Pak Afghan Youth Forum (PAYF) in collaboration with the Institute of Regional Studies (IRS) launched and organised a Public Digiplomacy Workshop, kick-starting the first event “Of discourses and narratives: Digiplomacy, Stratcom and Storytelling” in the series.
With two sessions, led by Umar Sheraz and Salman Javed respectively, the purpose was to build an understanding regarding the narration of our indigenous tales and to make sense of what Singer and Brookings refer to as, “how a new kind of communication became a new kind of war” in their “Like war: the weaponisation of Social Media.”
The aim of launching this series in general and this first workshop, in particular, was to inculcate an understanding of narrating our indigenous stories and to enhance the sense of digital interaction in the youth that is specifically working in roles of building and furthering narratives and discourses. It was also intended to deliver hands-on knowledge to the audience regarding how sentiments are used and manipulated and how vulnerable we are to being used as contributing to a certain narrative or agenda.
Saima Syed, Deputy spokesperson, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Pakistan, and Director General, Stratcom, in her remarks, talked about the journey of the Ministry from conventional ways to digital and strategic communications. She also discussed the challenges of narrative building.
In the first session, Mr Sheraz, Futurist and Senior Research Officer at CPS, Comsats, elaborated on how our assumptions are a hurdle in the way of not just imagining a future but also insightfully seeing and predicting what the future holds. As a futurist himself, he told the audience that there is no right or wrong future and that any early helpful statement about the future may seem ridiculous at first. Questioning our assumptions can be our first step to building a future, he said.
The second session focused specifically on storytelling. Mr Javed, Director Pak-Afghan Youth Forum (PAYF), took the audience on a journey of how mediums of storytelling transformed over time and how they are so capable of creating new realities. Through different interactive activities, this session focused on making the audience understand what stories do to us and how a story told differently is a history written and re-written in a way that dictates people’s perception of themselves.
In the concluding session, Nadeem Riaz, President, of IRS, pointed out that over the last decade, diplomacy become more challenging and demanding for diplomats and policymakers.