Links & Contents I Liked 55

Hello all!

It turns out that this week's link review focuses on academic debates and a few 'meta' discussions of what it means to engage with 'development'. The discussions around J.'s reflections on a 'collective humanitarian consciousness' and a piece on the dilemmas around 'being there' for journalists and diplomats are highly recommended readings. Although filed under Academia, 'Trusting your creative self' is not just limited to the processes of academic writing and asks broader questions on how the powerful institutions that surround us everyday have an impact on creativity. There's more good stuff on opening up anthropology as well as the promises, challenges and pitfalls on virtual education on humanities and social sciences - just to name a few highlights ;)!

An interesting observation on engaging with the material that does or does not make into my link review: I came across a few interesting-looking pieces this week-and by the time I re-checked today there had been interesting discussions that put the main argument of the post into a bigger picture, including adding more links, research etc. So, yes, there is 'wisdom of the crowd' sometimes and yes, you always need to double-check especially if a post looks interesting and/or provocative...


New on aidnography

I really think that there should be a broader discussion in the development and peace communities sooner rather than later when it comes to the use of drone-like technologies.

Right now, I can see at least four areas which deserve broader critical analysis:
1. Adding civilian legitimacy to military and law-enforcing technology
2. Who will be paying for the technology?
3. Complex questions about accountability when IOs or NGOs are involved
4. How can intelligence, analysis and action work together?


The power of results and evidence artefacts

The Big Push Forward is inviting case studies as evidence about the politics of evidence for sharing at next April’s conference. Please send us your stories.
The two discourses share in common a particular understanding of causality, efficiency and accountability that originated in and remains more prevalent in countries with an anglo-saxon empiricist tradition. However, through the dominance of English-language based global institutions such as the World Bank, they are spreading widely within the international development sector and into developing countries.
Share your evidence artefacts!

More UK aid channelled via investment funds in tax haven of Mauritius

A key plank of DfID policy is to use British aid to create equity funds for Africa that leverage in further private investment. In part the department's policy dates back to Tony Blair's government, but under coalition ministers there is a perceived ideological shift to giving partnership with the private sector greater priority and increased funding.
The report says that DfID-sponsored programmes which have funded projects in Africa and Asia with multinationals include the alcohol companies Diageo and SABMiller and the food giant Unilever. It also tracks support for initiatives to develop sales networks for agrochemical companies such as Syngenta and Monsanto. DfID is, for example, set to contribute £395m to the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, an initiative that involves 45 of the largest multinational corporations investing $3bn (£1.86bn) in African agriculture.
War on Want argues that the model of aid now being promoted by DfID in Africa has been shown to marginalise small and medium farmers in Latin America and India while promoting agribusiness.
Yes, yes, the great role of big corporations in helping 'developing' the world...
ANJALI APPADURAI: Yes. I think the main problem that society society had here was that the relationship between—between civil society and this political process seems to be less one of "We are valued in this space," and more one of, "It’s an incredible privilege for us to be in this space, and there are going to be incredible punitive measures if we do anything out of line."
AMY GOODMAN: What do you want to see here? And what are you doing this week? What ultimately caused you to be able to come in? Social media? What—
AMY GOODMAN: How you used the—
ANJALI APPADURAI: Right. Well, we had—we unleashed a Twitter storm on the secretariat, and personal notes were sent in through email and through Twitter. And I don’t know how much of an effect that had on her final decision, but it was definitely quite a morale booster for civil society to see that kind of consolidated effort.
I find the part where Anjali Appadurai talks about civil society more interesting than the debate around her seemed to me that the 'climate change' civil society 'industry' may have become too professionalized for its own and the greater good....

Expat, Local, and is it time for a ‘collective humanitarian consciousness’?

Yet, as I read and re-read ‘Living Well’ while ‘Doing Good’, I was repeatedly struck with the feeling that there’s really nothing in the aid world comparable to those professional fields we’re so frequently compared to. She compares our profession to nursing – a field which she says has a highly developed body of discussion around what nurses are and should be in their personal lives (my paraphrase), going on to suggest that maybe the aid world needs the same. Maybe it does. But I think that before that can really happen we need a level of collective humanitarian consciousness that we don’t currently have. Put firefighters or police officers or even physicians from around the world into the same room and before long you see a very distinct collective consciousness begin to emerge. Soldiers are famous for it. Despite differences in personal history or culture, there is an immediate bond forged by common experience and global sense of community.
Fascinating debate with great comments and a great example how the 'blogosphere' can and should engage with academic research

