Links & Contents I Liked 157

Hi all,

Today is/was a first as I prepared the link review just before co-teaching a class in our New Media & ICT4D course so I can use it as ‘reflective practice’ and discuss link curation as a tool both from a technological and content perspective.

Development news starts with a powerful speech on why Africa can’t entrepreneur itself out of poverty; it’s still difficult to track conflict minerals; aid effectiveness is also still difficult…there’s a special section on climate change and the mirage of consuming greener and better; the debate around sexual violence in aid work continue and there’s a very good long read on why the best war reporter quit his job. A new publication on men, masculinities & development is hot off the digital press.
Digital lives on how the Harper government in Canada destroys data; a great netnographic portrait of a digital prom queen; Wi-Fi in Africa and facebook’s dominance in digital publishing.
In Academia, we look how academics can subsidize the publishing industry, how blogs and blogging can be used in the classroom & an old-school read from 1970 on how elite professors wanted to influence politics in Washington.

Enjoy!


New from aidnography
Trust.org’s Tom Esslemont and the pipe dream of overhead-free humanitarian aid

If Trust.org sends out surveys to humanitarian organizations that spend time and effort (overheads!) on responding to their request, journalists have an obligation to engage thoroughly with the information-but also with the debates around complicated issues such as overheads rather than framing a story that somehow justifies the word ‘exclusive’ in capital letters in the headline
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Development news
Video: Ory Okolloh explains why Africa can’t entrepreneur itself out of its basic problems

We can’t entrepreneur our way around bad leadership. We can’t entrepreneur our way around bad policies. Those of us who have managed to entrepreneur ourselves out of it are living in a very false security in Africa. There is growth in Africa, but Africans are not growing. And we have to questions why is there this big push for us to innovate ourselves around problems that our leaders, our taxes, our policymakers, ourselves, to be quite frankly, should be grappling with. … I think sometimes we are running away from dealing with the really hard things. And the same people who are pushing this entrepreneurship and innovation thing are coming from places where your roads work, your electricity works, your teachers are well paid. I didn’t see anyone entrepreneur-ing around public schooling in the US. You all went to public schools, you know, and then made it to Harvard or whatever. You turned on your light and it came on. No one is trying to innovate around your electricity power company. So why are we being made to do that? Our systems need to work and we need to figure our shit out.”
Lily Kuo summarizes an important talk by Ory Okolloh-entrepreneurism alone will not 'fix' Africa or any country...

The losing battle against conflict minerals

But according to the GAO report, efforts to certify mines and the minerals they produce are severely restricted by conditions on the ground. Mining areas in eastern DRC "continue to be plagued by insecurity because of the presence and activities of armed groups and some corrupt members of the national military," the authors write. Local officials attempt to monitor the mines with little training and often for no pay, but their efforts are crippled by corruption, lack of infrastructure and poorly maintained or nonexistent roads.
U.S. agencies told the GAO they have validated 140 mines sites this year in eastern Congo, and USAID said that revenues for artisanal miners, traders and exporters are up 200 percent, thanks to conflict-free supply chains, which are bringing in tax revenue for the country’s government. Still, "smuggling remains prolific, and instances of fraud call into question the integrity of traceability mechanisms," according to the GAO report. The U.N. Group of Experts reports finding tags from the ITRI Tin Supply Chain Initiative, one of the largest traceability schemes, for sale in the DRC and Rwanda. If the scheme is to work, the bar-coded tags should be available only at audited, conflict free, mines and smelters, where they are attached to bags of minerals and logged for tracking.
Industry groups like the National Association of Manufacturers have pushed back against the law since its introduction, and in August they achieved a minor victory when two members of a three judge appeals court panel found part of the provision unconstitutional, citing the First Amendment. Although the disclosure rule still stands, companies no longer have to declare whether their products are DRC-conflict-free.
Natasja Sheriff on the difficulties of dealing with 'conflict minerals'-even in a digital, connected, surveillanced world...

The Problem with Effectiveness (1)

First, the ‘oligarchy’ of global western humanitarian NGOs uses the language of effectiveness to defend its turf, funding and power. Argument to donors: give us the money, because we are more effective than them. Here, ‘them’ refers to emerging NGOs from the global south, who are almost by definition going to come up short in terms of effectiveness. After all, it is the oligarchy’s definition of effectiveness in the first place, and the oligarchy has enormous advantages in terms of resources, experience, infrastructure, etc.
Marc DuBois highlights an important challenge: No discourse, concept or tool is value-free-and often they are used to legitimize existing organizations and/or routines.

