DIPLOFACE - Diplomatic Face-work: Between Confidential Negotiations and Public Display

The rise of social media, coupled with demands for more transparency and democracy in world politics, brings new challenges to international diplomacy. State leaders and diplomats continue to react to traditional media, but now also attempt to present themselves proactively through tweets and public diplomacy. These efforts often interfere directly with closed-door negotiations and its codes of restraint, discretion and secrecy.

DIPLOFACE explores the relationship between diplomatic negotiations and the public, taking the concept of ‘face-work’ to the international level. DIPLOFACE combines participant observation, interviews and digital studies, generating new knowledge about how the information revolution challenges and transforms diplomacy, how leaders and diplomats handle new media, and the role of face-saving and face-threatening strategies in international relations. DIPLOFACE seeks to advance our understanding of diplomacy in the 21st century beyond existing International Relations and diplomatic theory.

Photo: Council of the European Union
Ministers' debate revealed deep divisions over the next EU budget.
Photo: Council of the European Union.










DIPLOFACE develops a sociologically and anthropologically informed approach to studying how state leaders and diplomats manage their nation’s ‘faces’ or ‘images of self’ in the information age. DIPLOFACE explores the relationship and tensions between confidential diplomatic negotiations and publicly displayed interventions in the media, taking the micro-sociological concept of ‘face-work’ to the international level.

The project hypothesis is that diplomatic face-work is increasingly important for decision-makers who perform simultaneously on the ‘backstage’ and the ‘front-stage’ of international relations. DIPLOFACE sets out to identify, theorize and analyse the repertoire of face-saving, face-honouring and face-threatening techniques practices employed in confidential negotiations and in public.

DIPLOFACE advances our theoretical understanding of diplomacy in the 21st century significantly beyond existing International Relations and diplomatic theory. DIPLOFACE combines participant observation, interviews and digital studies, generating important new knowledge about the relationship between public and confidential multilateral negotiation, how state leaders and diplomats handle new media, and the role of face-saving and face-threatening strategies in international relations.

Disclaimer about the Processing of Personal Data

DIPLOFACE uses both qualitative and quantitative data containing personal data as understood by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Qualitative data includes in-depth interviews, ethnographic fieldnotes from observations of the every-day work of diplomats as well as images from Twitter. Consent for the collection and processing of personal data relevant to the research project is acquired directly from the interviewees and from those providing access to otherwise non-public fieldwork sites such as diplomatic meetings. The identity of the participants remains anonymous once the data is used in scientific publications.

The quantitative data used by DIPLOFACE refers mostly to publicly available social media information such as tweets and basic profile descriptions. This data is collected through computerized and ‘automated’ methods such as the use of the websites’ application programming interface (API). Due to the large size of the individuals involved in these datasets, it is not possible to acquire direct consent from all the social media users about which we have acquired personal data in this way. To assure fair treatment of this data, we constantly monitor and implement the development of best practices in the social sciences regarding data anonymization and data minimization.

Both qualitative and quantitative data is stored on encrypted devices provided by the University of Copenhagen, and smaller parts on an end-to-end encrypted cloud storage system. The data is only accessible to the members of the DIPLOFACE research team. At the end of the research project, the data will be moved to a secure long-term storage provided by the University of Copenhagen.

That being said, parts of the quantitative data might be shared for scientific reproducibility purposes only (1) in an anonymized form, or (2) by sharing the social media IDs of public figures (e.g. diplomats) after the remaining data, such as names and profile descriptions, has been completely removed. The latter is a common practice (for platforms like Twitter) that allows other research to reproduce the findings by re-downloading the publicly available social media data for as long as the users decide to keep their accounts public.

Our procedures for the treatment of personal data have been approved by the Research Ethics Committee of the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Copenhagen on 11 October 2019.
















Yevgeniy Golovchenko, (2021). 'Fighting Propaganda with Censorship: A Study of the Ukrainian Ban on Russian Social Media'. Journal of Politics, 38(3).https://doi.org/10.1086/716949

Kristin Anabel Eggeling and Rebecca Adler-Nissen. 'The Synthetic Situation in Diplomacy: Scopic Media and the Digital Mediation of Estrangement'. Global Studies Quarterly 1(2): ksab005.

Rebecca Adler-Nissen, Katrine Emilie Andersen and Lene Hansen (2019). 'Images, emotions, and international politics: The death of Alan Kurdi'. Review of International Studies, 1-21. doi:10.1017/S0260210519000317.

Kristin Anabel Eggeling (2019). 'The digitalization of public diplomacy'. Book review. Cambridge Review of International Affairs.












Principal Investigator

Professor Rebecca Adler-Nissen
Department of Political Science
University of Copenhagen
Phone: +45 35 32 33 97
Mail: ran@ifs.ku.dk

Student research assistant

Amalia Charlotte Pape 
Mail: acp@ifs.ku.dk 

Emilie Fabricius Eriksen 
Mail: jlq400@ifs.ku.dk 










Name Title Phone E-mail
Adler-Nissen, Rebecca Professor +4530224075 E-mail
Eggeling, Kristin Anabel Assistant Professor +4535335798 E-mail
Eriksen, Emilie Fabricius Student FU +4535324991 E-mail
Golovchenko, Yevgeniy Assistant Professor - Tenure Track +4535333418 E-mail
Hammershøy, Olivia Helena Research Assistant +4535328248 E-mail
Møller, Anna Helene Kvist PhD Fellow +4535330363 E-mail

External group-member

Name Employment
Dr Ayşe Zarakol Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS)