Links & Contents I Liked 19

Welcome to my 101st blog post!

In addition to stories that have caught my attention elsewhere in the past week, there are two new posts available here. My reflections on the notorious Kony 2012 documentary and how it became a pop-cultural phenomenon venture more into a 'creative writing' space than usual. And my book review of Lynda Gratton's 'The Shift' about the future of work tries to link her main themes to the question of whether and how the 'development industry' is already representing the 'future of work' for many of us. This week also features a few links to posts that deal with 'writing' more generally-how to deal with rejections from publishers, reflections on (bad) book reviews and a few more thought on the 'how to' of blogging development. My featured 'long read of the week' is a fantastic essay by Arundhati Roy (HT: Andrea Cornwall) on capitalism in India and elsewhere featuring one of the most brilliant poetic treatments of 'development' that was never written, Pablo Neruda's poem 'Standard Oil Co.' from 1940:

Their obese emperors from New York
are suave smiling assassins
who buy silk, nylon, cigars
petty tyrants and dictators.

They buy countries, people, seas, police, county councils,
distant regions where the poor hoard their corn
like misers their gold:
Standard Oil awakens them,
clothes them in uniforms, designates
which brother is the enemy.
the Paraguayan fights its war,
and the Bolivian wastes away
in the jungle with its machine gun.

A President assassinated for a drop of petroleum,
a million-acre mortgage,
a swift execution on a morning mortal with light, petrified,
a new prison camp for subversives,
in Patagonia, a betrayal, scattered shots
beneath a petroliferous moon,
a subtle change of ministers
in the capital, a whisper
like an oil tide,
and zap, you’ll see
how Standard Oil’s letters shine above the clouds,
above the seas, in your home,
illuminating their dominions.

New on aidnography


Development
Only a politicised minority is deeply engaged in the issue now, but it is noticeable that public opinion already divides along ethnic lines. Madhesi parties and other “indigenous” groups are forming alliances and threatening a national street movement against the new constitution, should federalism fail to be delivered. They could shut down the country for weeks with widespread unrest.
No one is predicting a descent into ethnic bloodletting, but the consequences of a massive strike would be severe. Pasang Sherpa, an ethnic activist and CA member still within the fold of a national party, warns that the major parties would see their support fragment along ethnic lines. An array of new parties would form, each espousing more radical demands.
The seemingly never-ending story of creating a constitution for 'post-conflict Nepal'...the civil war officially ended in 2006...

Yes, girls can be extracted from their everyday lives and "empowered" as individuals. But the reality is that these lives are lived as part of families, communities and societies. Cutting boys and men out of the picture isn't going to make them go away. And the current narrative misses not only the fact that transforming the ways boys become men can be a key strategy in achieving gender justice, but also the contribution boys and men can make to that struggle.
Interesting comment by Andrea Cornwall. Short technical rant on the side: The attempts of the Guardian to force their facebook app on me are quite annoying and I openly admit that I have been reading fewer articles in the past weeks and months as a result. End of rant ;)...
As the project has gone on, the lines between hemispheres have blurred: young women in U.S. prisons send solutions to Wales, and Filipina immigrants in Queens ask the Lebanon think tank for help with police racial profiling. It’s a project that humanizes the folly of ‘saving’ an unfamiliar society, but it also highlights the value and availability of multiple voices, and holds clues for finding real solutions to global issues. Robbins spoke with us by email about moving the dialogue beyond both “African children” and first-world guilt.
(...)
When a wealthy white person from Westport asks a person from Ghana for help, or a Welshman asks an Iranian for help, and then sees a group of Ghanaian or Iranians discuss his or her problem earnestly, there is pressure to work with us to see their solution through. In the end, the process humanizes a stereotype, and affects a personal life. It’s not just a stab at guilty white people; it is also a chance to work past it with the very person they have their assumptions about.
'Socially mediated public art'-'nuff said!

[The video] was supposed to be analysed for the research – some serious business, this! It was supposed to respond to my research questions. I had such an urge to control! Fair negotiation, this too…
So I kept looking to balance it out, so that, while they make such a video, I get my data. While discussing the concept of the video, it did take me a lot to not keep pushing my agenda, and negotiate with them on the content of the video.
Fair negotiation… is always a tough task! Research taught me…
Great reflections by Namita Singh on the challenges of participatory video as 'tool' and as 'data' for her PhD research project. The dilemmas apply to most other qualitative approaches, too, and fair negotiations sounds easier on a blog than in reality-especially if the pressure is 'produce' a 'narrative' for your thesis.
This publication aims to contribute to the international debate on how the evaluation function can contribute to achieving equitable development results by conceptualizing, designing, implementing and using evaluations focused on human rights and equity.
It does so by offering a number of strong contributions from senior officers in institutions dealing with international development and evaluation. These are: UNICEF, UNDP, UNWomen, ILO, IDRC, the International Development Evaluation Association (IDEAS) and the International Organisation for Cooperation in Evaluation (IOCE); as well as senior Government representatives responsible for evaluation systems in their country, such as CONEVAL in Mexico.
The book is divided into three parts. Part I presents the relationship between evaluation and human rights and equity.