Creative self-destruction: the climate crisis and the myth of ‘green’ capitalism

The sparkling image of corporate environmentalism and business sustainability promises no conflicts and no trade-offs. Here, it is possible to address climate change while continuing the current global expansion of consumption; there is no contradiction between material affluence and environmental well being.
(...)
Ultimately, the “success” or otherwise of the Paris climate talks appears unlikely to challenge the fundamental dynamics underlying the climate crisis. Dramatic decarbonisation based around limits upon consumption, economic growth, and corporate influence are not open for discussion.
Christopher Wright and Daniel Nyberg are not sharing groundbreaking news, but a very concise summary of an argument we keep hearing time and again: You can't consumerize your way out of poverty and underdevelopment and expect to 'save' the planet.

Whose Views? Climate Change Governance and the Politics of Expertise

Regarding disciplines, the IPCC author team is dominated by economists and engineers. Others producing policy-relevant knowledge on climate change, such as sociologists, human geographers or political scientists, are marginal to the report both in numerical terms but also in terms of their involvement in the collaborative networks amongst authors. This is less surprising but nevertheless important. IPCC’s Working Group III is dominated by a large modelling exercise for emissions scenarios, and more qualitative knowledge, for example about what drives increased energy consumption in households, or the political dynamics of global negotiations, is largely absent from the expertise in the writing team.
Matthew Paterson adds another important dynamic to the debates around climate change: It's about the old question 'whose voices count' and whose expertise is deemed legitimate and relevant-qualitative research most of the time is marginalized.

Let's 'Uberize' sustainability

At a time when a worrying number of pilots seem to be losing their bearings, or actively steering their aircraft into oceans or mountains, there is a parallel risk that the world’s sustainability champions unwittingly could help crash the global economic system.
Here’s why. As we compete to stake out our respective bits of market turf, celebrating the incremental changes of businesses that support our platforms, we confuse the market. Are we calling for change-as-usual or for "breakthrough"? Ultimately, too, we risk losing out to those who see the challenge through very different lenses: the Travis Kalanicks of sustainable capitalism.
The Open Data movement could turn some of today’s sustainability organizations into tomorrow’s Better Places, in the ditch, wheels spinning. So, do we wait to be Uberized — or join forces to converge our activities and co-evolve shared visions and roadmaps? We vote for the latter. And with 2017 marking the 30th anniversary of the Brundtland agenda, we have a narrow time window to get our collective act together.
I don't understand what John Elkington wants or means-I just know that it's plastic language like this, including the barf-worthy headline, that will certainly not make this planet 'greener' or better in any way :(.

Does the aid industry have a sexual violence problem?

“We know anecdotally that this is happening,” said Jones. “There’s colleague-on-colleague violence; dealing with a checkpoint where women are abused and men are forced to watch; there are supervisors who abuse positions of authority; there are stories involving contractors. We are hearing stories of all of those things.”
Those working in this area say the official numbers are low not because incidents do not occur, but because few victims are willing to report them. Nobert, who now runs a web-based campaign that collects anonymous testimonials from sexual assault survivors, said many of those who come to her are too worried about the impact on their career and reputation to say anything.
“There is a very strong stigma, and many of those who do try and report have horrible reactions from their colleagues and agencies,” Nobert told IRIN. “One woman wrote to me the other day saying that when she tried to report a rape she was fired and asked to leave the country. There’s concern that speaking up will damage careers and mean that you are seen as less of a humanitarian. Basically, people feel they have to just suck it up.”
Imogen Wall and the unfolding debate around sexual violence in the (humanitarian) aid sector and the complex discussions between an absence of data, horrific anecdotal evidence and a sector slowly waking up to a new discussion around 'professionalism'.

