Links & Contents I Liked 126 - blog post #300!

Hello all,

A note on the 300th blog post
Wow! Blog post no. 300...how time flies! Before we move to another comprehensive link review, I want to take a moment to thank you, dear readers, fellow bloggers, students & random people of the Internet, for an amazing virtual time! In some ways, this has been the most rewarding research project I have undertaken so far and at the same time, it does not feel like a research project at all...it has become a reflection and learning space-and, more importantly, a cherished alternative space that provides some balance to the formal writing aspects of academia-from peer-reviewed articles to proposals, from student feedback to meeting notes;

I am fortunate that blogging is part of my job and that is has influenced publications, teaching and my engagement with the digital development community.

Again, thank you for reading, sharing, doing great things and discovering gems in the wide ocean of the virtual world on which Aidnography's little dinghy will continue to sail!

Links I liked 126
This is a great review-if I may say so myself ;)! Lots of long reads and new posts by many familiar colleagues and friends of the blogosphere.

Tom Murphy reports back from the Voice & Matter event, a thorough review of Nick Kristof's latest book franchise, WhyDev on narcissism & social media, the Rockefeller Foundation's President on philanthro-speak in action, Paul Currion on the humanitarian system and Jennifer Lentfer on how not communicate development. Our Digital Lives, now a regular category of the review, looks at drivers, open data, the decline of the 'organization man', working for free & millennial hiring. Academia & Anthropology features fresh food for thought on rankings, student debt, MOOCs, digital faculty, academic rejection & multi-media ethnography via Ethnography Matters!

Enjoy!

New from aidnography
Is paying 7,500 pounds for an ebook the future of Open Access?

I do not have the answers, but as much as I agree that open access should be supported I wonder whether ‘buying back pdfs’ with taxpayers’ money from mainstream publishers is the best we can do-maybe for now, but it does not seem to be a sustainable option for the future and it may favor projects funded by large donors and ‘rich’ universities-with additional challenges for global academia and development outside the privileged circles.
Andrea Cornwall kicking off #voiceandmatter with powerful Indian women & changing narratives of #globaldev pic.twitter.com/FzJ0QXQroS

— Tobias Denskus (@aidnography) September 17, 2014

Last week, I was immersed in our great Voice & Matter conference and live-tweeted with the #voiceandmatter hashtag

Development news
All this talk about uplifting girls isn’t helping them
A more nuanced view on ending power emerged in the past few years only to recede, argued Cornwall. She used a recent Oxfam campaign as an example of the larger problem. The image is if women who are literally lifted above the ground, floating in the air, as a representation of being lifted out of poverty. Such images and videos like the Nike Foundation’s Girl Effect succeed in appealing to foreigners. The story of empowerment ignores the fundamental issues of power.
Tom Murphy, who joined us for the Voice & Matter conference, reports on Andrea Cornwall's keynote introductory lecture.

Global development’s next decade: Evolution or revolution?
Of the executives who thought development would change fundamentally, 20 percent responded that the growing number and dynamism of new actors — emerging donors, philanthropic foundations and private entrepreneurs — would be the leading reason, and 18 percent pointed to technology as the top factor.
I cannot really recall a major transformation or 'revolution' in modern international development-even when 'everything' changed after WWII, 'everything' changed during the Cold War, 'everything' changed with the oil crises, 'everything' changed with the famines in Africa and 'everything' changed after 1989. Now 'everything' will change because of tech and/or new countries, alliances etc.
I'm not part of the '67%'. There will be changes and shifts, but much slower than anticipated. I mean, it's 2014 and France & the UK are still permanent members of the UN Secuity Council!Any professionalised industry will have a hard time to 'transform'-so we are going to see a lot of old thinking alongside new stuff etc. Development orgs are the CDs of the aid industry!

The Paths We Refuse
Kristof and WuDunn aren't technically in the marketing game. But if you've followed the Half the Sky Movement over the last couple years, you may be surprised to read that they're not really in the charity game either. For despite the ".org" website, the nonprofit language ("take action"; "movement"), and the issue-based approach, this "organization" does not have 501(c)(3) status. It is merely a website, an advertising platform for their own brand and the not-for-profits they cover in the articles, books, films and games that comprise it, as well as a seemingly random listing of other companies that somehow support their work.
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This audience is never profiled outright, but alluded to constantly. From the every-other-page refrain on the significance of maternity to the consistent reminder of women's superior bookkeeping abilities and commendable disinterest in liquor, the middle-aged, upper middle-class North American female homemaker is practically enshrined in these pages. If a reader requires a less charitable means of contributing to social good, for example, the authors suggest they "simply join a country club."
(...)
But remember that teaching "grit" won't end global income inequality. Neither, for that matter, will an extremely innovative kind of yogurt or a well-planned, clean-water birthday campaign. Global income inequality could end, but its elimination won't happen through the bolstering of in-place, profit-minded organizations with half an eye (or more) on their own bottom lines. It will come through the close examination of the real causes, effects and perpetrators of all forms of oppression.
Anne Elizabeth Moore's review of Nick Kristof's new book project 'A Path Appears', although a bit long and at times digressing a bit much into the 'Half the Sky' predecessor, is still an important essay; it is a detailed analysis on how the marketing machine behind 'global development' issues in the age of mainstreaming philanthropy and non-governmental approaches to development and social change works. A very interesting case study at the intersection of the depoliticization of development, the 'Oprahfication' of social change and the globalization of North American notions of personal growth and 'well-being' discourses.