Part II focuses on the methodological implications in design, implement and use of Equity-focused evaluations; and

Part III presents few examples of Equity-focused evaluations.
This looks like a book for evaluation-experts, but I was pleasantly surprised that they feature some critical chapters, e.g. on 'Decolonizing evaluation in a developing world':
This chapter suggests that the good intentions of Equity-focused Evaluation must be tempered by cautions. This concern flows from a legacy of research and evaluation that has exerted colonizing influences over Indigenous and minoritized populations. The opening section covers the context of development, evaluation, and culture. The second section argues that efforts to decolonize evaluation must begin with epistemology. A third section examines the implications of decolonization for evaluation method. Within the paper, a scenario is provided based on a development project in southern Africa. The scenario illustrates the complexity of stakeholders, projects, and cultural dynamics in a development evaluation where equity is an important concern. The chapter closes with implications and cautions for how evaluation generally, and more specifically, Equity-focused evaluation may perpetuate colonizing assumptions and aims.
But many aid agencies don‘t have the time or resources to take all this on, simply because it is not “mainstreamed” into their activities. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has a dedicated “beneficiary communications” officer, but such posts are rare.
Meanwhile, there are valid concerns about the “consumerisation” of disaster communications – ranging from fears over what happens to user data in politically insecure environments to the proliferation of white noise.
John Crowley, who leads the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative’s Crisis Dynamics Programme, described the “paradox of being utterly overwhelmed with information but still not able to get the information you need to make a decision”.
Chances are if the next big earthquake is in Indonesia, whose citizens make up one of the world’s most prolific nations of tweeters, it will be the dubbed the first Twitter Quake. But will aid agencies be in on the conversation? What difference would it make even if they were?
No, there isn't an award for 'catchiest headline of the week' (yet)...but this is actually a great overview over the rise and challenges of social and mobile media in diaster situations.
If you look into the current business world out there you would see how one of the main reasons why corporations are adopting and embracing this social networking for business movement has always been cutting costs, i.e. optimizing the business with the right resources (apart from generating new business, that is!). That’s basically us, knowledge workers, still being treated as resources, instead of people, and acting accordingly when embracing all of these social technologies. HR still hasn’t made that transition from Human Resources into Human Relationships, at least, for the vast majority of businesses out there and this means that if Social Business can help them get their business optimise their resources they would be doing so, ignoring the people, and their needs, once again, and like it’s been happening for decades…
(...)
I am not sure what you would think, but I sense we are entering that stage of the point of no return, where Social Business in its purest form would need to come forward, make a stand, and show, and demonstrate, businesses, what a meaningful, purposeful, and successful social business that looks after both their customer base, as well as their employee workforce, is all about. Because somehow using Social Business, just like we did with Knowledge Management back in the day, to optimise resources to drive business revenue by cutting costs alone in the short term somehow sounds like shooting ourselves on the foot, to never recover from the injury…
Although we are witnessing some interesting developments and innovations in the DIY aid sector, on a larger scale I agree with Luis Suarez that 'social business' is more hype than reality.
By putting consumers in the driver’s seat, companies can rally mass audiences to help solve a problem, either through competition or collaboration. Pepsi Refresh and Chase Community Giving, for example, were two innovative campaigns that helped pave the way for using social media to drive philanthropic grants.
But since then, these “vote for me” campaigns have become all too common. What was once a novel concept has flooded our Facebook pages and Twitter feeds. Is crowdsourcing at risk of fatigue?
Unfortunately, the post is a bit short on empirical data and focussing in corporate crowdsourcing initiatives alone. Keeping the previous post in mind, the bigger question is whether consumers are simply 'tired' of the approach or whether they have started to realise that multinational soft drink producers and banks may have a legitimacy problem when they campaign for positive local change...
Interesting debate over at AidSource which I'm not attempting to 'summarise'. However, one voice that seems rather absent from the debate is that of HR people in large organisations. If you apply for the UN, Bank, your bilateral donor, but maybe even Oxfam or ICRC-do they really care about a blog post that was critical of the development discourse these organisations may stand for? My feeling is that this is a tiny piece of your profile. Similarly, in academia people have started to take social media more seriously, but in the end it's about traditional outputs such as published articles. Wayan Vota's makes an interesting poin:
Do you think folks at our level are hired by HR? I would consider my personal branding, networking, and job search efforts a complete failure if I am unknown to the actual decision makers for a position. That's the whole reason I blog, meet you for drinks, and would do a targeted job search - so that fellow practitioners would be handing my resume to HR saying "we want this guy".
But he works in a highly innovative IT setting clearly has made 'The Shift' into the 'future of work'...

