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Hello all,

Invisible Children are back with a new video/documentary-and the blogosphere is not exactly exploding with reactions...still, if you haven't done yet, check out Tom Murphy's post (and maybe mine, too ;).
Serious reading this week includes a really interesting piece on Afghanistan and the growing critique of foreign experts and expertise, a detailed study on psychological distress for humanitarian aid workers and a discussion on the burning question 'What on earth is a "Political Settlement"'? On the lighter side, there's the 'First World Anthem', an exciting project on a Nairobi-based NGO version of 'The Office' and the question whether watching reality TV shows turns everyone into anthropologists!

Enjoy!

New on aidnography
The Kony 2012 video franchise, or: Invisible Children’s latest ‘Move’

Tom Murphy's take on the latest Invisible Children video is also worth reading:
Little Movement in Invisible Children's Latest Video

D
evelopment
New Roles for Communication in Development?

The landscape of research communication in development has been undergoing a significant shift in recent years. The very visible emergence of new technologies has been accompanied by other shifts in the politics and business of development knowledge: the understanding of what constitutes “expert knowledge” in development, a growing emphasis on process over product in development research and new understandings of what drives social change and policy influence.
With the rise of participatory and co-constructed communications have come suggestions that we have neglected the rigour and “hard evidence” needed to influence policy. As some have turned back to grassroots forms of communication such as community radio, they face ambivalence from others struggling to see what is new or innovative about such ‘archaic’ approaches. As such we find ourselves at an interesting juncture, one that this Bulletin aims to explore by drawing on the experiences of practitioners, theorists and community intermediaries from a wide range of disciplines.
The latest IDS Bulletin is out!

Mobile phones, toilets and libraries – beyond access

At the Beyond Access Conference put on by IREX yesterday, I had the opportunity to facilitate a discussion session on Women and ICTs where we got into some of these issues and talked about how libraries can help.
Great post by Linda Raftree on how to create an environment beyond simply measuring 'access' to technology and how libraries and community centers can play vital role especially for providing an empowering environment for girls and women.

What on earth is a 'Political Settlement'?

In a world where armed conflict and civil war are so widespread, ‘political settlement’ is a welcome, warming phrase. The temptation to use it is irresistible. Who would want to oppose a ‘political settlement’? But is it going to help us better understand conflicts and routes to their resolution? Again, I doubt it.
Mick Moore on the emergence of a new 'plastic concept' and the 'warm' language that masks the 'cold' complexities of transitional societies.

Psychological Distress, Depression, Anxiety, and Burnout among International Humanitarian Aid Workers: A Longitudinal Study

Participants with strong social support networks were less likely to suffer negative mental health consequences from their deployment. Workers with strong social support networks were less likely to suffer from depression, psychological distress, or burnout related to PA, and they had higher levels of life satisfaction throughout their deployment. These findings lends scientific support for the recommendations that peer support networks are beneficial for aid workers during or after their deployment [...]

We cannot confirm that aid workers who scored higher on health habits (e.g., eating healthier, smoking less, and sleeping and exercising more) were less likely to be at risk for mental illness or burnout symptoms. [...]

Aid workers who had high levels of motivation were less likely to suffer from burnout as measured on the PA subscale. Because scientific studies of humanitarian aid workers are lacking, this is the first time that this specific association has been reported. That persons with high levels of motivation to do this kind of work in difficult circumstances are less at risk for burnout makes sense. [...]

A reportedly better experience in working with an NGO was associated with higher levels of burnout on the PA scale. A more positive evaluation of working with an NGO was also associated with higher levels of anxiety cases. These findings seem somewhat counter-intuitive. However, the positive experience of working with the NGO might put the responsibility more on the worker if tasks do not go as well as planned. Similarly, a more positive NGO evaluation might mean that respondents took responsibility for failure on themselves, or maybe they believe they are not living up to the organization's goals.
Social peer support helps to prevent burn-out...Yoga doesn't ;)...The last paragraph is interesting and I wonder how non-NGOs do on the stress and anxiety scale.

