My development blogging review 2013

It is a bit hard to believe that this is already my third annual personal development blogging review after 2012 and 2011!
As difficult as it is to come up with a ‘theme’ or ‘trend’ for an entire year (in 2011 I wrote about bloggers leaving and writing for a growing student audience, in 2012 the K-bomb dropped...), this year’s apparent absence of the one big event may actually be a good sign; consolidation sounds rather unspectacular as many bloggers continue their work, research on development and social media gains momentum and many aspects of aid and aid work are almost naturally discussed in connection with blogs and social media. It is now clear (at least for me) that the virtual domain is the marketplace where theory and practice, reflections and snark or news and rumors meet. No surprises there.

I want to unpack the consolidation among four topics that are guiding this review: My own professional development in 2013, a review of development and communication and social media research, a few topical highlights from this year as well as quick look into discussions from academia and anthropology-two areas I try to keep a particular eye on in my weekly link reviews which celebrated their centennial edition (

How blogging helped me to land a fantastic academic job
Professionally, 2013 offered a transatlantic move and a great new academic position in Communication for Development at the University of Malmö in Sweden (
). My practical social media expertise together with my academic background and current research (see below) helped me to present my profile in a very compelling way.
Yes, I became a professor with the help of a blog and about 1,000 Twitter followers at that time to put it in a more catchy way. Development blogging is also part of our curriculum and my approach is summarized as
and was expanded when I shared to celebrate my first six months at Malmö högskola.
I will also try to continue answering reader questions outside the daily work with students and academic colleagues

‘More research needs to be done’: Social media and development research
In addition to teaching and applied social media practice, I am glad that two articles with great co-authors were published this year:
and capture the critical essence of the chances and limitations of development blogging and social media for digital engagement in policy.
And in addition to our chapter and Ryan Manning’s chapter on the development blogosphere in the Popular Representations of Development book, the contributions indicate how ‘development’ topics, images and (re)presentations are showing up in mainstream media.
We are currently looking into TED talks as another source of how development discourses are shaped in the digital age and I am sure more research will emerge.
In addition to Parmelee’s and Bichard’s Politics and the Twitter Revolution, Holiday’s Trust Me, I’m Lying and Marwick’s Status Update are on my holiday reading list to explore more links between marketing, manipulation and meaningful communication with diverse audiences.
So stay tuned for more book reviews in 2014! Talking about book reviews:
and were by far the most read reviews.

Listicles, digital humanitarians, well-being-and radiators
I am a bit hesitant to admit it, but among my most shared and clicked items was
that I did not really plan. That is the reality in our Buzzfeed- and Upworthy-driven age. 

It was great to see the Radi-Aid parody shared widely as a fun, yet critical way of engaging with development. The UN also landed two campaigning success first with ‘Like us on facebook and we will vaccinate zero children’ and then with the ‘The Autocomplete Truth’ campaign that combined digital marketing with important messages and a healthy dose of techno-scepticism.

I also think that the consolidation and routinization of some digital initiatives showed after typhoon Haiyan are a good indication that some positive momentum is building up and sustained in the humanitarian community.

I am also hoping that the sustained efforts of many bloggers to remind the community of more mindful human resources in aid work will continue despite any quick-fix and short-term solutions.

There is also the issue of technology. Technically speaking, it was in December 2012 when I first reflected on
and the question mark is no longer necessary...I personally found my post on a very important reminder of some of the big changes aid will be experiencing in the coming years vis-à-vis automization and robotics.

In other news: Academia and anthropology
My focus in this review is on technology, (social) media and teaching rather than critically reflecting on the state of higher education, possibly growing trend Why So Many Academics Quit and Tell and lamenting the current state of policy, management and research discourses.
The spectacular rise and quickly growing critique around MOOCs is definitely an important topic-especially as it links to development issues and capacity building (
In fact, I will be exploring questions around global virtual learning further next year with an interesting project that I am involved and that deserves a proper introductory blog post in early 2014!

We may all exist in a filter bubble, but I am quite impressed with the anthropological blogosphere that is going strong (e.g. Savage Minds and Ethnography Matters) and blessed with new and growing initiatives (e.g. HAU journal and Allegra Virtual Laboratory); despite all the (justified) criticism about academic writing, impact factors and the global publishing industry, anthropology and ethnography are challenging the conventions and I hope my colleagues and friends are rewarded by their institutions and projects!

All in all, there is some space for optimism, but as the, in my view lackluster, debate around ‘open aid’ showed this year or Evgeny Morozov’s ‘clicktivism’ book reminded me, we are far from ‘there’ yet when it comes to making digital development count more or ‘better’.

Maintaining Aidnography amidst the quickly growing responsibilities of a full-time academic job is not an easy task. However, I am looking forward to sharing reflections, book reviews and links with you in the future. A trip to sida’s headquarters and a SPIDER Center conference in Stockholm in late January, the Social Media Week in Copenhagen, a trip to South Africa in March and two projects on (social) media in Kenya and entrepreneurism in the Öresund region surely promise to provide great stimulation that will end up in some ways on my blog.

To the small, but slowly growing readership: Thank you for your time and attention, retweets, messages, facebook likes and great, great content!
I want to thank Jennifer, Shawn, Tom, Claire, Brendan, Andrea, Daniel, Ulrica, Emrys, Ed and many others as well as the friendly contacts at various publishers for contributing to Aidnography in so many different ways!

There will be a final link review tomorrow before I will be off on a well-deserved break until the middle of January!

Have a great, peaceful and trouble-free holiday season!


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