My development blogging review 2012

Sometimes it's not that bad if you are proven wrong...I wrote almost a year ago in my last annual development blogging review The development blogging year of 2012 will most likely be similar to 2011-or 2010 and in some ways that has turned out not be entirely the case. What is still true this year is that I will also try to stick to the topics I know best – blogging at the interface of anthropology and development research with a primarily academic hat on so this is naturally a subjective review mainly driven by ‘development blogging’ and social media. But enough with the introduction!

Kony 2012
Let’s deal with the big Kony 2012-elephant right away so I can focus on other areas ;)...
In both quantity and quality, the Kony 2012/Invisible Children debate has been a great example of ‘virtual development’ debates and new forms of engagement that go beyond any traditional offline campaigning or media reporting. But in other ways it also confirmed that development blogging is mostly a responsive tool as I mentioned in my post on
Development blogging-How to have fun, avoid disappointment & be a strategic writer
. At the end of the day, I am not sure what worries me more: The amount of coverage that Kony 2012 received or the fact that there is unlikely to be a development-related YouTube video that 150+ million people will watch any time soon.

Big business and the big business of development education
It wasn’t just my response to Charles Kenny on MBAs and development (which at least got me into Foreign Policy!), but I have come across more discussions about the private sector, particular about the role of traditional multi-national corporations in development. When Carol Lancaster, the Dean of Georgetown's School of Foreign Service mentioned in a recent discussion at the Center for Global Development that

We had discussions with Coca-Cola executives and they do an awful lot that looks like development projects [in India]. [...] We need to show a pathway into the private sector. Walmart and others are interesting and exciting places
I really started to wonder whether development studies need a broader discussion about the pitfalls and potential benefits of vocationalizing development education further.

Virtual networking and monetization of career resources & advice
With Aidsource, the relatively new GUARDIAN global development professionals network and’s peer coaching network, professional networking, similar to student advice, is now firmly embedded in the ‘blogosphere’. On the other hand, for-profit services like DevEx or devnetjobs seem to be doing very well. The skyrocketing of CVs posted on devnetjobs is an interesting example that many professionals seem to willing to pay for some career-related services.
One of my big questions for 2013 is whether there will be new models where the right people also receive the right kind of money to continue their excellent work.

Development policy debates still stuck indoors at some ‘high-level’ conference
Despite encouraging, interesting and critical stories it is still a fact of life that the locus and focus of development-policy making hasn’t shifted yet. Rio, AIDS, MDGs post-2015, Doha climate talks...boring...but also a reminder of who makes development policy and how. And even as ‘fail fares’ are gaining momentum, IATI welcomed the 100th organization and there have been a few nice Ted-talks powerful rituals determine how big organizations will be spending lots of money.

Trends (?) & miscellaneous observations
As much of an enlightening piece of satire as ‘Radi-Aid’ has been, I have been surprised that this video really made it onto the radar of so many people in my networks. In some ways, this has been the most shared development-video this year-especially by people who are less active in the ‘blogosphere’, spend less time online in general and rely more on traditional ways of information sharing (mainstream media, emails, listserv-newsletters etc.). Radi-Aid is a great, intelligent spoof-but together with ‘Stuff Expat Aidworkers Like’ or ‘First World Problems’ how do they help keeping ‘serious’ virtual efforts from being reduced to snarky, satirical commentary or a meme that is shared around the Internet?

I read not as much on Haiti as I would have expected. However, Jonathan Katz’ new book ‘The Big Truck That Went By’ is on my desk and I look forward to reading it over the holidays!

Personal blogging highlight – the need for blogging development anthropologists
My response to One Laptop Per Child’s Ethiopia project created some good discussions on LinkedIn and was ‘successful’ in other ways, both in term of quantity of views and quality of sharing, including the World Bank development impact blog. But the real issue in my view is that amid discussions about the value of an anthropological degree there is a simple message conveyed by the post: Technology-based development needs critical, qualitative and anthropological support! Historically, such advice has been applied to the ‘project’ or ‘village’ level, but OLPC is a good example of the global, IT-driven virtual village that needs socio-anthropological advice-just like any other field site!