The ICG Report and the Government's Search for a New Narrative


The government’s reaction to critical reports is overly hostile and the optimism it offers in return is exaggerated, but it is not alone in its irritation over the bleakness of the reporting on Afghanistan. Most Afghans are deeply concerned over where their country may be going, as expressed in countless conversations AAN has with people from all walks of life (see also this earlier blog). But the fact that it always seem to be the foreigners voicing sombre predictions in public and with such adamancy, seems to be what ignited a fairly unified public backlash – even from people who share the concerns and criticisms that are raised.
The impatience is most palpable among the young intelligentsia. They are annoyed that the international discourse on Afghanistan is dominated by foreign analysts and experts, some of whom rarely visit, and that they phrase their criticism of ISAF and the Afghan government in terms of no-hope scenarios for the whole country. Some of them genuinely believe their country is going to be alright – or should at least be given the chance to be.
A very interesting analysis of the reactions in Afghanistan to a new report by the Crisis Group. Interesting, how powerful ICG's reports have become, how they shape public discourses-and how they highlight the limitations of 'foreign' expertise at the same time...

First World Problems Anthem

I'm not entirely sure how this is linked to cleaner water, but it's a clever marketing campaign that doesn't come with 'shock & awe' tactics.

Aid for Aid: 'The Office' for NGOs

A pair of Kenyan filmmakers want to make a black comedy about an NGO that does nothing. Based on the description and the clips shown, it looks like the hit UK and US show The Office set in an NGO in Nairobi.
I want to sign up as organizational ethnographic advisor ;)!

Anthropology

Why Reality TV Doesn’t Suck, and May Even Make Us Smarter

I get to test my grasp of this new world by predicting the picks and the pans. But right or wrong, I learn something. And I think I’m getting better (though my wife might demur). Incidentally, trial and error is the way anthropologists build up knowledge of other cultures, venturing opinions the world approves or scorns.
Reality TV makes anthropologists of us all.
(...)
A key feature of anthropology is the long, observational, “ethnographic” interview. Anthropologists believe one of the advantages of this method is that no one can manage appearances, let alone lie, successfully for a long period of time.
So while the Kardashian sisters may wish to create an impression – and the producers edit to reinforce that impression – over many episodes and seasons, the truth will out. Whether they like it or not, eventually we will see into Kardashian souls.
I think I get the irony, but there's still lots of stuff to disagree with...first and foremost, I wonder why the consumer of a reality TV show should become an anthropologist. So everybody who has ever read Malinowski's or Gellner's ethnographies is an anthropologist?! Wouldn't the logic be that those who produce these products, i.e. the people behind the camera of TV shows are the real anthropologists?! Because most reality shows are scripted in one way or another and without knowing the scripts any anthropological analysis will be flawed, because we can only take the end product at face value. Plus, if we really want to apply anthropological analysis (ritual theory, cultural analysis, front stage/back stage etc.) wouldn't we faced with an eternal dilemma that we no longer know when reality TV personas 'play' or act naturally? Anyway, I gotta go because Spike TV has another ' DEA' marathon on and I'm going to ethnographically engage with the 'war on drugs' in New Jersey ;)!

Academia

Misconduct accounts for the majority of retracted scientific publications

A detailed review of all 2,047 biomedical and life-science research articles indexed by PubMed as retracted on May 3, 2012 revealed that only 21.3% of retractions were attributable to error. In contrast, 67.4% of retractions were attributable to misconduct, including fraud or suspected fraud (43.4%), duplicate publication (14.2%), and plagiarism (9.8%). Incomplete, uninformative or misleading retraction announcements have led to a previous underestimation of the role of fraud in the ongoing retraction epidemic. The percentage of scientific articles retracted because of fraud has increased ∼10-fold since 1975. Retractions exhibit distinctive temporal and geographic patterns that may reveal underlying causes.
I don't think the figures would be significantly different for social sciences. In short, people cheat on purpose in academic articles rather than making 'mistakes'. Not surprise really, but interesting to have it backed up with numbers...

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