Links & Contents I Liked 117

Hi all,

Amidst the end of the teaching term demands and our forthcoming trip to New York and Guelph, I managed to fit in a fresh link review: More on our forthcoming communication and development seminar in Canada; it's not just World Bank publications that nobody reads; Canada’s ‘confidential’ aid transparency; why I largely agree with Anti-Voluntourists; debunking myths about the ‘data revolution’; why ICT4D will stick around as political project; women entrepreneurs' difficult access to funding; DevBalls-new fresh aid snark from the UK; Is science blogging bad for research applications? New publications by Saskia Sassen and on Foucault & Deleuze


New from aidnography
Shame (book review & discussion with author Jillian Reilly)
One of my personal highlights of our recent trip to South Africa was the discussion I had with (former) aid worker and author Jillian Reilly.
We took her biography as the starting to discuss aid work as a career, entering the industry before it really was one, becoming a reflective practitioner, leaving the industry and writing a very interesting book about it all. I will start with my review before introducing our discussion.

Communication for Social and Environmental Change – a two day seminar

Speakers, panel discussions, Campus radio station CFRU 93.3 will broadcast World Café, student posters and interactions among academics and practitioners for critical reflection on communication and media for social and environmental change. Sessions will consider communication and community engagement in rural and remote areas of Canada, participatory video and filmmaking, journalism within the community and international development context, community informatics and the use of information and communication technologies for teaching and learning globally and learning.
If you happen to be in the greater Toronto area you should definitely consider joining us in Guelph for an awesome seminar on Communication for Development! There's a nice 1-minute radio PSA that introduces the project and seminar.

Rise of Social Media Transforms Philanthropy in China

The rapid rise of social media and the advent of online giving have empowered new donors and grantees alike. By being able to donate online easily while gaming, shopping, or socializing, ordinary citizens are able to respond instantly to issues they care about
social media platforms have already shown potential to become game changers for China’s nonprofit sector by encouraging average citizens to participate in philanthropy, and by providing these prospective donors with greater choice, information, and access.
It will be interesting to see how 'political' the philanthropical sector in China will become and what role social media are allowed to play...

The “Evitability” Of Killer Robots

In short, no military technology is “inevitable.” And neither are killer robots. Whether we plunge forward simply because we can or establish a precautionary principle or red-line ban against their use will be entirely a matter of political will and imagination.
Charli Carpenter points out that killer robots, drones and other military technological 'advances' still rely on political will and 'soft' factors that peace researchers and activist have always pointed out.

The solutions to all our problems may be buried in PDFs that nobody reads

The World Bank recently decided to ask an important question: Is anyone actually reading these things? They dug into their Web site traffic data and came to the following conclusions: Nearly one-third of their PDF reports had never been downloaded, not even once. Another 40 percent of their reports had been downloaded fewer than 100 times. Only 13 percent had seen more than 250 downloads in their lifetimes. Since most World Bank reports have a stated objective of informing public debate or government policy, this seems like a pretty lousy track record.
This article has been shared quite widely in the last few days, but it's worth to take the following post into consideration as well:

Are 90% of academic papers really never cited? Reviewing the literature on academic citations.

Many academic articles are never cited, although I could not find any study with a result as high as 90%. Non-citation rates vary enormously by field. “Only” 12% of medicine articles are not cited, compared to about 82% (!) for the humanities.
It's worth linking Dahlia Remler's insights to the non-citation of World Bank reports. It seems that the World Bank is not doing too bad given that many reports are probably closer to social science rather than medicine. There is an over-production of 'stuff' everywhere...

