My development blogging & communication review 2016

Dear all,

In some ways, the 6th annual review (yes, this was a regular post in all previous years, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 & 2015!) is the second half of reflections that started in September when I shared
on the occasion of my 200th Links & Contents I Liked post. 


As many of my readers are returning from holidays and students are commencing new semesters this is still a very good starting point for many resources that provide an overview over debates pertinent to the contemporary aid industry.

How to (dis)engage with post-factual attacks on development?
As academic teacher, researcher and communicator this has been one of the biggest questions in 2016. As the Daily Mail launches yet another attack on ‘wasteful’ British aid spending, I am left wondering how ‘we’ can respond, when ‘we’ can disengage and how these dynamics affect the foundations of what we are doing in the academic industry.
In short, after a generation of ‘us’ has been trained to produce ‘evidence’ and demonstrate ‘impact’ some parts of the socio-cultural establishment simply deny our work, because they do not ‘like’ aid to Africa.
This is not simply a question of continuing what we have been doing, maybe communicate more or ‘better’, but how to use limited resources to keep the ‘filter bubble’, the in-group informed, motivated and positive and live with the realities that some parts of society will dismiss our work no matter what we do and how we do it.

Africa (social media) rising

As much as my own writing, for example on Louise Linton’s book or the ‘dancing missionaries in Uganda’, connected with commentators from the respective local contexts, I also noticed more stories on social and digital media in various ‘Southern’ contexts on platforms such as BBC, Quartz, Thomson Reuters Foundation or Deutsche Welle.
These activities are growing in their own ways, requiring careful analysis and critique. Spreading false information, creating shitstorms, adding voices to democratic processes or simply unearthing creative and business opportunities-communication created in former ‘developing countries’ is by no means ‘better’ or ‘worse’ per se than anywhere else in the world.

Good (development) journalism
As it often happens, it is difficult to plan successful communication interventions. One of the topics that I have communicated actively about in 2016, the #allmalepanel discussion culminated in a re-post on the Guardian’s development pages, including a Tweet from UN Women’s official account.

I also spoke to journalists at NPR’s Goats and Soda blog about Angelia Jolie, BBC Trending on #allmalepanel and the Humanosphere.
I think there is a bigger point to be made than just bragging about my media engagement ;)!
As Africa Is a Country joins Jacobin, more ‘journalistic’ content that used to be hosted on traditional blogs will be embedded on global news and media platforms-again, another trend that requires more attention and analysis and is neither inherently ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

So…2017 then
Let’s start with the personal again: There will be an Aidnography newsletter for those interested and the first edition should be due by the end of January.
There shall also be a (small, simple, free) E-book coming out this year that features the expertise of more than 400 blog posts in a different format.

Not just because our online blended learning MA program in Communication for Development just received a dozen excellent MA thesis projects that wrap up yet another intensive term of teaching, I am not pessimistic for 2017.

Don’t get me wrong: I am not counting on US politics, UN reforms or peace in the Middle East. Many substantial humanitarian, development and policy challenges are here to stay, some even may get worse. But when I collected my thoughts for this review, I came across a comment I made the year before in an interview with our Scandinavian research platform:

At the end of the day, when all ‘white Land Cruiser’ jokes are told, all ‘white elephant’ projects are evaluated and all voluntouristic photos by white people are uploaded to Instagram, development in general and development communication in particular will continue to have an important role as witness to injustice and marginalization, as an amplifier of dissent and as a connector between cultures, stories and those who need a virtual or physical hand that reminds them of humanity. At least that motivates me to keep going…
Looking forward to connecting with you in 2017!

Aidnography 


2016 in review:

Development commentary

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Book reviews

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Academia & Research 

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