Links & Contents I Liked 90

Dear all,

Welcome to a jam-packed link review this week!
After a short rant about book publishing choices, there is more on (unpaid) internships and the charity industry, the use of 'cash' in development, innovative data visualisations, celebrity humanitarianism and a new critical book on Jeff Sachs. Great anthropological reflections on early big data debates in the 1960s and 70s lead to an expanded academia section: From 'Storming Wikipedia' as a feminist student project to a special section on the technicalities, challenges, joys and changes in (academic) writing and publishing.

I also want to take this opportunity to welcome the new ComDev students to my blog; especially in the context of the New Media, ICT & Development course and the assignments involving blogs/blogging this may be a useful source of inspiration-why not check out some of my previous highlights?!


It is usually not my style to start the link review off with a rant, but my #fail of the week is linked to the European Association of Development Research & Training Institutes (EADI).
From their latest newsletter:

EADI in partnership with Palgrave Macmillan, is pleased to announce the launch of the first book from the EADI Global Development Series
So far, so unspectacular. But then I realized that the book is only available as a hardcopy-for the usual academic price of 95 US-Dollar!
If this is part of your mission statement:

EADI is a Europe-wide network of institutes, researchers and students of various disciplines in the field of development studies. It organises activities and offers facilities for the international exchange of knowledge and experience in the professional field.
do you as an organization really have to pick the most conservative and least accessible publication model?! Not a softback with a different/cheaper publisher maybe? Maybe even open access to distribute the great knowledge of the network? Ebooks anyone?! Discounts for Southern institutions/scholars?! So at the end of the day you ask development institutions to basically buy back their own knowledge for an enormous price-in 2013 with tons of debates left, right & center. That to me is a clear #fail! /rant

Editorial: The Future of Development

We have known for half a century about poverty, unemployment, vulnerability, environmental degradation, and violence and discrimination against women, yet the assembled heads of state and government see it fit, in their infinite wisdom, merely to remind us of their unremitting commitment to the protection of the poor, the unemployed, the women, the indigenous people, small farmers, the forests, the oceans, the atmosphere, the ecosystems, and the people living in least developed, landlocked, and small island states, but to stop short of specifying any concrete action or new commitment. Often, the ‘decisions’ are nothing more than the lowest common denominator of stapled together pastiches of reaffirmations of previous agreements and non-committal acknowledgements of new concerns. The inevitable result is that governments, as well as civil society, end up celebrating not the decisions made by heads of state and government, but merely the fact that they met and issued a declaration – and that they provided civil society with an opportunity to come together, network, share experiences, revive contacts, and build new.
An open access (!) editorial from Development that provides an excellent, more academic overview over the bigger picture of the field.

e-Learning programme in Development Evaluation

UNICEF and IOCE, under the EvalPartners, initiative, are pleased to announce a new introductory e-Learning programme on Development Evaluation.
This reads like a 'who is who' in development evaluation and should be an interesting course.

Analysis: The rise and rise of the unpaid charity intern

The report by Intern Aware and Unite says unpaid internships are at odds with the image of a sector that is widely viewed as taking the ethical lead in society. "However ethical your organisation is, there is no excuse for unethical practices in recruitment by filling posts with unpaid staff," says Gus Baker (right), co-director of Intern Aware. "The practice is also bad for the service users and beneficiaries of charities if there is only a narrow pool of people able to work in the third sector."
Written from a UK perspective, this is an interesting overview over the internship debate.

Contrasts: Two interns discuss charity pay

Of course, for those of us at the bottom of the heap, the pay package of charity bosses may seem a slap in the face. With a salary of €150 a month, I am relying on grants and the charitable donations of my own parents to live and work for Oxfam in Brussels for ten months. I am incredibly excited, but is it justified that I will have to live with the constant fear of an empty bank account when my bosses are earning up to four times the average national income?
In recent years, the UK’s biggest charities are and have become increasingly reliant on statutory funding (last year, Oxfam received £160 from the government compared to £130m from fundraising). As ever, we must be cautious of jumping on the right-wing opportunist band-wagon, but it certainly seems that such excessive spending on executive income is inappropriate at a time of wide-spread decline in donations and during a period of public disenchantment with foreign-aid contributions.
A good, balanced recap of the recent debate on executive pay in the charity sector.


