Links & Contents I Liked 315

Hi all,

Happy International Women's Day!

My piece on white saviour communication & media rituals has gained some nice traction this week, but there were also other interesting updates from around the #globaldev world!


Development news: WWF's wildlife guard problems; following up on the WFP-Palantir affair; an update on suing World Bank/IFC; the commodified digital gig economy; ICT4D & inequalities; racism in the aid industry; how to write about UN & multilateral politics; campaigns against voluntourism; using expat privilege in Malawi; death of a war photographer; Somali's 1970s disco era.

Our digital lives: Political hyperleaders & predictive algorithms.

Academia: The unseen labour of racialized faculty; taking student evaluations less seriously; shedding books & precarity in #highered.


Enjoy!

New from aidnography
White saviour communication rituals in 10 easy steps

The David Lammy/White Saviour versus Stacey Dooley/Comic Relief debate is an excellent opportunity to look at some of the core elements of ritual communication behind many debates in international development-especially when charities and celebrities are involved!
Development news
Why International Women’s Day is Still Important

In a company such as ours, where so many of our women authors work in male-dominated fields, we’re taking a look at what IWD means to them, and its relevance to the work they do.
It's International Women's Day, it was World Book Day and Hurst, one of my favorite publishers, it turning 50!


Instagram Is Good for Lots of Things; Posting Photos of Poor Black Children Is Not One
So if that's you, and you're wondering how to manoeuvre around this minefield without being called out for being racist, then go ahead, but paste this question on your bottle of Factor 50+: How would I act in a homeless shelter in London?
Would you ask everyone to stop what they were doing to pose for a photo with you as the centrepiece? Upon seeing a child going about their child-like business, would you hold them aloft like a trophy? I assume not. So resist the urge when walking around a village.
And if you do find yourself in an African country and feel the urge to post a photo of something, I highly recommend fruit. The fruit is amazing. Post photos of fruit.
Dipo Faloyin for Vice with one more post on the #whitesaviour debate that didn't get included in my own post.

WWF Funds Guards Who Have Tortured And Killed People
The soldier was arrested, and a park-affiliated committee tasked with improving local relations stepped in. The woman and her family told BuzzFeed News she was pressured not to press charges against the soldier. “I didn’t get justice,” she said. Her knee is still so damaged that she’s unable to work.
“I am still suffering,” she said.
The sexual assault made national headlines. Despite WWF’s deep involvement with Chitwan National Park and its commitment to protecting indigenous people from abuse, no one from the charity ever met with the woman to discuss the attempted rape, she said. A few months later, WWF gave the soldier’s army battalion an award for combating rhino poaching.
Chitwan park officials continued to lock people up. As of November 2013, there were 80 people detained in Chitwan custody, some whom had been there more than 15 years, according to the Kathmandu Post.
Chitwan National Park did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
During this time, Chitwan’s former chief warden, Tikaram Adhikari, continued working for Nepal’s forest department — and closely with WWF. In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Adhikari denied any involvement with Shikharam’s death and said he was only arrested because of political pressure from Maoists. Shikharam’s autopsy results were fabricated, he said.
Tom Warren & Katie J.M. Baker's piece for BuzzFeed has been widely shared and translated. My main issue is that many seem to think of WWF as this nice, small NGO that protects animals whereas among the many other things this investigation confirms the corporate nature of the organization that has strayed far from original wildlife conservation efforts.

A discussion on WFP-Palantir and the ethics of humanitarian data sharing

Organizations have very low capacity, and we are siloed. “Program officers do not have tech capacity. Tech people are kept in offices or ‘labs’ on their own and there is not a lot of porosity. We need protection advisors, lawyers, digital safety advisors, data protection officers, information management specialists, IT all around the table for this,” noted one discussant. Also, she said, though we do need principles and standards, it’s important that organizations adapt these so that they are their own principles and standards. “We need to adapt these boiler plate standards to our organizations. This has to happen based on our own organizational values. Not everyone is rights-based, not everyone is humanitarian.” So organizations need to take the time to review and adapt standards, policies and procedures to their own vision and mission and to their own situations, contexts and operations and to generate awareness and buy-in. In conclusion, she said, “if you are not being responsible with data, you are already violating your existing values and codes. Responsible Data is already in your values, it’s a question of living it.”
Linda Raftree with an excellent summary of the WFP-Palantir data debate at a recent NYC Technology Salon.


