Links & Contents I Liked 105

Hi all,

Happy New Year and welcome back to Aidnography!

I just returned from the official Popular Representations of Development book launch in London-and I will be in another European capital next week to talk more about new (social) media.

Photo courtesy of Dennis Rodgers
As always, there is also an eclectic mix of interesting reads that I have come across: There is the 'stuff to read' subsection about 'World 3.0', a history of celebrity engagement and a great reading list on peace & conflict; obesity, the 'hype cycle' and tribalism in South Sudan are three of the 'bigger issues' featured in the next section; 'in other news' 'the field', Jennifer Lentfer and Shawn Humphrey are back with new gigs; and then there is great essay on why the political right likes open developments, more on MOOCs and an old-school Foucault lecture from 1980 for your Ipod!


New on aidnography
SIDA/ComDev seminar 'Communication for development and social change in a new era', Stockholm, 22 January 2014
Join us live in Stockholm or in a Google Hangout next week!

Development - Stuff to read
Undressing Patriarchy: Men and Structural Violence

The present issue follows up by drawing contributions from participants at the international symposium ‘Undressing Patriarchy’, which took place in September 2013.
It explores the shifting field of men and masculinities and how often conflicted engagements with the feminist project of redressing gender inequalities might be radicalised through a deeper analysis of patriarchy and our relationship to it, as well as by linking it to other struggles for sexual and human rights, or social justice. The methodology of ‘undressing patriarchy’ focuses on the underlying drivers of gender equality, rather than getting stuck in a generalised fallacy casting all men as patriarchs.
Latest, open access, IDS Bulletin

Does aid have a future? A must-read new e-book

On the other side of the world, leading development thinkers are providing thought provoking contributions on aid that are worth following as we reflect on the future of the Australian aid program. The Co-director of King’s International Development Institute, Andy Sumner, has released a compelling new Global Policy e-book, Emergence, convergence and the future of aid. Contributions from academics and practitioners will be published on Global Policy (available here) until the e-book’s release in the first quarter of 2014.
An interesting book to look out for in the new year.

A serious history of celebrity humanitarianism

So I put out a call for co-authors on Twitter, and Ami Shah took me up on it. She roped a colleague, historian Bruce Hall, into the project, which proved to be a boon to us. The product, “Bono, Band Aid, and Before: Celebrity Humanitarianism, Music and the Objects of its Action” was a really interesting chapter (I learned things from my co-authors in writing it) on the history of celebrity humanitarianism, and how the “new” celebrity wonkery of Bono and others is, in fact, nothing new at all.
Ed Carr's latest co-written chapter is available as open access pre-print.

New Book: Enabling Openness

Built on a seminar on open development, held in Montevideo in 2013, this new book examines a range of questions that concerns the recent development of the internet and other network technologies in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Will open data, social media and new forms of participation improve democracy in the region? Will it be possible to harness the collaborative potential of the internet to create more socially meaningful and sustainable economies?
Another very interesting new ebook!

World 3.0: Reimagining development for a turbulent planet

He argues that we are now in 'World 3.0'. This is characterised by rapid change and complex dynamics with inherent deep uncertainties. Climate change, footloose capitalism, massive migration, rising inequalities and changing demographic patterns all radically reconfigure the way we must think and act. This requires, he says, a reimagining of the development enterprise, a 'Development 3.0'.
Unfortunately, he argues, we remain ill-equipped to respond. Our analytical approaches, our institutional arrangements, our professional incentives all prevent us from seeing complexity – and where the 'wild things' are so far existing beyond our cognitive and organisational boundaries.
IDS' Ian Scoones summarises tghe latest IDS Working Paper which I will also read...soon...

A Reading List for Peace and Security in 2014: Books

From rising cities and militant groups to carbon democracies and forgotten genocides: these topics may not have topped bestseller lists in 2013, but they can deepen our understanding of international relations and prospects for peace and security as 2014 kicks off. Staff at the International Peace Institute (IPI) compiled a list of recent books that capture today’s complex global landscape.
If this wasn't enough food for thought yet, check out the IPI's impressive reading list!

Development - Bigger issues
A weighty problem: how to halt obesity in the developing world

Countries undergoing a nutrition transition do not have to follow a pre-ordained path and end up with the rates of overweight and obesity we see in the US or UK. We need to learn about why countries with healthier eating habits – in the Mediterranean, Japan and east Asia, for instance – have continued to buck the trends seen elsewhere.
Governments need to explore the scope for combining small changes and incentives to improve diets. So far project donors and world leaders have taken little interest in the rising tide of obesity. It's time to work with developing countries to halt the advance of obesity.
The pun with the sub-headline is unintended...and based on my own observations I have always been fascinated/scared how the worst parts of North American (fast) food culture seem to be replicated very quickly once countries/societies/large urban areas start to 'develop'...