The larger point is that even by simply targeting a cash transfer activity, strings are already attached. By deciding this country, not that one, this district and this village (not those others), men not women (or vise versa), people who meet the particular definition of sufficiently “poor” that we’re going with at the time, or perhaps some other criteria, we’re attaching conditions.
Aidspeak on the emerging debate around chash transfers in development.

Results of the On Think Tanks Data Visualisation Competition, Round 1

Mapping Arms Data truly stood out for the judging team as an example of how data visualisation can make information that would otherwise be hidden available and accessible to a very wide audience.
Of the MAD visualisation, one of the judges described it as ‘technically very impressive’. Another judge added, ‘It’s very exciting, interesting and engaging!’.
Indeed, after viewing the visualisation, the judging team saw evidence of tweets along the lines of: ‘Did you know X sold arms to Y neighbouring country?’
Although the judges felt that it could have been strengthened with a clearer policy implication, and we were concerned that it used high technology and a lot of bandwidth – making it difficult to view in developing countries – we loved that it could start a conversation.
Great initiative for data, technology and visualization fans!

The marginal impact of celebrity on humanitarian campaigns

They do have a small impact on humanitarian events, but generally serve as amplification tools for existing organizations and campaigns. In some way, the Hollywood set use their celebrity to reach audience by putting their ability to represent an idea created by someone else to the public. It is a lot like acting in a film.
These few examples provide a glimpse into how celebrities can influence rights campaigns. That may not be as relevant to other efforts like charity:water using Jennifer Connelly for its clean water work or Justin Bieber advocating for education NGO Pencils of Promise. Celebrities that work with NGOs are acting as amplification tools, but are seeking to drive donations rather than political action.
Tom Murphy's long and detailed post on Humanosphere on celebrity impact on development and policy issues. I need to read the new paper he cites, but what I find interesting is that it often seems that many celebrities are unable (or unwilling) to engage with some of the complexities of development but simply dismissing them along the lines of 'if I can save a child it's a worthwhile endeavour so critics better shut up'. How many celebrities have actually realized their shortcomings and started studying development more broadly? Maybe with Jeff Sachs...

Fighting Poverty, and Critics

Nina Munk’s new book, “The Idealist,” is about the well-known economist Jeffrey Sachs and his “quest to end poverty,” as the subtitle puts it. I know: That subtitle sounds like classic book-industry hyperbole, but, in this case, it’s not. That really is what Sachs has been trying to do. The question of whether or not he is succeeding is where things get tricky.
A new book looks at the 'development celebrity' Jeff Sachs and his engagement, successes and limitations in 'eradicating poverty'.

Big Data Dramas in the 1960s and 1970s

These examples show, that the societal handling of data became an increasingly important public issue. But at the same time, it also turned into a very personal one: Media campaigns urged the public to reflect critically on their own data practices, and also to consider their own role in the growing amount of data. The society’s relationship with its (own) data was clearly on display at the time.
By analyzing this early data-debate, I want to show that not only what I have called a data-sensibility took shape at a variety of scales in the 1960s and early 1970s, but also how the early computerization phase affected our societal handling of data long before the personal computer entered our lives.
Julia Fleischhack combines three things I really like in one post: Big data, anthropology & history!

‘Storming Wikipedia’: Colleges offer credit to students who enter ‘feminist thinking’ into Wikipedia

Fifteen universities worldwide — including Yale University, Brown University, and Pennsylvania State University — will offer college credit to students who “write feminist thinking” into Wikipedia.
The program, “Storming Wikipedia,” will be part of the Dialogues on Feminism and Technology online course developed by FemTechNet, an organization of feminist educators and scholars.
Interesting-although this could be part of a larger debate what academic credits should be assigned for-and where 'political' projects start or end. Or maybe it is just academic fighting back the lobbyists who change Wikipedia for their clients? Lots of interesting questions (in case you still need an assignment topic ;)!