U.S. Supreme Court Rules That World Bank Can Be Sued
The Jam suit, which was filed in 2015, is far from over. With the fundamental immunity issue resolved, it will return to a federal circuit court in Washington, D.C., this spring for further battles over the facts of the case, and it may not be decided for years. In the meantime, at least one other major suit against the IFC is now gaining steam in response to last week's decision, and more could follow as international financial organizations grapple with this new standard of accountability for the unintended consequences of their investments.
"This decision certainly opens the door for more lawsuits," says Mark Wu, an international trade law scholar at Harvard Law School who was not involved in the suit. "It may cause [international financial institutions] to be more cautious in the operations of the projects themselves."
Tim McDonnell for NPR Goats & Soda putting last week's news about a ruling against IFC immunity into a #globaldev perspective.
Networked but commodified: digital labour in the remote gig economy
A further consequence of this attempt to treat workers the same as other commodities is that the work entails significant unpaid ‘work-for-labour’. Time spent on work-related activities such as breaks, training, job searching, and applying and waiting for work goes unpaid, even though such activities are inevitable consequences of the manner in which these platforms organize labour. We conducted a survey with 656 workers in Africa and Asia, and they revealed that an average of 16 hours was spent every week browsing, applying for, and reading about jobs.
Moreover, as these workers lived in countries with little public provision of healthcare, the framing of workers as freelance contractors also meant that few workers could access adequate healthcare.
A further consequence of commodification was the high levels of unregulated global competition which could put downward pressure on pay. The experiences of a Nigerian worker, Joseph, exemplified this common situation. Joseph* made a living from digital marketing and advertising, and told us how: Immediately you see an offer being posted… you will see 50 proposals have been submitted.
Alex J. Wood & Mark Graham for the New Internationalist with great insights into their current research on the gig economy in the global South.

Can digital technologies really be used to reduce inequalities?
First and foremost, governments and international organisations, such as UN agencies and the OECD, need a fundamental change in approach away from encouraging the use of digital technologies and innovation in support of economic growth to one focusing on their appropriate use by the poorest and most marginalised. The private sector will deliver on growth in its own interest; governments should, at least theoretically, support all of their citizens. Second, we need to understand that digital technologies in themselves have no power to effect change. Such an instrumental view of technology has been hugely damaging because it hides the interests underlying their design and production. Unless new technologies are created with marginalised people to serve their specific interests and empowerment, then inequalities will continue to grow. Finally, we all need to change our use of language to reflect such a radically different approach. Instead of calling the poorest and most marginalised the “last billion”, we should call them the “first billion” because they are the most important. We should stop propagating the myth of “bridging the digital divide” when that divide is becoming increasingly wide and impossible to “bridge”.
Tim Unwin for OECD's Development Matters blog with great food for ICT4D thought!

We need to talk about racism — in the development sector.

Local counterparts see this prejudice. It infuriates those local geniuses, logistical masterminds and selfless souls that they are bypassed by the international development sector, who chose instead to place a young and inexperienced European statistician as technical adviser to an agricultural community outreach programme, who may then joke with their friends about the ridiculousness of Sierra Leonean agricultural policy and implementation, be asked to advise senior agricultural officers and given the luxury of the Minister’s ear (only slightly hypothetical example…)
Never, however, will that young expat actually have to deliver what a Sierra Leonean has to deliver. Never will they have to manage the implementation of million-dollar (yet still under-funded) programmes within the family, community, work and social structures of those who earn $1 — $10 per day.
(...)
If you are someone lucky enough to be established in a wealthy country, and you find yourself bemoaning the inability of someone in a very poor country, consider what you would need to attempt whatever they are attempting. What could you do with $10 per person in Sierra Leone? Personally, I would struggle to provide a week’s dinner, let alone a whole public health system.
Alex Jones on (white, expat) privilege in the context of Sierra Leone.

How to Win Readers, and Influence Officials, as a Multilateral Pundit

The U.N. and its sister organizations churn out innumerable important reports each year, and the world ignores them with impressively consistent equanimity. Last year a U.N. panel warned that we have a mere decade to avert catastrophic climate change. Governments everywhere failed to react. The U.N., one former senior official complained to me, is a “Cassandra figure” that can foretell the future, but whose prophecies nobody will believe.
There are many reasons for this, but one is that multilateral reports collapse under the weight of their own tedium. International officials are adept at packaging their views in sludgy, dull prose.
Richard Gowan for World Politics Review bid farewell to his weekly column and shares some insights into how to write in an engaging way on UN and multilateral affairs.

Provocative campaigns against voluntourism

In fact, the pushback against voluntourism is spilling over into all humanitarian action, with many local NGOs in high-poverty countries asking large international NGOs why they aren’t being paid to teach their own children, build their own schools and water wells, etc., instead of bringing in foreigners to do so and why there are so many Westerners – most of them white – starting their own NGOs in developing countries.
Jayne Cravens with a great overview over key campaigns that have been addressing voluntourism! 

Using privilege to leverage help for Malawi’s expectant mothers

Given this conflict with the community, the morning quickly became quite contentious. As usual, the women were stopped from collecting water, but this time they had a foreigner to advocate for them. At first, I was uncomfortable using my privilege to leverage a community into letting the women access the borehole, but this was the only option we had and the difference between having and not having water was far greater than my unease.
As someone who is living in the UK, it’s not often that I interact with human rights issues on such a deep and personal level. I was afraid I would not be able to handle the gravity of the injustices I witnessed. What I now realise, is that it was a privilege to be let in on something which causes such great pain and suffering.
Mia Shah for Concrete (University of East Anglia's student newspaper) with a reminder why I like development blogging and using blogs for personal reflections on the complexities of #globaldev so much!