Blogs review: The popularity of Randomized Control Trials

The popularity of Randomized Control Trials (RCTs) in academia has led to an impressive increase in the amounts governments and international institutions spend on providing evidence from RCTs. While valued for their research design, they remain criticized for having little predictive value beyond the context of the original experiment and the difficulties they face in evaluating complex interventions.
A good overview over the RCT debate-great starting point for discussions on RCTs and development!

Hype cycle for development ideas: 2014 edition

I took a stab at placing a few of aid and development’s hot topics along the framework. Whatever Gartner’s methodology may be, I assure you that mine is far less rigorous. This is an informal synthesis of what I’ve observed from following the discourse of the sector, watching how ideas intersect, and trying to understand how they gain or lose traction. I offer some meager justifications at the bottom, but I’d be curious to hear reactions/push-back.
Dave Algoso's 'hype-cycle' development edition has been widely shared, but the post and his freshly designed blog are always worth recommending!

The Four Cutest Ways to Photograph Yourself Hugging Third-World Children

This quintessential shot of you and your host family (with you crouched down with their children, obviously) will show everyone how fully accepted, appreciated, and adored you are by the very people you came to help. Suggested caption: “They ended up teaching me more than I could ever teach them.”
This is probably the most-shared post in my networks in past 10 or so days, but worth saving and sharing it anyway.

Development - In other news
What is ‘tribalism’ and why does is matter in South Sudan? – By Andreas Hirblinger and Sara de Simone

The threat of ethnic conflict is used by both sides as a strategy to legitimise the crackdown on the alleged perpetrators of violence. In the public space, ethnic categories are not used to differentiate friends and enemies. Rather, by accusing the respective antagonists of inciting or committing ethnic violence, ethnicity informs current strategies of violence in a much more subtle manner. Through the construction of an existential threat identified in the antagonists malevolent ‘tribalism’, both factions aim not only to mobilise for conflict within their own constituencies, but to legitimise the use of force vis-a-vis an international audience, increasingly worried about the possible consequences of ethnic conflict in South Sudan.
Some very good points on and insights into the current complexities in South Sudan.

SID/Charney Survey: The State of Development Evaluation 2013

Just under half of development projects and proposals include both impact and performance evaluation, regardless of overall project budgets. Both types are likelier only when more resources are specifically committed to evaluations.
Websites are the leading source of information on development evaluation, while the World Bank and USAID Impact blogs are the most widely accessed.
I'm really interested to read the full report: So are the evaluation debates in fact only applying to a minority of bigger, high-profiled projects? I would have thought almost 'everything' would be evaluated by now...interesting side-note on the power of blogs and websites vis-a-vis information and capacity building...

Top tips on using the media to aid development

Development media should not alienate those who aren't experts: Subsidy to public interest content, such as development media, is becoming more important. The danger comes when the debate is limited to people who share similar assumptions and language, and becomes alien to the public at large. One of the key things media can do is crystallise and refresh development issues in ways that challenge assumptions and existing language.
This came up just before my blogging holidays-but it's well worth the read and discussion. Personally, I want to believe the colleague from BBC's Media Action, but I am a bit skeptical about the media's way of engaging with development issues beyond the margins or preaching to a choir of Guardian Development readers or academics...

The myth of “the field”

It’s time to recognize that this is just plain incorrect. Make fun, if you will, of what goes on in well-lit UN conference rooms in Geneva, or at the global HQs in Washington, DC, Oxford, New York or Singapore (I certainly have and sometimes still do). But it’s important to understand that those things are not just “support” or “fundraising.” They may not be particularly Facebook- or edgy memoir-worthy, but the workshops, meetings, strategy sessions in the humanitarian capitals are every bit as much aid work as are running cholera clinics in Port-au-Prince, getting a truckload of non-food items across the Acekele border crossing, or being the accountability officer in Goma
As always, interesting debates are happening over at WhyDev. Probably next month one of my articles will engage with the ritualisation of peacebuilding at conferences, forthcoming in the IDS Bulletin, but available as open access pre-print soon!

New year, new gig

2014 begins a new endeavor – my first foray into teaching. Beginning this week, I’ll be leading International Development Communications at Georgetown University’s Master of Professional Studies in Public Relations and Corporate Communications program. The class is associated with the Center for Social Impact Communication and I’m excited to spend the semester with 20 Masters students and the great group of guest speakers lined up!
Congratulations to Jennifer Lentfer!

I Have Something to Say

However, just over a year ago today I walked up to Kyra, interrupted what she was doing and proclaimed “I have something to say. I am going to say it.” I walked away as quickly as I arrived. A week later I wrote my first blog post, compiled a list of twenty individuals and I sent the following email
Shawn Humphrey wrote one of the nicest reader comments over the holidays and I still owe him a proper private response! Really excited to read more about his endeavors in Honduras this year!