Why the Best War Reporter in a Generation Had to Suddenly Stop

Chivers consulted the doctor, who told him that the rash was almost certainly an autoimmune miscue and was probably caused by terror. His son had been afraid for his father's life.
A switch went off at that moment for me. You know...I mean, I realized I couldn't do that to him. And for a few weeks, I quietly argued with myself about this and tried to find a way to mentally, to see if I could get the switch back into its old position. I remember lying in bed night after night saying, I think that's it. I think I'm done.
Chivers talked to his brother, also a former Marine, and he said, "If your kid's sick and you know the medicine that will heal him, do you
Late last summer, in 2014, after returning from a trip to cover the fighting in eastern Ukraine, Chivers wrote to his editor at the Times and asked to be reassigned. "I have basically been studying organized violence and combatants since I was nineteen and decided to join the Marine Corps," he wrote. "I welcome the chance to open myself to new themes." He has not been back to a war zone since.
Over the past year, he has dedicated himself to what he calls a program of return, of integrating back into normal life. Which means, among other things, that he is trying to be less vigilant.
I think if you talk to any well-trained small-unit infantry guy, whether an experienced NCO or up through captain, they'll tell you that when they move through civilian life—when they're driving through, say, a town—they endlessly are thinking about how they would do various tactical things in that environment.
Does that constitute PTSD? I have never sought diagnoses, and I don't study that. Do I feel different? I'd say, sure, I am different. I should be different. Is it all bad? It's bad when it takes up too much of your bandwidth, because you're thinking about that you're not thinking about something else, and that can be stunting, to put it gently. But it's also maybe why a lot of people are still alive, right? You go into the forest long enough, you become a forest creature.
Mark Warren shares a fascinating portrait of war photographer C.J. Chivers for Esquire. Highly recommended long-read!

Hot off the (digital) press
Engendering Men: A Collaborative Review of Evidence on Men and Boys in Social Change and Gender Equality

The review of evidence found that social, economic and political processes and trends have important links with gender equality. Social processes and trends however are mediated by policies and institutions. A key finding from the review is that there has been a focus on individual women’s or girls’ empowerment rather than policy attention to gender relations or structural perspectives. Within this context, the review discusses the diversity, complexity and intersectionality of men’s roles in gender and development work. Getting men’s support for gender equality is critical. The review shows that this requires progressive policies, but that these must be complemented by strategies for wider social change that influence norms, behaviours and attitudes at multiple levels.
New comprehensive report from IDS researchers on men and masculinities.

Our digital lives

Vanishing Canada: Why we’re all losers in Ottawa’s war on data

Stories about government data and historical records being deleted, burned—even tossed into Dumpsters—have become so common in recent years that many Canadians may feel inured to them. But such accounts are only the tip of a rapidly melting iceberg. A months-long Maclean’s investigation, which includes interviews with dozens of academics, scientists, statisticians, economists and librarians, has found that the federal government’s “austerity” program, which resulted in staff cuts and library closures (16 libraries since 2012)—as well as arbitrary changes to policy, when it comes to data—has led to a systematic erosion of government records far deeper than most realize, with the data and data-gathering capability we do have severely compromised as a result.
Anne Kingston on a very typical trait of conservative governments: They don't really like data, evidence or scientific records and also want to make live/work difficult for any predecessor in power. Another important reminder of how powerful and politicized data debates have become.

The Prom Queen of Instagram

Much of what would have previously been reserved for a diary Hymowitz and other teens now regularly share on YouNow and Tumblr and Ask.fm. Among the things anyone with an internet connection can learn about Hymowitz — I watched the YouNow stream online before she and I had ever met — is that she had been a vegetarian for five years but started missing chicken fingers and gave it up. She would name a female child Wynter and a male child Dex. Her favorite emoji is “the cute sad one.” Most of the information is benign, but it is also possible to find answers on various sites about the first time she “hued” — as in hooked up; whether she has ever had plastic surgery (no); and whether she knew that one of her friends had hued with a guy she liked. (“Clearly then they deserve each other.”) The question-and-answer sessions could be validating — “love u even if u don’t know me” — but leaned critical: “you were so nice when we were little and now we dont even talk.”
Hymowitz regularly gets requests to do more livestreams, to which she and Curtis had acquiesced. “Guys, you should probably ask us questions,” Hymowitz said as she sorted out some technical difficulties. “This is embarrassing.” Panda, Lilli’s gray-and-white Aussiedoodle, wandered in and out of view. Curtis has less than half as many online followers as Lilli and urged her to announce the stream on Instagram, which led to a discussion of how to deal with the onslaught of smartphone alerts from the app.
Reeves Wiedeman presents a fascinating 'netnography' of Lilli Hymowitz and her digital live on and around Instagram. As always, this comes with a cautionary warning from the researcher: This is not evidence of broader social development, how young women behave or how the world is falling apart-it is a case study from NYC in 2015, interesting to read and worth to discuss, but it remains anecdotal!