Being There

In a smart, disheartening piece in The New York Times Magazine last month, Robert Worth surveyed the frustration of American diplomats who signed up to engage the world — even dreamed of changing it — and now find themselves encumbered by the safeguards and protocols of a risk-averse Washington. It is hard to change the world when you live in a fortress and travel in an armored motorcade.
That phrase — “the occasional price of a noble but risky profession” — struck rather close to home. It is a calculus familiar to the tribe of foreign correspondents who work, as Bobby Worth often does, in places that can blow up in your face. If diplomats are withdrawing behind blast walls and armed escorts, and if that is costing us some useful understanding of the world, is the same thing happening to those who cover the news, and with what consequences?  
Interesting article that made me wonder how, if at all, aid work fits into this global narrative around diplomacy, journalism and the importance of 'being there' - which many aid workers are, of course. In my opinion, Bill Keller focuses a bit too much on the 'foreign correspondent' discourse. If I check my Twitter feed, blog roll or facebook there's almost always an interesting piece of international news provided by academics, students, aid workers, think tanks or many other NGOs. Yes, you still need 'the journalist' for a balanced write-up of the entire story, but journalists no longer have the monopoly of gathering first-hand information-as thrilling as reporting from the 'trenches' of the latest hottest conflict may sound.

I Did It to Save My Life: Love and Survival in Sierra Leone, by Catherine E. Bolten
Catherine Bolten’s I Did It to Save My Life: Love and Survival in Sierra Leone is one of the more interesting contributions to this expansive field.  Her ethnography, based on fieldwork in the northern town of Makeni shortly after the war ended, tells the story of the war through seven central figures.  Each account is framed around some aspect of the main narrator’s identity—soldier, rebel, student, evangelist, etc.—though the biographical portraits are rich and expansive.
I Did It to Save My Life’s more important theoretical contribution toward understanding the Sierra Leone war lies in the way Bolten analyzes narration, and the very effective way she weaves many voices together to make her own story.  The result is a work that should find a wide and appreciative readership among students and scholars who continue to look for ways to tell meaningful stories about complex histories of violence in Africa.
As you may have guessed by now, I love a good book review...

Visual storytelling: 14 tools for journalists

Over the past year here at we have reported on a number of new tools and platforms which have been launched or updated, which offer journalists different ways of telling stories visually.
In addition to my comment above, I'm sure these tools may also be used by researchers, aid workers and other colleagues who would like to tell a visually powerful story.

Is it wrong to herald the death of the institutional website?
Amidst all these innovations I have noticed a growing antipathy towards investment in institutional sites from some quarters. I am not sure anyone is saying have nothing. But what about investing in a brand new site as IDS, ODI and IIED have all done this year? I agree with Nick that you need ‘to be there’ – but part of this is the provision of a solid, and let’s face it, attractive platform or space which demonstrates your credibility (and dare I say it brand and values) and allows different users to explore your products and services. Most importantly as knowledge generators we need to provide a robust searchable store for all our outputs. Some might argue that this is what institutional repositories are for. Indeed, this winter IDS begins rolling out our own open access digital repository. It will substantially increase the searchability of IDS research and enable our researchers to comply with their funders’ open access mandates. However, this is a platform more geared towards academic audiences and it is still our website that can most effectively connect users with our values, messages and services.
Interesting insights from IDS' James Georgalakis on strategic decisions behind re-designing the website and the importance of using an institutional side as the main 'business card' of an organization.

For me, there are questions about how best to organize one’s life. For example it is all very well being ‘outside the machine’ or ‘under’ or ‘off the radar’ but one problem, I think it’s a problem, that I have is that I lock into a topic and stay there.
Talking to someone at my house for dinner the other night I used the word ‘defragmentation’. To this person I put the example of how, when working in a university, you would get to work, read your mail and then go down to the tea room. In the tea room you would find yourself talking to someone and on your return to your room you would think about that topic of conversation for a while and then it would be time for lunch and so time to go back to the tea room…In that situation you were constantly defragging, taking things to bits and putting them back together again. Defragging, or whatever you might call this, was a major occupation and writing was something you did after hours, so to speak.
An interesting interview with anthropologist Peter Cleave...some elements are really familiar, others seem to be from an almost bygone era of 'old-school' anthropology...
How much does the United States spend each year occupying the planet with its bases and troops? How much does it spend on its global presence?  Forced by Congress to account for its spending overseas, the Pentagon has put that figure at $22.1 billion a year. It turns out that even a conservative estimate of the true costs of garrisoning the globe comes to an annual total of about $170 billion. In fact, it may be considerably higher. Since the onset of “the Global War on Terror” in 2001, the total cost for our garrisoning policies, for our presence abroad, has probably reached $1.8 trillion to $2.1 trillion.
File under: Useful things anthropologists can do for society :)! 

For many there OA means having access to any research publications at all and of ensuring that national research standards have a point of comparison. The obsession in much of the periphery is with not dropping off the table altogether or somehow finding a place at it, however precarious. In South Africa, where I work, the government pays researchers handsomely for publishing in accredited international journals. The fear is that South African universities will be parochial (little do they know!), but this institutional drive is conservative and does little to promote OA there. Brazil is an interesting case. It is a huge diverse country, like the United States, with a flourishing anthropology that has recently broken out of the Amazonian ghetto to offer commentary on urban life in general. It is also rather insular, like the US. The academic publishers there are experimenting with OA, but, until I brush up on my Portuguese, much of that is closed to me. Eduardo Viveiros de Castro is well-known for his “perspectivist” approach to ethnography, but he has also put a lot of effort into online cooperation and dissemination of Lusophone research. We live at a time when the old imperial anthropologies are giving way to many national and regional varieties.

