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Track-change diplomacy: Technology, affordances and the practice of international negotiations

Adler-Nissen, Rebecca and Drieschova, Alena ORCID: 2019. Track-change diplomacy: Technology, affordances and the practice of international negotiations. International Studies Quarterly 63 (3) , pp. 531-545. 10.1093/isq/sqz030

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How does technology influence international negotiations? This article explores “track-change diplomacy,” that is, how diplomats use information and communication technology (ICT) such as word processing software and mobile devices to collaboratively edit and negotiate documents. To analyze the widespread but understudied phenomenon of track-change diplomacy, the article adopts a practice-oriented approach to technology, developing the concept of affordance: the way a tool or technology simultaneously enables and constrains the tasks users can possibly perform with it. The article shows how digital ICT affords shareability, visualization, and immediacy of information, thus shaping the temporality and power dynamics of international negotiations. These three affordances have significant consequences for how states construct and promote national interests; how diplomats reach compromises among a large number of states (as text edits in collective drafting exercises); and how power plays out in international negotiations. Drawing on ethnographic methods, including participant observation of negotiations between the European Union's member states, as well as in-depth interviews, the analysis casts new light on these negotiations, where documents become the site of both semantic and political struggle. Rather than delivering on the technology's promise of keeping track and reinforcing national oversight in negotiations, we argue that track-change diplomacy can in fact lead to a loss of control, challenging existing understandings of diplomacy.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Cardiff Law & Politics
Department of Politics and International Relations (POLIR)
Additional Information: This article is available under the Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND license and permits non-commercial use of the work as published, without adaptation or alteration provided the work is fully attributed.
Publisher: Oxford University Press (OUP)
ISSN: 0020-8833
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 12 November 2018
Date of Acceptance: 26 October 2018
Last Modified: 19 May 2023 19:34

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