Why I wouldn’t bet my house on LTE in Africa

If you’re a new kid on the block you are faced with two paths: Go down the LTE path and deal with the incumbents, governments and the risk of signal interference technology rendering your spectrum worthless before you’ve generated sufficient return on capital.
Or, go down the WiFi path. There are already tens of thousands of profitable WiFi operators across the world offering fast affordable wireless broadband, so its not a risky business model.
Alan Knott-Craig on why the digital future in Africa will be wireless/wi-fi

Facebook’s dominance deepens

These are all, lamentably, far-fetched hopes in the wild, global whirlwind of the media market. Yet, for the sake of pluralism and democracy, something has got to give. Maybe regulation, through no substantive framework I can yet envisage, will have to deal with this mammoth which, like a monopoly, has too much control over something socially too important. I float the possibility cognisant of the excruciating mechanics of any plausible regulation in this regard.
Unfortunately, given the capacity level of governments today to act firmly in the democratic interest, more likely than any of the aforementioned is that Google will out-manoeuvre the incumbent and come to preside over our social flutterings, along with email, search and the rest.
Matthew Linaers piece is a bit difficult to read due to the large amount of graphs and pictures, but certainly a very interesting addition to the earlier guest post on facebook.org here on the blog

Academia

Academics: leave your ivory towers and pitch your work to the media

And yet Ademo says he would welcome more submissions from scholars. “There’s a lot of research that goes unnoticed,” he says. “It would be great if more academics didn’t shy away from writing for the media and communicating with average people. It would be great if the information came from the source directly.”
His advice? “Pitch. Reach out to editors. Build relationships with them.”
Many say it’s well worth the effort – and writing for the public can be rewarding in unexpected ways.
“I have friends on Facebook who are reading my work,” Dionne says. “They’re not reading my academic articles. I like that. I didn’t get into this business to only talk to other people with PhDs.”
I usually ignore articles that use the term 'ivory tower' in reference to contemporary academia. It's not 1896 anymore! I also think that Kristal Brent Zook presents a rather one-sided picture of the advantages of academics filling in for journalists, producing content (usually for free) and competing with the precarious class of freelance writers/journalists. But communicating beyond research publications is becoming more and more the norm and I have a feeling that 'visibility' will be an increasingly important aspect of academic output-rather than other bibliometric indicators.

How Blogging is Being Used in the Classroom Today: Research Results

Blogging in the classroom can have numerous benefits depending on how you use your blog. Just some include that:
Instructors can create a blog about class happenings so parents can stay up-to-date and students can access announcements from anywhere
Teachers can use their blogs to store lessons online or provide supplemental learning materials to students
Instructors can use blogs to organize assignments, such as posting them online for absent students or listing due dates so all students have access to the course materials from anywhere
Teachers can post previous students’ work as examples or publish current students’ work so they can show parents and family who live far away
Educators can open the comment sections on blog posts to get feedback from parents and the community as well as to create discussion between students
Student blogs teach children about writing techniques, online publishing, and proper Internet etiquette, which most students will use in future careers
Mike Wallagher provides a neat overview of how blogs and blogging are entering higher education classrooms.

Twelve Professors Visit Washington...

ONE OF THE purposes of the Harvard professors' trip to Washington was to get publicity for the anti-war campaigning then going on. But the kind of publicity they got was not what they expected. The first person to pick up the story (besides the CRIMSON, which had it a day and a half carlier) was Mary McGrory of the Washington Star. McGrory wrote Friday that the professors were "descending" on the White House "with blood in their eyes" to tell Henry Kissinger that "if he doesn't quit soon-or reverse policy-Harvard will never have him back again." The same story was reprinted in McGrory's syndicated column, and appeared in Saturday's Boston Globe. The next week's Time magazine improvised further on the same theme. Time had Kissinger replying to this threat, "quietly" (if somewhat disingenuously): "I want you to understand that I hear you."
Maybe I was wrong about my 'ivory tower' critique...the year of this piece is 1970 and a group of professors try to policy-influence their way into stopping the Vietnam war. Old-school...

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