Anthropology
This post is an attempt at a formal-ish sounding mission statement for our collective of anthropologists engaged, in many different ways, with digital concerns be they methodlogical or topical. If folks want to leave feedback in the comments section that’s always appreciated!
The other major source of corporate wealth comes from their land-banks. All over the world, weak, corrupt local governments have helped Wall Street brokers, agro-business corporations and Chinese billionaires to amass huge tracts of land. (Of course, this entails commandeering water too.) In India, the land of millions of people is being acquired and made over to private corporations for “public interest”—for Special Economic Zones, infrastructure projects, dams, highways, car manufacture, chemical hubs and Formula One racing. (The sanctity of private property never applies to the poor.) As always, local people are promised that their displacement from their land and the expropriation of everything they ever had is actually part of employment generation. But by now we know that the connection between GDP growth and jobs is a myth. After 20 years of “growth”, 60 per cent of India’s workforce is self-employed, 90 per cent of India’s labour force works in the unorganised sector.
As mentioned in the introduction, Arundhati Roy's long, brilliant essay

Academia
The problem is that while this pace matches areas of science, politics, technology, media, current events, and so on, it is damaging to the humanities, where knowledge slows to a plodding and circumspect tempo. Even when a striking novelty appears, such as “digital humanities,” it takes years for the nature and implications of it to be determined and assimilated. If we pressure the humanities to accelerate, we end up with some of the worst trends of recent years, including:
- a ridiculous productivity mandate requiring young professors to publish a book and several articles in order to earn tenure;
- a ridiculous anticipation of The Next Big Thing, that is, the next theory that might have the same impact as deconstruction, New Historicism, etc.;
- a competition with the sciences, on the latter’s terrain, that the humanities are bound to lose;
- an administrative demand that the humanities be more productive (money brought in, pages published, etc.)

Of course, it’s hard for the humanities to argue for “slowness,” in part because it sounds contrary to the present moment, and in part because it makes the humanities sound conservative, not progressive. Ever since the 1960s, humanities professors with celebrity status have often aligned the fields with cutting edges, political radicalism, avant garde artists and writers, and campus social movements, leading them to regard the humanities as activist and forward-looking. But they will never be able to be, in practice and in effect, as active and forward-looking as innovators in science and technology, nor as up-t0-date as mass media. With knowledge moving so quickly in those latter realms, the claims of English professors to be “cutting-edge” are downright quaint.
Dear Professor Monkey,
In your email, you state that I copied my work from that website but I swear I did not see that website before. I went back over my paper and it does reflect some of the course stuff, just maybe not all. I was hoping you could call me to talk this over. Can you be more specific about how you found this plagiarism? Also about the facts I used from the assigned reading I did display this in some of my paper. Can you give me partial credit. I can withdraw from your course or enroll in another university if you don't get it.
There's a reason the blog is called 'College Misery'...
I will have to miss a week of classes in the middle of the term due to a family event. I also work full time and am in training for a Marathon to raise money for a Fill-In-the-blank disease fundraiser. This takes up a lot of my time.
I have a very good GPA and until last term I was able to have straight As in all of my previous Weaving classes. I really cannot lower my GPA, so this is worrying me a bit.
Yes, this is also from 'College Misery'...But I think it's a brilliant summary of the demands (real or imagined) on and expectations of many students today...

Writing
Work out who your audience is and focus on them, engaging them where they reside. Keep your focus on specific outcomes. Don’t rely too much on your blog as a promotional tool – remember things like your business cards, your CV.
Interesting, but I feel that there are a few things missing that deserve a post on its own here in the not-so-distant future...
If you’re a writer, a writer who writes, a writer who puts her work out there, you’re going to face rejection. It’s like saying, “Eventually you’re going to have to fistfight a bear,” except here it’s not one bear but a countless parade of bears, from Kodiaks to Koalas, all ready to go toe-to-toe with you.
Recommended reading-and most certainly applicable to academic writing, too!
And speaking of zombies: Bland plot summaries, worn out compliments and the requisite quibbles have surely done more than excess bile to drain the life out of the nation’s book review sections. I look longingly at the fist-fights in British newspapers and wish we could roll up our sleeves more often in this country. But that would require aggrieved authors to fight back, instead of quietly enduring critics’ abuse. I can’t quite accept Krystal’s complaint about negative book reviews, but I’m all in favor of his concluding advice to writers: “Make noise. Call attention to the offending review. In fact, write that letter to the editor that everyone enjoins you not to write and in a few deft strokes outline the reviewer’s bias and how he or she misread, obfuscated, and distorted your work.” 
I believe that academic book reviews, their production and interaction with them, has started to change, too. Not just because I like reading and reviewing books I think that hiding them on the last few pages of journals behind pay-walls is not doing publishers a great favour. It would be interesting to get some empirical data on this subject, but somehow I doubt that researchers learn about relevant publications by browsing through the review section of journals that are published 3 or 4 times a year. Open, accessible reviews that can accomodate feedback and can easily include online resources will become more and more important.

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