Irene S. Wu is author of Forging Trust Communities How Technology Changes Politics (Johns Hopkins University, 2015), that featuring case studies of how both activists and governments have exploited the latest communications innovations toward their own political goals. Examples are from Brazil, China, Europe, and beyond, starting with the telegraph through social media. Her first book From Iron Fist to Invisible Hand: the Uneven Path of Telecommunications Reform in China was published by Stanford University Press. Dr. Wu is a senior analyst in the International Bureau of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission and teaches at Georgetown University, where she was the first Yahoo! Fellow in Residence. Dr. Wu received her B.A. from Harvard University and Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).,



Project Summary

In the foreign policy literature, soft power begins with Joseph Nye’s definition that it is a country’s influence by persuasion or cultural attraction, not coercion or payment. Great soft power is manifest in successful diplomacy. The reasons for successful diplomacy are many; they include great military power (coercion), great economic power (payments), and great diplomatic skill. Soft power is the term that captures everything else. This catch-all quality to the concept is reflected in the research to date. For many scholars the soft power is essentially cultural power, which includes diverse elements such as values, education, media, and religion, none of which are easy to define or measure. The focus of the soft power literature, reflecting its roots in the study of military and economic power, is on the country projecting the power. Much less attention is paid to the characteristics of the country subject to soft power influence. Concepts from the fields of political communication and the study of trust and social capital can address these weaknesses. I propose that soft power can be measured both in conventional and unconventional terms, drawing on research in foreign policy, political communication, and trust and social capital. Conventional measures include international exchange in migrants, visitors, education, and culture. In the long run, I will create a dataset of soft power measurements based on transparently collected data that can be repeated over time. The unconventional measurements will explore how digital media can be tracked, measured, and understood to give insight into a country’s soft power.

Major Publications