The Academic Benefits of Twitter

Twitter moves fast and covers wide ground which suits my multitasking mind. I am often writing on two different topics, reading about a third for a class I am teaching, and thinking about still more on any given day: this is the life of an academic. Twitter collates and curates my worlds in a stress-free way, providing a platform for learning, engaging, and connecting which rests simply on one’s own interests and availability but—to me at least—never feels like a burden. It is instead a resource and a community that I most frequently draw on when I am immersed in the solitary activity of writing. Sometimes I need quiet spaces in which to think, and sometimes I find crowded, noisy spaces useful. Twitter is the latter.
Great transitional post from 'academia' to academic writing in more general terms...

On writing
Thomas Larson: Writing Seen, Writing Spoken

The writer must lean in to an audience whose communication devices are either already set or quickly expanding. The writing must adapt because in digital storytelling scenic writing can be videoed and sounds can be sounded.
Watching and listening, I experience the spoken words and the erected images in counterpoint. Words and images merge and resist merging, the ensuing structure a kind of “visual voice.” On occasion, text and video fuse and harmonize. But it’s never simple. The spoken words push the visual puzzle into known images that do and do not illustrate the text. Once those images suggest a meaning for the words, they begin to dissolve.
Thomas Larson on writing in the digital age. The question to my own profession and professionalism the is: Do we also need to change the way we teach writing/reading?!

Nine Tips for Academics Writing for a General Audience

Many talented scholars, particularly in history, have taken seriously the idea of writing for a broader public and still found that their books reach only a relatively limited audience, because, actually, there were a lot of dramatic trials in the 19th century that evoke issues that are still with us, and quite a few books about them, too. For most readers, these were still cases they never heard of that took place long ago involving people they don’t want to know. Most books will reach only a limited audience, no matter how hard the author and the publisher try.
Some good advice from W.W. Norton's executive editor.

To write better, cut the clutter

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the paper, “Cluttered writing: Adjectives and adverbs in academia”, finds that social science papers contain the highest density, followed by humanities and history.
Dr Okulicz-Kozaryn told Times Higher Education that the analysis had been inspired by his own reading of academic papers, which suggested that political science in particular was “full of meaningless words that only add ornament and subtract the meaning”.
I don't disagree with the findings, but I wonder whether there's more to it than just 'cluttered writing'. Maybe social science disciplines have to write more carefully about more complex, nuanced topics? Plus many have different types of (qualitative) data which make generalizations or 'simple' sentences/conclusions more difficult? I guess more research needs to be done ;)!

That raw spot on my soul

And if the choice is between spending a Saturday helping a sick neighbor with yard work or grading papers, I will always choose my neighbor. This may make my values incompatible with academia. And no, I don’t think that academics are selfish bastards. I just think those who are successful in that world are of two types: those who are driven by the mindset Schuman describes or those who derive great joy from researching and teaching their tiny niche subject. I am neither. And while I think universities ask too much of their faculty, both tenure-track and adjunct, and that it is unsustainable, the fact that I am neither is my personal problem to solve. My problem, but not one that I alone have. I know there are other like me, and I hope this post makes them feel a little less alone.
pittsburghphd on academic identities and the meaning(s) of academia as career and profession...very interesting and made me think were I would locate myself in this debate...

In Place of Thought

Flaubert’s “Dictionary” inspired me to try something similar, over the course of a few hours, on Twitter.
As I wrote my modern cognates, I was struck at how close some of them came to the uninterrogated platitudes in my own head. Stupidity stalks us all.
Teju Cole's witty and spot-on 'dictionary' is the perfect way to round off this week's link review!


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