From voluntourism to ice buckets: Narcissism in social media
For those involved in development, the question is not whether social media is shifting marketing and advocacy, but whether we’re ready for it. I’ve worked with non-profits struggling to get followers, likes and shares, all while attempting to navigate the scary world of crowdsourcing. Traditional private fundraising trips to philanthropist brunches or other face-to-face networking events can no longer be justified when there are millions of potential donors at one’s fingertips, hungry to do something cool and exciting on social media.
Alison Rabe offers some good points on the growing debate on how whether and how the power of social media culture can engage with meaningful development challenges.

Inside a secret hearing at a foreign tribunal, El Salvador awaits a verdict
Next week in Washington DC, right along Pennsylvania Avenue, decisions about El Salvador’s future will be made behind closed doors – almost 2,000 miles away from the Central American country.
On September 15th, the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes of the World Bank, will hear from the government of El Salvador and its opponent, a multinational mining company called OceanaGold (formerly Pacific Rim). The company is suing El Salvador for $301 million because the government did not grant it a mining permit. The government of El Salvador’s main reason for doing so is that the mining company never complied with the minimum legal requirements for obtaining a permit. On top of that, there were and are serious concerns about the social and environmental impacts of mining.
Can you imagine? For El Salvador, millions of dollars, the health of its environment and people, and the right of citizens to decide about their country’s future is all in the hands of this foreign tribunal. Can you imagine that the future of El Salvador is in the hands of the three members of the Tribunal
When 'openness' no longer means dots on Google maps or Excel files, but involves powerful private companies, real money and established governance rituals, the World Bank quickly closes its doors...

Behind the Scenes: How to Decide Where to Spend $100 Million
It's a question I'm often asked: How do leaders of one of America's oldest philanthropies decide which problems, out of the many facing humanity in the 21st century, will receive significant amounts of funding to help uncover solutions or bring them to scale? Is there a check list we follow? An instinct? Do we pick from random and hope for the best?
The answer is much more rigorous, inspired by the way that venture capitalists source and landscape their own investments, and necessitated by two realities: first, that philanthropy no longer has the resources on our own to solve all of the world's problems. Second, philanthropy's dollars are tax exempt in the United States, and can be exercised in ways that others'—from business or government—are not. So there is an added burden and privilege for us to determine where our precious dollars are best spent.
To ensure that I, along with my board and executive team, can reach informed decisions, early in my Foundation presidency, we refreshed our strategy model and put into place what we call our "scan and search" process. The first step is to listen to our networks and engage partners to identify problems on the horizon, do heavy duty research to understand the facets of the entire problem space, and then analyze the drivers and potential opportunities for intervention.
I'm pretty sure the Rockefeller Foundation does awesome work-but when its President Judith Rodin unleashes the full discourse of philanthrocapitalism in her communication as 'LinkedIn Influencer' I felt the only thing I can do with it is to use it to introduce students to 'bullshit bingo'...

The humanitarian future
Our network age demands a network model. It demands that we shift away from the old industrial, imperial model of delivering material relief along a supply chain from rich to poor countries. We need a post-industrial, post-imperial model that mobilises resources through global networks. Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom’s The Starfish and the Spider (2006) provides a starting point: the decentralised structure of what they call ‘starfish’ organisations makes them more resilient, compared with more centralised ‘spider’ organisations. Humanitarian organisations must become hubs, connecting individuals and communities to enable them to share knowledge and resources more freely, and using their position to embed humanitarian principles within their networks.
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This is not a techno-utopian view of the future in which the internet sweeps away all the injustices of the world. The web could lead to a dead end of corporate monocultures, but part of our struggle against that must be the continual renewal of these grassroots connections. We can’t predict the future, but we can shape it by forming alternative narratives. Humanitarianism is not a pile of Lego blocks to be re-arranged as required, but a set of organising principles that tell a compelling story about what we want our civilisation to look like; about how we wish to act towards each other.
Another long and worthwhile read. Paul Currion reviews the history of humanitarianism and the humanitarian aid industry and asks whether we can 'future proof' our thinking and actions.

