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ASEF Public Diplomacy Training - Webinar Ep. IV

Public Diplomacy & Discourse in the Age of Algorithms

Project Period: Contact: Department: Programme: Theme:
6 November 2020 Trishia OCTAVIANO Governance & Economy Department ASEF Public Diplomacy Training Governance & Human Rights


4th Episode of the ASEF Public Diplomacy Training – Webinar Series


Public Diplomacy & Discourse in the Age of Algorithms


Friday, 6 November 2020, 16:00 SGT


Shaping and influencing public attitudes at home and overseas to win hearts and minds is public diplomacy’s grand task. As diplomacy that is for and by the people, it encourages dialogue between multitudes of state and non-state actors who may or may not have interest in furthering foreign policy objectives. The dialogical nature of public diplomacy is what separates it from traditional state-centred diplomacy. 


Social networking technologies have enabled governments to move far beyond traditional diplomacy through constant flow of information and ideas at great speed across state boundaries. Many conversations that involve government officials are no longer done behind closed doors. The public can easily take their demands from their governments to social media and they expect their leaders to be readily available online. Citizens, in a way, feel that they are more empowered because the space for dialogue has been enlarged with the proliferation of digital platforms.


But how has the rise of digital platforms changed the conduct of public discourse and the formation of public opinion? If people rely more and more on major intermediaries such as Google and Facebook for their daily consumption of news that is personalised for them, how does this impact social discourse? 


Digital platforms are designed to increase audience engagement. Users feel a sense of satisfaction when they receive information that perk up their interests, support their opinions or confirm their beliefs. Internet algorithms ensure that we are kept within our filter bubbles for successful engagement. These filter bubbles, however, allegedly hinder us from getting exposed to information that neither confirms our biases nor reinforces our existing views. The so-called echo chamber effect may influence how public opinion is formed, may contribute to political polarisation and may fuel the rapid dissemination of disinformation campaigns.


Are there ways to make social media become a force for good by creating a virtual public space where diversity of beliefs, opinions and thoughts thrive? What are the ethical responsibilities of digital platforms on Internet citizens? How can governments ensure that the virtual public has access to high quality and diverse information for a productive social discourse? 


The fourth episode of the ASEF Public Diplomacy Training – Webinar Series will tackle the socio-political and ethical issues surrounding Internet algorithms and their implications for public life. 



  • To enable diplomats and public servants engaged in public communications to gain an improved understanding of how Internet algorithms shape public opinion
  • To explore the opportunities and challenges of data-driven algorithms for public diplomacy and discourse


Dr Damien Spry is a Lecturer in Media and Communications at the University of South Australia. His research focusses on social media impacts on politics and diplomacy. He is a regular contributor to think tanks and has consulted for several multinational companies, NGOs, and governments. He’s been a public relations manager, radio presenter, cultural commentator, human rights campaigner, travel writer, script editor, social media marketer, intercultural communications trainer and a body double for a major motion picture. He’s lived and worked in Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, Egypt, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.


Mr Sistla Sumanth is currently serving as the Head of Digital Sales at Restaurant Brands International, APAC. Prior to this, Sistla worked at Dynamic Yield to drive personalization and optimization for APAC’s largest e-commerce companies through the use of AI & Machine Learning algorithms. Sistla earned his Bachelor of Arts in International Development and Economics from McGill University in Montreal, Canada.


Dr Shobha Avadhani is a Lecturer at the department of Communications and New Media, National University of Singapore, where she teaches modules on Digital Media Culture, Critical Media Studies, and Public Speaking. Dr. Avadhani holds a PhD in Communication and New Media from the National University of Singapore.. With research interests in the areas of political communication, the politics of technology and education, and media literacy and citizenship, she has published research on the intersection of youth, citizenship and new media: the meanings of social and mobile digital media for juvenile delinquents and youths at risk, the changing nature of democratic discourse in hybrid regimes, and the role of the Singapore school in shaping technological citizenship. Her current research interests continue to engage with questions relating to media, citizenship, and pedagogy.


Dr 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 forthcoming 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.



Dr Jovan Kurbalija is the Executive Director of DiploFoundation and Head of the Geneva Internet Platform (GIP). He was a member of the UN Working Group on Internet Governance (2004‒2005), special advisor to the Chairman of the UN Internet Governance Forum (2006‒2010), and a member of the High Level Multistakeholder Committee for NETmundial (2013‒2014). In 2018-2019, he served as co-Executive Director of the Secretariat of the United Nations (UN) High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation. A former diplomat, Jovan has a professional and academic background in international law, diplomacy, and information technology. He has been a pioneer in the field of cyber diplomacy since 1992 when he established the Unit for Information Technology and Diplomacy at the Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies in Malta, and later, DiploFoundation.


Target Audience

Diplomats and public servants engaged in public communications; students and academe (in the field of international relations/diplomacy or policy/political science); anyone who is curious about how Internet algorithms work.



Zoom Meeting and YouTube Live Stream 


Twitter Post





Explore Other Episodes


Screenshot 2020-10-22 at 17.01.48
Episode I: "Improve your Online Health: How to Observe Good Cyber Hygiene in Virtual Meetings"


Screenshot 2020-10-22 at 17.01.56
Episode II: "Lessons on Crisis Communications in the Internet Age" 


Screenshot 2020-10-22 at 17.02.05
Episode III: “How Relevant is Cultural Diplomacy in the Face of a Global Crisis?”


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