Links & Contents I Liked 82

Hej! (as we say in Sweden)

No summer vacation for aidnography and the link review! This week's emphasis is on anthropology and ethnography, starting with my response to Ed Carr. A look at the brick industry in the Kathmandu Valley, social media and anthropological publishing as well as the question of how ethnography and data science can create fruitful relationships are main features on the anthropological menu.
New research on the global land rush and IDRC's 15 year ICT project round off the development section.
The only issue I disagree with this week another post where British academics once again make the case for 'rigourous, scientific methods in your research help to influence policy'...


New on aidnography
Do we really need more new development ethnography? – a response to Ed Carr

The politics of evidence: methodologies for understanding the global land rush
The most recent ‘land rush’ precipitated by the convergent ‘crises’ of fuel, feed and food in 2007–2008 has heightened the debate on the consequences of land investments, with widespread media coverage, policy commentary and civil society engagement. This ‘land rush’ has been accompanied by a ‘literature rush’, with a fast-growing body of reports, articles, tables and books with varied purposes, metrics and methods. Land grabbing, as it is popularly called, is now a hot political topic around the world, discussed amongst the highest circles. This is why getting the facts right is very important and having effective methodologies for doing so is crucial.
Open access to the introductory article of a special issue of the Journal of Peasant Studies on Global Land Grabbing.

Taking digital stock: the role of information and communication technology (ICT) in international development
This Collection highlights over 15 years of IDRC-supported research through its Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D) program, which ended in 2010. IDRC’s Information and Networks program continues to support emerging ICT4D research.
A comprehensive analysis of the key findings and lessons learned from the ICT4D program is available as a book — Taking Digital Stock: The Role of Information and Communication Technology in International Development (forthcoming 2013). This online companion provides links to additional resources, websites and multimedia, and is organized to follow the book’s structure
Interesting taster for IDRC's forthcoming book on the subject-a 'must review' for this blog, of course !

Hard Labor in Nepal’s Brick Factories
At Kadambini, the pay scale was based upon number of bricks carried, pressed and baked. Workers are given a number of small tokens to designate how many bricks they’ve “produced” by a supervisor each time they walk past. The tokens are collected in pockets and periodically tallied, then recorded in a ledger kept by the management. Payment isn’t settled until the end of the season, which is why the majority of workers end up purchasing food and alcohol — and thus tremendously reducing their earnings — at the company store. A strong young man who is able to carry heavy loads may earn up to 1,200 or even 1,500 Nepalese rupees (around $13 to $16) a day. This may not sound like much, but it’s actually quite a lot of money in a country where the average per capita income is $735, or $2 a day. However, once deductions are made for booze and noodles, people can easily have spent the majority of their daily earnings, often without realizing that they’re doing so.
Great feature on the NYT's Lens blog. Brian Sokol's photos tell the story and show some of the faces of what it's really like to be part of the often-cited 'bottom billion'.

Moving Deckchairs around the Titanic? Further Insights on the World’s Failing Climate Regime
Organizations from the development, anti-globalization and gender movements, trade unions, faith-based organizations, or research institutes from different academic disciplines also aimed to make use of growing public awareness of climate change issues. The average number of Observer organizations at the COPs more than doubled after 2005, and they have been pursuing issues largely unrelated to climate change mitigation. Second, negotiations about the concrete instruments of the carbon markets became very technical and complex. The average number of government delegates doubled after 2005 because ever more experts with specialized knowledge were needed for each country’s Party delegation. This specialization increased the need for internal coordination and reduced the time that negotiators had for interaction with Observers, so that negotiations became increasingly detached from those actually affected by climate change. The growing complexity of negotiation items also divided the technical negotiators from the high-level political segment taking decisions in the second week of the COPs, as the latter could no longer fully comprehend the draft negotiation texts.
New research on the micro-dynamics of climate mitigation summits. Interesting. And as we discuss in our recent research global summits have become ritualized performance and traditional labels such as 'success' or 'failure' do no longer apply. They are part of the global policy-performing theater...

“Don’t Look up Dr. Humphrey.”
I learned not to feel threatened when they know more than I do.
I learned that when I cede them space great things can happen without me.
I learned that I had an important role to play in the classroom just not the one I was trained for. This fall I will integrate a new cohort of students into my La Ceiba class and follow up with another trip to Honduras. For the first few weeks, a lot of them will share the look I had in the back of that taxi. It’s understandable. It’s a different type of class.
No lecture notes. No exams. No review sessions. No learning guides.
Not a lot of structure. Not a lot of direction. It’s just me and my students waging war against their demons.
They will tell me that they cannot do this or that and I will tell them that they can.
They will tell me that they are not allowed to do something and I will tell them to do it anyway.
They will tell me that they cannot turn their project in on time and I will tell them to #$%& perfect, just ship (h/t Seth) Some may see this is as a recipe for chaos in the classroom.
To me, it’s a continuous process of mutual adjustment that can get my students to where they need to be. We expect more passion, commitment, and thoughtfulness from each other so we give more. We know that we need to travel outside our comfort zones to accomplish our goals so when one of us walks into the wilderness it makes it easier for all of us to do it.
Shawn Humphrey reflects on some of his experiences teaching in Honduras. Even though it's not exactly groundbreaking stuff, I believe that we need more of those mundane, yet insightful reflections from volunteers that capture the positive essence of 'public global service'.