5 reasons why Save the Children Australia’s new ad is bad development

Save the Children Australia’s new ad (which has recently been removed from YouTube) is a blast from the past but not in a good way. It is a reminder of how far we’ve come from stereotyping the poor and Africa, and choosing to use images of children dying to trigger people to put their hands in their pockets and give. It’s a sad day when an international NGO uses poverty porn because while it may give them much-needed funds it goes against obtaining long-term aid and development goals.
Many of our ComDev students are analyzing development campaigns for their assignments and Rachel Kurzyp provides a very good example of how to approach bad campaigning

Accountability in Canada's Muskoka Initiative questioned

Is the Canadian Prime Minster's billion dollar initiative for maternal, newborn, and child health failing to meet the standards it has urged on the rest of the world?
Nor have Canadian officials embraced the COIA's recommendation that results be made fully public. When The Lancet requested outcome reports for five recently completed Muskoka Initiative projects described online, officials refused to release four of them, citing legal concerns. For the fifth project, no outcome report was prepared. “If it is confidential information”, explains Jacovella about the government's refusal to release outcome reports on projects executed by third parties, “of course we can't share it”. Nevertheless, she insists, “we do take accountability seriously. We don't just talk about it”.
A great case study of what 'aid transparency' means 'at home'...

The Voluntourism Assault: Stop Making This About Your Righteousness

Anti-Voluntourists cut off dialogue with students and short-circuit a learning process—as if the goals and means were perfectly obvious. My personal experience as a student travel leader has made me wary of this rhetoric. A preoccupation with controlling students’ behavior can manifest in a disdain for critical learning and resentment for students who don’t fit your criteria. New travelers should be allowed to forge their own path—just as we were—and not be written off because they are not yet doctors or engineers with highly applicable skill sets. Are we expecting full-grown Mohammad Yunuses to emerge from third period Algebra?
I have two problems with this post: First, why is 'normal' travel seemingly impossible these days? By making traveling almost by definition a meaningful volunteering activity you are creating problems right from the start. Second, for every open-minded, (self-)critical and willing to listen and learn student there is a growing generation of young people who think they can make short-cuts and have 'impact' right away. The post makes many good points about learning together in a global world, but sometimes travel, learning and growth may happen in different, 'boring' spaces before skills and insights can be applied to create 'impact'.

Four Myths About the Data Revolution

Myth #2: The data revolution is something distinct and greater than the sum of its parts. Probably not, at least not right now. The data revolution is currently a convenient and sexy bumper sticker that one can slap onto a number of ongoing or aspired-for initiatives including: open data efforts, big data efforts, crowdsourcing initiatives, creating a Global Partnership for Development Data to better track progress towards macro-level development goals, capacity building of national statistical offices, using data to inform public policy and service delivery processes, improved feedback loops between service delivery users and providers, and the list goes on. If this sounds like a big and messy tent, it is, and that might be ok. But be wary of anyone selling you “data revolution” snake oil that pretends to be something in and of itself; it’s likely not.
Very concise and critical input on data and its surrounding myths to 'change everything'.

Why we created Data-Pop: a global alliance & call for a people-centered Big Data revolution

What we saw and see as missing is ‘something’—a player or a group of players—serving as a connecting hub, sounding board, and driving force, with the credibility and agility, the intent and capacity, to promote the kind of ‘Big Data revolution’ we feel is needed. What brought us and our organizations together is the conviction that Big Data must increase and not reduce the power of citizens: that the kinds of low granularity, high frequency, digital personal data (these 'digital breadcrumbs') passively emitted by humans ought to be leveraged to impact policies and politics for the benefit of people. We want to see Big Data amplify the voice and knowledge of the emitters of data, not just improve the insights and means of surveillance of corporations and governments. This will require a better informed, more empowered, global citizenry, and a deeper understanding of the appropriate balance between individual, social, governmental, and commercial interests—with the overarching ethical dimensions and implications.
A new initiative led by a small circle of premium elite scientists attempts to drive the 'people-centered' big data revolution...definitely an interesting space to watch.

The advent of crowdfunding innovations for development

Crowdfunding’s rise is helping to compensate for a fall in traditional funding
Various sites have been launched with a science and technology focus
Crowdfunding success is more to do with the pitch than where backers are from
After some critical thoughts on (big) data, is crowdfunding the next latest hype?! If the pitch matters a lot, we are likely to see an increased 'TED-isation' of presentations-which is not always a good thing when tackling complex development problems.

