Elisabeth Johnson: What particularly attracted you to SIS? Was there something about the institution?
Craig Hayden: It is a truly interdisciplinary program and one where I can continue to work in communication research related to IR.
EJ: How has your experience of DC been so far?
CH: DC is great, with its numerous opportunities both culturally and for education. Specifically, it’s great to be close to the community of practitioners and scholars in issues that we study.
EJ: At this point, you are nearly finished your first semester at SIS, how have you found the students in SIS? What may have surprised you about the students?
CH: I’ve found the students are generally engaged and inquisitive. I had been told that many of the students had international experience and are active with social issues. I was surprised by how true this is—it’s a real pleasure. The experience that students bring to class is very valuable.
EJ: Do you remember what got you interested in IC as a field of study?
CH: Initially, I was in International Relations as a graduate student. When I went to get a degree in communication, I thought that so much of IR is played out in forms of communication (news media, political-economy, information technology, global culture) that IC seems to be a very inclusive kind of scholarship. My interest in IC spans a few different areas, so right now I am studying public diplomacy and generally how governments believe that IC and media can help them advance foreign policy objectives.
Also, I am interested in how the global media environment constrains political actors on the international stage. Finally, I’m interested in international persuasion… how does IC, and particularly international media, affect public opinion through media representation (such as news framing, images, and new media venues).
EJ: Was there any particularly crystallizing or turning-point event that you can remember that led you to where you are now?
CH: From the IR perspective, I think that IR theory, and especially constructivist theory, is implicitly based in communication—how norms are shared, policies discussed and re-imagined, the ways that symbols of international politics are argued and rearticulated across international contexts. These are implicitly communicative actions. Concretely, communication and media provide a great way to examine what are increasingly global phenomena such as satellite news and new media technologies.
EJ: You have been designing new courses for Fall 08 and Spring 09 based on your own research. How do these courses relate to your current work?
CH: So far, the Politics of Global Media course that I am currently teaching provides a general introduction to the big ideas and theories about global media and political change: nationalism, social movements, global cultural transformation, etc. It draws from some of my work on the impact of communication infrastructure on global debates. The Public Diplomacy course [for Spring 2009] draws directly from work on how the US drafts its international communication policies. It will examine the role of global media and the importance of information technology. It will look at how other nations have adopted these technologies and media and adapted them to their own forms of public diplomacy.
In the future I’d like to teach a course about international public argument—looking at how publics (not just states) communicate via news, online measures, and through venues enabled by public diplomacy in ways that might impact international politics. This course would also investigate the notion of a global public sphere.
EJ: How would you classify where you research is situated within the wider field of IC?
CH: Well, IC is a contested field itself. I do three kinds of work that roughly fit into IC as a field. The analysis of strategic communication and public broadcasting and public diplomacy in general. Also the effects of global media flows on international politics, specifically the impact of media framing on controversial issues. Finally, while it’s not firmly International Communications but it is related, the role of public argument in the establishment of US foreign policy. It’s related to IC because this kind of research looks at how our government debates how to communicate with the rest of the world.
EJ: What sorts of practical applications of your research findings do you hope to see?
CH: I’d like to see better public diplomacy programs that take into account the reality of global media and media technology that people use. The U.S., for example, needs to understand how foreign publics interpret and consume mediated information, and not conduct a media campaign that raises suspicions and is labeled as propaganda. Public diplomacy, in this sense, can do more harm than good. Other aspects of my work are not necessarily practical, but they might help our general understanding of what news flows do to constrain or enable foreign policies, and also provide a way to analyze and evaluate the arguments we hear about foreign policy.
EJ: Do you see hints at new research directions that you would like to pursue after your current projects?
CH: Currently I am working on two book projects: a comparative study on public diplomacy around the world and the other based on my dissertation – which looked at the media campaigns waged by presidential advisors to bring the US to war against Iraq. In the future, I’d like to look at how other media products (entertainment, pop culture, news) provide the resources to imagine international politics and foreign policy ideas and how we may draw conceptions of international relations from information embedded in global media products. I don’t sense we often think of cultural products this way, but it may be important to realize how international politics gets replicated or reinforced in stories we consume everyday.
EJ: And while we are looking ahead, what do you hope to see from the IC Program or in SIS in future years?
CH: I’d like the IC program to grow, to draw in a wide variety of students. The field of IC is large and covers many interests—regulatory regimes, global culture, role of new media technology. There is a lot of relevance to careers in the 21st century like journalism, international public relations, or to complement a career in government or business.
I’d also like to see more interest at the PhD level. Communication is interdisciplinary and so is international relations, which makes IC a very open, creative space for future scholars.
EJ: And now, just to finish up, what is one fun and surprising fact about you that you would like to share with IC students?
CH: Well, I’m not sure if it is very fun or surprising, but I’m a total nerd for science-fiction and I’m a computer gamer. Also for a brief period I entertained the goals of being a TV weatherman, a geologist, and of course, an astronaut.