Shakespeare Lives on Twitter: cultural diplomacy in the digital age

Aslan Ozgul, Billur; Nieto McAvoy, Eva; Gillespie, Marie and O'Loughlin, Ben (2021). Shakespeare Lives on Twitter: cultural diplomacy in the digital age. International Journal of Cultural Policy (Early Access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/10286632.2021.1901892

Abstract

This article is based on multilingual research that analyses the British Council Shakespeare Lives programme. Based on a study of the global Twitter campaign to promote the programme, and a manual coding and analysis of 4,722 tweets in five languages, we investigate the key Twitter actors, topics and types of engagement generated by the campaign. We reflect on two topics that still largely remain absent in the field of cultural diplomacy: first, global audience reactions to a cultural diplomacy programme, and second, the potential of cultural relations organisations to generate intercultural dialogue, at the same time as measurable returns both on investment and influence. Our findings demonstrate that audiences like to engage with activities that invite their participation in ways that reflect their knowledge of Shakespeare, allowing them to compare his works with their own national/local literary figures and to share ideas about universal themes. While the Twitter campaign garnered significant positive attention from members of the public around the globe, the ambition to boost ‘Brand Britain’ did not appear to materialise. We conclude that dialogic forms of cultural diplomacy that stress the value of open cultural democracy, even if difficult to achieve in practice, are more likely to succeed.

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