11 useless approaches to communicating about global development
just in case you want to remain “old school” in your communications strategies and keep them grounded in a charitable fundraising model, here are 11 “somewhat tried,” “partially true,” and totally satirical approaches to communications for you to employ.
Blog post #300 would be incomplete with a link to Jennifer Lentfer's work and writing!

Our digital lives

A Failure to Treat Workers with Respect Could Be Uber’s Achilles’ Heel
To avoid liability, Uber deals with its drivers as independent contractors, creating a 21st century version of an old employment model, wherein day laborers stand on a street corner and wait for the boss to dish out work to a privileged few. It’s true that the rating system and the other quality control measures used by Uber can mean clean cars and polite drivers. And for some people, it provides a new route to part-time employment. But treating drivers as disposable elements does not make sound business sense because drivers play a key role in Uber’s service as well as other delivery offerings.
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Some last mile drivers are tasked with bringing in new business along their routes, and are trained to deal with many kinds of problems such as billing issues or product claims. These workers must often follow prescribed appearance standards because they deal directly with customers and represent the company’s brand.
Yossi Sheffi on how cutting corners with 'last mile' service providers may not pay off in the longer term of your business if it connects with real people and unique real-life challenges.

Open Data Is Not Open for Business
Let me make this clear for everyone. You are the Government. We pay you to be responsible. It is our data you are publishing. It has taken you 200 years to figure out how to publish it so we can use it. Open Data isn't your private preserve of data that you are now providing to us through state-issued hunting and fishing licenses.
We expect you to stand behind what you publish, to take responsibility and to invest the resources necessary to make sure it is as accurate and timely as possible. When you tell us you don't take responsibility for what you publish and you pass legal liability to us, we understand you are publishing garbage that you wouldn't even rely on and use. Because if it was valuable you would accept responsibility and empower us to use it without constraint.
I can understand Steven Adler's frustrations to some extent. However, I find it a bit ironic that he works for IBM-a company that would probably like to use/mine/analyze public data for business purposes-and not be very open about it. I can also understand some of the disclaimer-in the litigious U.S. environment governed by 20th century laws and regulations I would be cautious as well as to not being punished for openness...

Goodbye, Organization Man
Now nobody wants to be an Organization Man. We like start-ups, disrupters and rebels. Creativity is honored more than the administrative execution. Post-Internet, many people assume that big problems can be solved by swarms of small, loosely networked nonprofits and social entrepreneurs. Big hierarchical organizations are dinosaurs.
The Ebola crisis is another example that shows that this is misguided. The big, stolid agencies — the health ministries, the infrastructure builders, the procurement agencies — are the bulwarks of the civil and global order. Public and nonprofit management, the stuff that gets derided as “overhead,” really matters. It’s as important to attract talent to health ministries as it is to spend money on specific medicines.
As recent books by Francis Fukuyama and Philip Howard have detailed, this is an era of general institutional decay. New, mobile institutions languish on the drawing board, while old ones are not reformed and tended. Executives at public agencies are robbed of discretionary power. Their hands are bound by court judgments and regulations.
David Brooks on how the appeal of 'disruption' works in governance environments that still require formal organizational engagement over time-very relevant for #globaldev discussions, of course!

No time, no money: why do people work for free?
The living situation of honorary workers is precarious and marginal. The emergence of these ´honorary jobs´, of jobs that do not pay or even cost the worker money, seems to reveal the emergence of the relationship between labour and capital, between workers and institutions in late capitalist society. When people do not get paid for the work they do, how do they manage financially? Saskia relies on welfare provided by the state and receives support from her retired parents. My impression was that Lundi depended on his family and neighbours; Ron took out a loan from the bank. It looks like the unpaid labour ‘employers’ get subsidised through welfare provisions from the state, solidarity among family members, and personal debts. We need to think critically about what it means when volunteerism becomes central to political ideologies. Such ideologies have an implicit exploitative dimension that suggests that it is possible to live outside of a monetary economy while simultaneously favouring powerful employers.
Anthropologist Erik Bähre shares some very familiar glocal stories and reflections of working 'for free'.

How to hire millennials—and weed out the bad ones
My hardest-working, most attentive, most intelligent starters still come from schools with un-fancy names. They’re millennials, for sure, but not slackers. I have come to believe that America’s top-tier schools are doing their graduates a disservice by boosting their expectations about starter jobs. Entry level is the great flattener of the working world.
I wonder if and how Lesley Jane's points are also applicable to the development industry...

Academia & Anthropology

Official study slams university rankings as ‘useless'
A government-commissioned study of the placement of Norwegian universities in global rankings – in particular compared to other Nordic institutions – has concluded that even the top rankings are so based on subjective weightings of factors and on dubious data that they are useless as a basis for information if the goal is to improve higher education.
A comprehensive review on university rankings by the Norwegians-it is great to see these pockets and resistance and critical analysis in 'my' region!