Yannis Behrakis, award-winning Reuters photographer, dies aged 58

"One of the best news photographers of his generation, Yannis was passionate, vital and intense both in his work and life," said U.S. general news editor Dina Kyriakidou Contini.
"His pictures are iconic, some works of art in their own right. But it was his empathy that made him a great photojournalist."
What underpinned everything Behrakis did in his professional life was a determination to show the world what was happening in conflict zones and countries in crisis.
Mike Collett-White for Reuters with an obituary on 'classic' war photographer that features many of his iconic images.

Somali Night Fever: the little-known story of Somalia's disco era

In the 1970s and 80s Mogadishu's airwaves were filled with Somali funk, disco, soul and reggae. Musicians rocking afros and bell-bottom trousers would perform at the city's trendiest nightclubs during the height of the country's golden era of music. But it was short-lived: a brutal civil war began, musicians fled to all corners of the world and the vibrant music scene came to an end.
Rachel Clara Reed, Megan Iacobini de Fazio, Joseph Pierce & Shanida Scotland with a great 15 minute documentary for the Guardian.

Our digital lives
The age of the hyperleader: when political leadership meets social media celebrity

As public trust in old structures wanes, notions of partisanship, membership, affiliation and support need to be radically rearranged. While Gramsci thought personal leadership belonged to a pre-industrial past, and that the modern era would be dominated by bureaucracies, the social media age has heralded the return of personalised and charismatic leadership that is ideally suited to navigating a personality-obsessed digital culture.
Hyperleaders compensate for the crisis of membership organisations, providing their followers with a a supplementary form of collective identification. They offer channels to establish bonds that compensate for the failure of representatives to maintain links with the represented. Put simply, hyperleaders have become the intermediary between the people and their party.
Paolo Gerbaudo for New Statesman on his current research on new forms of (party) leadership in the digital age.

Predictive algorithms: Hidden revolution taking place in UK's councils and police forces

The second question is much more complicated. Aside from the men and women that run these systems - who usually operate under a veil of commercial confidentiality - few people have seen them in the wild.
Very often, the people affected don't even know their life has been touched by an algorithm.
So, for the last two-and-a-half months, my producer Valerie Hamill and I have been criss-crossing the country, trying to find an answer.
As we went, we encountered one all-pervasive myth and one largely hidden truth.
First, the myth: predictive algorithms are like Minority Report.
Rowland Manthorpe for Sky News with some scary insights into the many ways of how 'algorithms' oppress (poor) people in the UK.

Academia
The unseen labour of racialized faculty

Since she was hired 15 years ago, Mawani says she’s noticed many positive changes in the university but cautioned that many of them are only on the surface.
UBC has made recruiting more Indigenous students and faculty a priority, as per its enrolment reports and work in the Board of Governor’s Indigenous Engagement Committee. But where it falls behind is supporting those faculty once they arrive.Antwi addresses this phenomenon in a reflection entitled On Labor, Embodiment, and Debt in the Academy, where he describes the “energy” of faculty of colour being repurposed to make the university more diverse. In other words, professors are instrumentalized to do what the university has already promised to do.
Zak Vescera for Ubyssey Magazine with another important theme for engaging with diversity efforts in highered.

Do universities put too much weight on student evaluations of teaching? 

Setting a standard around good teaching, accepting what can and cannot be measured, and understanding the biases of students and faculties all give universities much to examine. And they need to do it now, before additional legal or even human rights challenges come down – Dr. Uttl says he would not be surprised to see a class-action lawsuit sometime in the near future. Adds Dr. Watson, “Given the complexity of what teaching is like and what learning is like, there ought to be a variety of data collected, a variety of evidence that’s presented that helps describe what the experience of being in a class is like.”
Diane Peters for University Affairs. The limitations of teaching & student evaluations is one of *the* hot highered topics for 2019!

Shedding Books to Survive the Uncertainty of Academic Life

Hers contain a few books, a bottle of hot sauce and a yoga mat because she does sun salutations between classes. Now that I am no longer chasing tenure-track, I am letting myself feel the thrill of acquisition. I am slowly filling up my shelves with new books, Kiese Laymon’s Heavy, Alexander Chee’s How to Write an Autobiographical Novel, RO Kwon’s The Incendiaries. They are different books, ones that have nothing to do with “the work.” They’re books that I read in bed and keep close to me until I am ready to let go. There will be no ritual of unpacking my library. I only carry one book at a time because the arthritis in my shoulders makes it difficult to transport more. I also don’t know how long I’ll get to stay in this place. Such is the nature of precariousness.
Maggie Levantovskaya for Literary Hub with a poetic take on precarious work in academia and one of their key artefacts: Books.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

White saviour communication rituals in 10 easy steps

Links & Contents I Liked 313

Thirst (book review)

Should I consider a PhD in International Development Studies?