American Anthropologist, Public Anthropology, and… Bill Gates!
Well, Bill Gates, if you would have taken some real history and anthropology classes, the ones where you read books like Eric Wolf, Europe and the People Without History, perhaps geography as justification for power may not have been so excusable. But if you do have time to read into the ethnographic record, I’ll take a re-tweet for Yanomami Ax Fight: Jared Diamond, Science, Violence & the Facts. Thanks!
I am a bit jealous. I am a bit jealous that a picture of Bill Gates reading Jared Diamond's latest book in the apparent surroundings of a fancy country club receives more than 12,000 Likes on facebook the last time I looked a few days ago. The man is reading a popular book, people!

Blog is AAA’s Fourth Most Digitally Viewed Publication or Is It?
When you consider where to publish there might be a variety of factors that go into the decision e.g. prestige, journal subject, impact factor, etc. If one of those factors is visibility, in the sense lots of people with an interest in your field will see it, than you may want to considered the AAA blog. It has some of the highest views of the AAA’s publications AND it has been around for significantly less time than the AAA’s other publications, at least most of them. I also make the caveat that ‘people with an interest in your field’ because one could just publish in newspapers or news websites to reach even more people. Though if you are looking to reach/write to a more specific group of people, but still reaching a wider audience, than the AAA blog appears to be very good venue, maybe one of the best, offered by the AAA.
Social media and anthropology have really started a fruitful relationship. Last week I recommended a successful open access journal, this week it's about alternative ways of publishing. I'm somewhat optimistic that anthropology will be at the forefront to challenge the impact factor-driven numerics of traditional journals.

Anthropology and data science need each other
Anthropology (if done right) produces stories clearly connected to on-the-ground concerns and perspectives but fails to demonstrate that those stories more generally hold true over time or across other populations. Data science produces stories that often have the time- and population-level generalizations down, but frequently fails to connect that output to the practical context and constraints of individual decisions. Data science, as it is often marketed today, assumes away the decision-making part of the analytic problem. Anthropology, on the other hand, assumes away the fact that people’s decisions always involve multiple, competing options and that people need help choosing between those options.
Schaun Wheeler on how anthropology and data science can cooperate better. Great way to round off this week's anthropology, ICT and development trajectory.

Academics may not be celebrities, but their careful research is improving public policy
‘British academics’, he writes, ‘rarely seem to make an impact’. Academically they may be world leaders. But in terms of policy ‘they rarely supply the big idea’. Where is the British Malcolm Gladwell, Nassim Taleb, Richard Thaler or Cass Sunstein? Blond says he cannot think of a single British academic who has had a “serious, sustained or systematic” impact on public policy.
This brings us to our final point. The simple reality is that better policy comes less from the big ideas, than from clear theory that is tested with good data. The great revolution in the social sciences has not been the commercialisation of academic research, but the application of experimental methods to help apply the rigor of “hard” science to test ideas in the social sciences. Blond seems unaware of this revolution, which is transforming how we think about a plethora of issues, from identifying discrimination to fighting poverty to increasing political engagement.
Oh dear. The old 'if you present them with rigorous scientific data they will listen' line. I know the author means well and I do agree that many academics outside the 'superstar' league have meaningful engagements with the world of policy-making-but only as long as it fits into current trends, party ideologies, today's polls and tomorrow's (re-)election strategy. One look at the UK's current policy-making, from austerity policies to labeling welfare recipients and the whole 'transforming how we think about a plethora of issues' myth disappears one policy workshop at the time...

MOOCs and Economic Reality
As has been widely discussed, most MOOCs reiterate the ancient form of the lecture, and do not signal much of a leap in pedagogy. (As McLuhan noted, the contents of the new medium are the old media, at least at first.) The effect of MOOCs on the academy, though, is no more likely to be about pedagogy than the effect of MP3s on the music industry was about audio quality. The adoption of nontraditional forms of education hinges on accessibility, flexibility, and cost—not quality.
As with other inventions that produced an inferior product at a much lower price, from the printing press to the steam-driven loom to Wikipedia, what happens now is largely in the hands of the people experimenting with the new tools, rather than defending themselves from them.
Talking about 'superstar academics'...Clay Shirky on MOOCs, cost and some future trends in academia.


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