You want digitally fluent faculty?
As a fairly digitally fluent faculty member I have yet to work for an institution of higher education that is able to deal with digitally fluent faculty. I’ve spent the last 20+ years banging my head against the digital illiteracies of higher education institutions. So to hear that the low digital fluency of faculty is seen as the #1 challenge impeding technology adoption is really rather aggravating.
David Jones is probably right that many academic institutions would be overwhelmed by fully digitally fluent faculty if it involves forms of activism, critique and sharing 'behind the scenes' details.

The MOOC Revolution That Wasn’t
This year, that revolution fizzled. Only half of those who signed up watched even one lecture, and only 4 percent stayed long enough to complete a course. Further, the audience for MOOCs already had college degrees so the promise of disrupting higher education failed to materialize. The MOOC providers argue that completion of free courses is the wrong measure of success, but even a controlled experiment run by San Jose State with paying students found the courses less effective than their old-school counterparts.
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When Udacity launched, its initial courses dove as deep into subjects as their Stanford counterparts. Now, many Udacity courses take as few as 40 hours to complete; if Stanford were giving course credit for a week of work, it wouldn’t have the reputation. Soon we’ll be hearing about the “dramatic rise” in MOOC completion rates, without a mention of how much easier it is to complete a course.
Those “improvements” hurt the entire industry as the actual outcomes – jobs, promotions, improved productivity – still won’t be delivered. As we’re seeing with the decline of the for-profit universities, quick fixes that sound good in the press don’t work in the long-term.
Dan Friedman critically analyzes the current state of MOOCs as Udacity just raised another 35 million dollars...

Education With a Debt Sentence: For-Profit Colleges as American Dream Crushers and Factories of Debt
The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, an organization that offers support in health, education, employment, and community-building to new veterans, put it this way in August 2013: "Using high-pressure sales tactics and false promises, these institutions lure veterans into enrolling into expensive programs, drain their post-9/11 GI Bill education benefits, and sign up for tens of thousands of dollars in loans. The for-profits take in the money but leave the students with a substandard education, heavy student loan debt, non-transferable credits, worthless degrees, or no degrees at all.”
Another important long read. Hannah Appel on for-profit colleges and a reminder how they prey on students who get blinded by an American dream that these institution certainly will not deliver; I am actually glad to read that veteran organizations have adopted such a clear stance against them and I hope many other will follow.

How we are not dealing with rejection in academia
Instead we should change this culture! We as scholars should celebrate academic success especially because the way there was rocky and hard. In most cases the published article is the result of several rejections, some with outrages reviews and unfair outbursts. However, it got published! With social media it is easier than ever to share our experience and the true picture of academic life with our colleagues. Through twitter hashtags such as #phdchat, #ecrchat, and #acwri enable us to share our story easily with the community. We should start to share the shame! Let us in our everyday professional lives have the courage to stand up and acknowledge that “Failure is always an option!” In the meantime I have sent my paper out again – to the third journal. Failure is always an option…but I am confident it will get published at some point in a good journal.
Florian Krampe and I discussed his post briefly on Skype; I agree with his sentiment, but also introduced a few points for further discussions, e.g. whether (relatively) young/junior scholars can/should/must publish in top journals or whether there is a point in 'writing your way up', the fact that your personal sharing and networking will become more important-regardless of whether your article is hidden behind the paywall of a high- or lower-impact journal and the problem of the '99%'-the vast majority of proposals or articles that are flooding the channels and may never find a suitable 'home' for various reasons...

Ethnography Beyond Text and Print: How the digital can transform ethnographic expressions
To extend the ethnographic interest into the sensorial realm, we may consider using digital content systems to aggregate these disparate sensorial engagements. In these systems, users can interact with media of multiple types, audio, video, text, as these objects are stored and displayed in a relational structure via tagging or other meta-data organization. In addition to audio-visual content, with the deployment of GPS and positional systems, digital systems can associate content with geospatial data. This enriches the content by providing a spatial layer. A spatial rendering of data can lead to new research questions.
Field researchers navigate in physical (and virtual) spaces. But the narratives they produce, by the time of publication, are often stripped of their place-based association. Imagine an account of an urban ethnography that is embedded into a place-sensitive narrative platform. The ethnographer can treat ethnographic narratives within an embedded spatial layout that interacts with other kinds of media content.
I am more than happy to include yet another link to Ethnography Matters in my review! Wendy Hsu's essay outlines some very important debates on how to (re)present ethnography in a multi-media digital world.

Free Open Access Anthropology Journals
Here is a selection of Open Access journals in anthropology and related fields. All these journals provide free access to all articles.
And with this great resource I will let you enjoy your further browsing, reading, sharing & thinking!

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