And what about academia?
In case you care to scroll down the list of posts from 2012 you will notice that a substantial amount of them is actually not really about the development industry. After all, I’m still a blogging development academic...I already mentioned ‘voacationalization’ of (development) education, or at least a tendency that would require a broader discussion about the place of development studies in today’s aid industry. Outside of development studies the biggest debates in 2012 probably had to do with ‘access’: Whether ‘open access’ of academic publications, open access to education through virtual endeavours such as MOOCs or accessing academia as a professional workplace with a proper income and career prospects have been debates widely in the academic blogosphere – and not unlike development, the change ‘on the ground’ inside higher education institutions, government rating agencies or commercial publishers is very slow (see comment below on ‘virtual pace meets peer review pace’...)

2012 - The full review
In addition to my book reviews (and my interest in development fiction) and my weekly link reviews (the best way to get notified is through Twitter or by visiting the blog on Thursday afternoon North American East Coast time). There’s a full list of posts at the end of this post. The development industry-related posts come first (in chronological order), followed by my posts that focus on issues from the academic industry...

2013 - A brief outlook
Due to the politics of academic peer review, my development blogging and social media-related publications will only be published, together with some more articles, next year. I guess this is one of the reasons why I still enjoy blogging so much, because I can write outside the boundaries of academic publishing. I am also enjoying the direct feedback part much more whether through traditional email, comments or other virtual interactions. Ideally, 2013 will also bring some more sustainable professional stability where virtual engagement, research and classroom engagement could blend in together. On a more practical note, I really enjoyed my interview with Kate Flynn on EU aid in Cyprus and the role of consultants and I could see myself doing more of them...

There will be a final link review on Thursday, but I would like to take this opportunity to wish all readers, commentators, sharers, curators and those who do the actual work and find the time to write about it ;) a peaceful holiday season and a fruitful 2013!



2012 on Aidnography - Development & Blogging
Student question: How to use this experience to come as a sort of self-reflective practice of auto-evaluation and awareness-raising?

A picture says more than...what development in Nepal looks like
Reflections on War Child's 'The Future of Aid: Our Shared Responsibility' panel

Is writing reflective blogs on development a girl’s thing? And if so, am I really a female blogger?

5 questions for a post-Kony 2012 debate

Forever Young: Kony 2012 and the quest for teenage belonging and community
Influencing policy, or: Why nobody in Germany will be reading this
Only get an MBA if you are not interested in sustainable development
Shoes for Souls, good intentions and the bumpy road of DIY aid learning

‘Crucial days’ for Nepal. Still? Again? And for how long?

Does the WWF help the industry more than the environment?

Development blogging-How to have fun, avoid disappointment & be a strategic writer
How peacebuilding has become a ritualised space-Summary of my PhD project
From the archives: Reflections on the original Rio Earth Summit 1992

How useful is the ‘Transparency in Corporate Reporting’ ranking for development debates?

Is there are space for Google+ Hangouts in global development?

Tony Blair, Olympic impact & development jargon from the 80s

More development (fiction) tales

The role of graduate studies in the 'flawed development system'- a reply to Karen Attiah

How the EU is creating the need for humanitarian volunteers

The Kony 2012 video franchise, or: Invisible Children’s latest ‘Move’

OLPC in Ethiopia: The thin line between digital innovation, cargo cult and peoples on parade

Is Coca-Cola a social enterprise now? Why ‘development’ needs to be more critical with global corporations

A consultant speaks out on the donor economy in Cyprus-Interview with Kate Flynn

Drones for peace and development?

2012 on Aidnography - Academia
The challenges of maintaining a professional identity as a Ph.D. student

Open data, crowd-wisdom and ‘hunting plagiarists’ – how a group of activists is challenging the German academic system

Boycotting Elsevier – when are politicians, grant makers and search committees speaking out?

The four stages of ‘hottie research envy’ – a response to the Thesiswhisperer

Possibly the coolest fake academic journal I've seen so far

Reflections on #virtualapsa2012 & using HangOut for academic events

The rough guide for setting up fake-ish academic conferences


  1. Dear Tobias,
    thanks for your review of 2012. I enjoy reading your blog and hope you'll carry on in 2013 as well! Happy holidays and hope to read from you soon!


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