And so it ends: Last Day at UN Human Rights Committee

She was genuinely delighted, and I got a feeling that this might have been a rare moment when an ‘outsider’ recognised the importance of the work that she did. I could not help but think once more how many scholars pass by her and the other seemingly ‘insignificant’ support staff in their incessant search for the ‘important people’, namely those in top positions – and how I by now felt almost like shouting at them: YOU ARE MISSING THE POINT ENTIRELY! For my fieldwork has convinced me that the real ‘knowledge’ of what transpires in this scene is not deposited in the smooth jargon of those in ‘high places’ who make the occasional 30 minute appearances to mark the ceremonial beginnings and endings of distinct events, but rather deposited silently with the people who participate in the work every day; day after day; year after year.
Over at the Allegra Lab, Miia Halme-Tuomisaari concludes her 'field' work in a field that isn't really one (see above), yet says so much about development, human rights and traveling anthropologists.

Design and the right

Replace “participation” with the Big Society, prime minister David Cameron’s aborted policy of encouraging citizens to volunteer time towards public services, and you have a collaborative design method being used to get people to do the government’s job for it. In other words, participation is proposed to cut costs and roll back the welfare state. Replace “open source” with “open government”, or what in the US was dubbed “Gov 2.0″, and suddenly an idealistic way of designing something (software, say) becomes a means of getting Silicon Valley to sell apps to provide services that government used to provide. Replace “customisation” with “localism”, another Coalition government policy that ostensibly allowed local authorities to customise how they provide public services, and suddenly you’re not talking about designing your own Nike trainers but privatising those public services and shrinking central government. How easily the idealistic terminology of design translates to a hardcore right-wing agenda.
These are Californian entrepreneurial ideals, which, though they propagate a language of platforms and openness, are essentially market driven and individualistic. As Morozov points out, spinning such terms away from freedom (of the political kind) and freeness (of the economic kind) works in the interests of businessmen and right-wing politicians.
As Morozov makes clear, the “openness” agenda as embodied in British and American politics now follows an entrepreneurial logic (the logic of Silicon Valley) and not a utopian one. It is perhaps predictable that the Anglo-Saxon political cultures, which invented neoliberalism in the first place, are so quick to manipulate otherwise idealistic terms used by software designers.
You like 'open design' etc.? So does the political rights and entrepreneurial class, argues Justin McGuirk in his great essay, that I filed under 'Anthropology' for lack of better imagination.

Academia - MOOCs
MOOCs, Mechanization,and the Modern Professor

My studies of political economy, however, lead me to interpret the investment of time and money in MOOCs not as an innocuous innovation that will improve research and teaching, but as a signal of a wider effort to, as we say in microeconomics, shift the labor-demand curve for professors. In other words, MOOCs could further affect the number of professors universities are willing to hire, and what wages those professors earn.
Private and public universities are pouring millions of dollars into MOOCs. Where will the savings be realized?
Katherine Moos makes a simple and powerful point: Do you really think universities spend money on MOOCs to simply create a better education world?!

The Online Education Revolution Drifts Off Course

Enter MOOC 2.0. Udacity and other leading MOOC providers now realize that a more expansive, human-centered support structure is key to helping students retain information, stick with the course — and finish.
"We [added] human mentors," says Thrun. "We have people almost 24-7 that help you when you get stuck. We also added a lot of projects that require human feedback and human grading.
"And that human element, surprise, surprise, makes a huge difference in the student experience and the learning outcomes," he says.
Interesting NPR program on the changing nature of MOOCs.
As I argued last year, in the future blended learning and the 'blended professor' who is fluent with 'the classroom' and 'the Internet' will become more important.

Academia -In other news
Top 100 Universities in Africa in 2013

The rankings of Africa’s top higher education institutions is provided by the 4 International Colleges & Universities (4icu). 4icu is an international higher education search engine and directory reviewing accredited Universities and Colleges in the world. (...)
A quick look shows that South African universities dominate the top despite the fact that South Africa ranks very low on the quality of education in the world.
Interesting ranking to learn more about leading African universities.

Hear Michel Foucault Deliver His Lecture on “Truth and Subjectivity” at UC Berkeley, In English (1980)

He quotes from a historical French psychiatrist’s account of a “cure” involving an “interrogation” and a coerced confession of madness. Foucault calls this one among many examples of “truth therapies,” and it serves—as do such vividly specific archival examples in his books—as a harrowing introduction to the policing of capital-T Truth that is the essence of the humanist enterprise.
Despite the often profoundly unsettling nature of his investigations, and his attempt to scare off the crowd, Foucault is not dour or boring, nor does he seem at all unapproachable or forbidding. He is patient and self-deprecatingly funny
Is there a better way to round off the first link review of 2014 than a link to some good old-school Foucault material?!


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