Mega–events and soft power: Technology and spectacle at the World Expo

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

7 a.m. 8 a.m. PT


The World Expo is arguably the single biggest showcasing event of a nation outside of its own borders. The next Expo is set to take place in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, from October 1, 2021 through March 31, 2022; the first time in the Expo’s 170-year history for the mega-event to be held in the Middle East.

National pavilions are the principal platform for nations to bring their cultures and innovations into direct contact with large numbers of people on the Expo ground. Increasingly these efforts and outcomes are mediated by technology for pavilion organizers and visitors alike.

This program explores and unpacks how technological mediation serves as critical mechanisms for public engagement at the Expo. For the Dubai Expo, technological affordances will be particularly salient, in the context of the restrictions on direct person-to-person contact against the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. So how does digital technology facilitate a nation’s storytelling at the Expo? How do visitors, empowered by mobile technology, experience and enjoy the event? What might be the social and cultural consequences of this place-based gathering of nations at a moment of the world in flux?


  • Jay Wang, USC Center on Public Diplomacy
  • Anne Balsamo, University of Texas, Dallas
  • Yoav Dubinsky, University of Oregon