Impact of Modern Telecommunications on Diplomacy Term Paper

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Telecommunications and Diplomacy

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Telecommunications is the science and technology of communications at a distance by electronic transmission of impulses, as by telegraph, cable, telephone, radio or television (Lexico Publishing Group 2005). Up to the 1800s, information was sent through pigeons and horse-driving couriers and visual systems, based on observation of flags, lanterns, heliographs and semaphore signals (Caslon 2005). But these proved difficult to perform and often subjected to natural conditions, which interrupted transmissions during bad weather or animal movements. Experts believe that the current Information Age began in 1844 with the invention of the telegraph by Samuel Finley Morse, which sharply separated the speed of information from the slowness of human travel (John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid 2000 as qtd in Caslon). Morse first demonstrated his telegraph in Congress in 1837, gained funding to construct an experimental line between Washington and Baltimore. By the 1860s, all advanced economies used telegraph networks and electronic communication was the base of the growth of major businesses and new financial markets, which in turn, affected the conduct of war and peace time diplomacy. In the early 20th century, the International Telegraph Union and the Radiotelegraphy Union entered into an agreement to encourage and regulate these new international communication technologies. Later in the century, Alexander Graham Bell and associates invented the telephone, which stimulated speculative changes and corporate restructuring. By 1892, there were 240,000 telephones installed and in use in the U.S., increasing to 3.13 million Bell system telephones and 2.98 independent telephone companies in 1907 (Caslon).

TOPIC: Term Paper on Impact of Modern Telecommunications on Diplomacy Assignment

The introduction of electric telegraphy substantially changed the conduct of diplomacy in the 19th century (Bureau of Public Affairs 2001). It was at this time that telegraphy came to be a device for converting messages into electric impulses, which traveled instantaneously by wire to distant receivers, where these were converted into readable texts. It was already being used by European foreign ministries in the early 1850s, but it first became an important tool in the diplomacy of the U.S. after successfully sending a transatlantic cable in 1866. The most essential feature of the telegraph was its speed: it traveled like lightning through continents and oceans and became available in a few hours after sending, despite the time needed for coding and handling. Policymakers found it quite useful in swiftly responding to crises in distances, which in previous periods, they would have been kept ignorant of for weeks. But this particular feature of speed also placed pressures on political leaders, because the same message reached the media and the public just as quickly. It challenged foreign ministries, which often used delay as a resolving too in confronting international crises and used long pauses in previous forms of communication to allow hot tempers to cool and use the time for careful and methodical diplomacy and more creative approaches to problem situations.

Telegraphy also centralized the work of foreign ministers (Bureau of Public Affairs 2001). Before these speedy technologies, these foreign ministers could take months away from their central superiors. But with these miracle technologies, they were forced to make pressing decisions before they could even receive instruction from their superiors. In those situations, they had to exercise much power, even acting as policymakers. The weight shifted after the introduction of the telegraph. The invention reduced the independence of diplomats along with their prestige and reputation. When instruction came to them slowly, they exercised some autonomy over difficult situations until the instruction reached them. The telegraph slowed down the policymaking process and reduced the chances of rendering wrong major decisions. Foreign policy is a high-risk endeavor where any miscalculation can lead to a disaster, like war or diplomatic defeat, hence foreign ministers exercise extreme caution. But foreign ministers were able to adapt to the telegraph. In 1859, Britain's Foreign Office had resident clerks handle telegrams after business hours. The U.S. Department of State put up a telegraph office in 1866 after its first successful transatlantic transmission. Diplomats had to learn how to write concisely so as to reduce telegraph costs and used codes to preserve the contents of these telegrams from spies. New technologies in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, such as networked computers and fiber optic cables, took its place in diplomacy. But it must be remembered that it was telegraphy, which introduced the high-speed era of electricity into diplomacy (BPA).

Disadvantages encountered or associated with the use of the telegraph and the telephone included damaging physical effects, like baldness, reduced potency, increased blood pressure, anemia, sterility, piles and neurasthenia; risk of exposure to magnetic rays, electrocution and quaint spiritual experiences; social erosion; lazy thinking habits; weaker national moral fiber; criminal activity; psychological addition and poor grammar (Caslon 2005). Telecom operators also confronted difficulties like disconnections, deceits and betrayals.

Besides the phenomena; speed of transmission, electronic communications are also versatile, accurate and capable of sending virtually simultaneous feedback (Revision-Notes 2003). The facsimile machine or fax can send textual message, number, graphics, artwork and photographs all on one side. These communications convey accurate data while instantaneously reading and checking electronic circuits that operate between sending and receiving equipment during the time of transmission of high speed. And computerized telecommunications allow virtually simultaneous information exchange and responses. These are their major advantages. Their major disadvantages include an increasing and fast volume of information, which personnel are unable to cope with or absorb; costs of development and hardware investments; legal implications; and emotional upsets over irretrievable loss of sent data.

The mass media, specifically photojournalism, is another development in modern telecommunications. Photojournalists now use digital imaging, which allows them greater flexibility and extends their deadlines, whereby they can stay longer on location for better pictures (Fahmy 2003). This technology enables them to delete and send photographs from the location itself and lets them participate in the picture editing process itself. It may also enhance and increase information sharing in the newsroom. These capabilities likewise allow them to leave one assignment earlier and shoot less photos, knowing if the image is usable or not. But like others, photojournalism has a number of disadvantages. Interviews have to be conducted on a cautionary perspective. Digital imaging has limited storage for all the prints and this has always bee an issue.

Limited storage and limited budget compel photographers to delete image right on location and reporters or respondents are apprehensive about its ability or inability to store all the images to jibe with historical record. These will be unsolved problems until the news or magazine organization moves the images to a new storage media technology and this will mean additional time, effort and money, which are further concerns. Whatever time is saved in the processing simply goes to the archiving process. Reporters also feel that CDs containing images can become obsolete and render the recorded digital images inaccessible. Digital imaging also incurs limitations on long-term projects, because film is still easier to review and archive. Editing positions may also become obsolete, and photographers may not be present in the newsroom, increasing the sense of isolation among photojournalists. but, on the whole, the benefits derived fro extended deadlines and the flexibility made possible by this new technology overcome the disadvantages. It is generally considered a boon in the journalism industry or mass media and viewed as remarkable by those interviewed. Photographers must get used to digital imaging and present difficulties are calculated to vanish. Experts are of the opinion that the trend will be more and more editing from the screen and less on a light table (Fahmyr).

One more method of internal electronic communication is video conferencing. This is an interactive tool that uses video, computing and communication technologies, which allow people in different locations to meet face-to-face and perform what those who meet in the same room or place can (Revision-Notes 2003).

Diplomacy involves verbal discussion with the intent of influencing and transmitting a position or negotiation on a particular issue or situation for a mutually acceptable result (Brahm 2003). Many call diplomacy an art because it is a blending of empathy, persuasion, bluster and cajoling. Diplomacy was first a method of conducting interstate relations, consisting of discussions and negotiations between heads of states or their representatives for the purpose of serving national interests. Most everyone is aware that these efforts are not always sincere but that these efforts are always aimed at keeping channels of communication open, especially in disputes and violent situations. Modern diplomacy is more complicated with intergovernmental organizations IGOs and non-governmental organizations or NGOs and with recent developments in the globalization of communication and transportation in the conduct of diplomacy.

Routine diplomacy consists of interaction of state and/or official actors in an official capacity with the authority and on behalf of the state or IGO they represent (Brahm 2003). This has been called Track I wherein issues do not reach crisis level. The state or entity represented may have interests in a particular dispute or situation and wishes to incline the other to favor it. Usually, third parties get… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Impact of Modern Telecommunications on Diplomacy.  (2005, April 29).  Retrieved December 1, 2021, from

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"Impact of Modern Telecommunications on Diplomacy."  April 29, 2005.  Accessed December 1, 2021.