If you are interested in anthropology and publishing, this a great piece for the holidays reading list!

Trusting Your Creative Self

Aron also thinks many people “have squashed their creativity because of their low self-esteem; many more had it squashed for them, before they could ever know about. But we all have it… One of the best ways to make life meaningful for an HSP (highly sensitive person) is to use that creativity.”
She adds, “The problem isn’t that inspired individuals can’t face ‘reality.’ The problem is that they do— and they let it eclipse their instinct and excellence… In every age, alternative, bold souls have doubted themselves, have been criticized, and have struggled to forge an outlet for their brilliance. But it’s only because they gave ‘the world’ more power than their creativity.
If you have ever done a PhD you should be able to relate to these reflections...academia has a particular way of demanding 'creativity' and then exposing it to traditional writing conventions, peer review etc. to make it go away...

Publishing your thesis online

Good for your CV?
In the academic community, which is increasingly competitive, it is tempting to publish quickly, so as to be able to add the work to one’s CV. But Philip Cercone, executive director of McGill-Queen’s University Press, warns students who may be thinking about going this route. “These publications are not peer-reviewed, and they do not undergo any type of editing process. They will not be given any credibility by university selection committees.”
Ysolde Gendreau of Université de Montréal goes even further, saying, “Students are being duped into believing that this type of publication adds value to their work.”
This is an important and balanced article on 'vampire presses'. I just want to add one rule of thumb: You should always be very, very suspicious when any book publisher, open access journal or similar publishing entity contacts you first and suggests publishing with them. To get in contact with any reputable publication you always have to make the first step (editors of special journal issues or follow-up messages because your supervisor etc. recommended your work are excluded) and it will always be a time-consuming process. Otherwise you will end up with a pdf on some website which is completely useless as an academic credential.

UMass faculty slam upgraded football program’s $8M cost

Dan Clawson, a professor of sociology, said the more than $8 million in support for the team could be used to advance education on campus, possibly by relieving student debt and providing needed money for departments.
“The decision was made by Chancellor Holub in his waning days,” Clawson said. “The rest of us will be living with this decision long after he’s gone.”
Audrey Altstadt, a professor of history, described shrinking budgets that have eliminated phones in the department’s offices, a reduced number of teaching assistants and the inability to enroll more history graduate students.
“I can’t get $20,000 for a (teaching assistant), but we have millions for football. I can’t expand the graduate program, but we have millions for football,” Altstadt said.

The pervasiveness of College football and the financial and educational implications for many academic institutions in the US never ceases to surprise me...

When the possible death of humanities is a progressive development

This is probably where we hit the crux of the matter, and the main danger of advocating the surrender of education to the online realm without prior guarantee that universities will be able to remain (or return to being?) a space for fundamental thinking about all of humankind’s knowledge, whether this is profitable or not.
An important contribution to the discussion how online education and virtual learning may have an impact on humanities and social sciences in a climate of economization and vocationalization.

The first MOOC was a book

Having said that, however, it would be a mistake to say that the technology didn’t have an impact on education institutions. The printing press was the first “massively open” educational technology and elsewhere Akinnaso acknowledges the importance of such technologies, even if he rejects the simple dualism which draws a sharp line between literate and nonliterate cultures. Scale matters, and the printing press allowed for mass literacy and education in a way that threatened the elitism of older scholastic models of learning.
Here it is useful to distinguish between MOOCs offered by for-profit colleges and those offered by elite universities. For the latter, MOOCs serve to enhance their status as gate keepers. If anything, it accentuates the value of the on-campus socialization experience by serving to highlight how unimportant the lectures themselves are as a portion of that total experience one calls an “Ivy League Education.” You can’t be on the cheerleading squad with George W. Bush if you are taking the same course as him online. For the for-profit universities, MOOCs usefully obscure the importance of socialization into literacy practices as a central part of the learning experience by making it seem as if learning is simply a bunch of information one can consume through online lectures and regurgitate through tests and term papers emailed to your professor.
Still, when talking about MOOCs, it is important to be realistic about what they do and what they are capable of. In some ways I think the many pirate-book sites on the internet are much more revolutionary than are MOOCs. Akinnaso once admitted to me that, having come thousands of miles to the US for graduate school, he spent much of his time at Berkeley in the library. Access to those books was more exciting to him at the time than the opportunity to hear Foucault lecture.
In some ways, this is almost a 'reply' to the previous piece. Right now, there doesn't seem to be a satisfactory answer on the horizon when it comes to non-science education and socialization: Keeping humanities or social sciences 'ivy', traditional, expensive and elite is not a solution-but relying on virtual technology to overcome some of these challenges does not seem to offer a simple 'solution' either...


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