreading the word about American foreign policy and restoring Washington's image."

In the handful of weeks of Clinton's tenure thus far, reports Lee, State started or juiced a number of new-media projects. Clinton's State Department launched an multimedia-enhanced Google map of her global jaunts. They've been experimenting with a "Text the Secretary" mobile feature that allows anyone to pose a question when she's on the road (though questions like "How was your trip?" aren't exactly provocative.) And they've kept the well-produced DipNote blog rolling along. Clinton also plans to expand upon X-Life, a mobile phone game that aims to bring the English language and American culture to the Middle East. ("Salah Moaveni has received the opportunity of a lifetime, an international exchange program to International University in Philadelphia Pennsylvania, USA... He will maneuver around the University, learning about the local culture, in order to take on trivia challenges, complete quests, and modify a project car to road-race against a bullying school tyrant called The Zephyr.")

And Clinton aide Cheryl Mills says things like "New media is critical in this new era of diplomacy, where smart power and expanded dialogues are essential to achieving our foreign policy goals." All of which is no doubt pleasing to the good folks at the Hillary Grassroots Campaign. Did Condoleezza Rice have a fan club like that?