ICT4D is Dead! Long Live ICT4D!

I don't enough about the field of public health to calculate how soon it might be possible to attain the requisite skill levels for ICT in public health education in all countries, but I nonetheless look forward to the death of ICT4D predicated on foreign technocrats and on 'international development'.
I believe that there will be an on-going role for practical ICT4D work in all territories for many years to come due to (a) on-going structural inequality and injustice and (b) the fast pace of technological change and innovation.
Like Steve Song I don't really care whether 'ICT4D' is what you wanna call it, but for as long as obscene levels of inequality exist people will continue to organise practically and politically to resist that injustice, and in their acts of resistance they will continue to appropriate whatever technologies are available in their efforts to secure a better life.
Tony Roberts on why ICT4D is more than just computer and IT skills in a developing country setting-and far from 'dead'...

What if women ruled the world?

This IDS and Pathways of Women's Empowerment co-hosted event, will bring together a panel of inspirational women from Brighton and beyond to discuss whether the world would be a healthier, fairer and more sustainable place if there were more women in power.
Great line-up of speakers and the event will be live streamed!

Women Entrepreneurs Fight for Their Piece of the Pie

Kathryn Minshew, who co-founded the career advice and job-search tool The Muse in 2011, says women are frequently asked to drinks by VCs who say they might be interested in investing. But instead of a business meeting, it turns out to be a date. Over the course of her company’s first year, Minshew says, she spent “probably 30 hours, maybe more” going on bait-and-switch drinks of that nature.
“One of the very common questions I get from younger entrepreneurs is, How do you very nicely confirm with an investor that something is a business meeting and not a personal meeting, without offending them?”
Zoe Schlanger's long essay at NewsWeek (wasn't this like a printed magazine aeons ago?!?!) raises important questions about gender, funding and power relations and is certainly very relevant for the development industry as well.


DevBalls is an online space for comment on the international development aid industry.
DevBalls is here because the aid industry has – functionally and morally – lost its way. And those who should hold it to account - the media, researchers, politicians - don’t. DevBalls is here because aid can only become better when its absurdities and hypocrisies are open to view.
Aid snark is back in even snarkier tones-I wonder who is behind this: Conservatives who just don't like 'aid'? Critical liberals who are tired of the aid industry? Disgruntled academics? 

A picture says more...


Blog about science? Kiss your grant proposal goodbye

It doesn’t matter if he blogs in his spare time, or during `office hours,` this shouldn’t have happened. One could argue that dollar for dollar, a grant spent on Eisen will have far greater return on investment and impact than a large majority of other scholars. What do I qualify as impact? It goes beyond direct research contributions, but inspiring new students, inspiring citizen scientists, inspiring peers, and inspiring one’s self by exploring thoughts through different channels. Science outreach should never be penalized, yet that is exactly what has occurred.
It looks as if Jonathan Eisen's grant application was turned down because a reviewer thought he blogs too much which seemed to equate to less time available for 'real science' in the lab. I agree that blogging has become an essential tool for public engagement and outreach-strange, that you actually have to point that out to people...

Expulsions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy

The second logic is the transformation of growing areas of the world into extreme zones for these new or sharply expanded modes of profit extraction. The most familiar are global cities and the spaces for outsourced work. Each is a type of thick local setting that contains the diverse conditions global firms need, though each does so at very different stages of the global economic process, for instance, computers for high-finance versus manufacturing components for those computers. Other such local settings in today’s global economy are plantations and places for resource extraction, both producing mostly for export. The global city is a space for producing some of the most advanced inputs global firms need. In contrast, outsourcing is about spaces for routinized production of components, mass call centers, standardized clerical work, and more, all of it massive and standardized. Both these types of spaces are among the most strategic factors in the making of today’s global economy, besides intermediate sectors such as transport. They concentrate the diverse labor markets, particular infrastructures, and built environments critical to the global economy. And they are the sites that make visible, and have benefited from, the multiple deregulations and guarantees of contract developed and implemented by governments across the world and by major international bodies—in both cases, work mostly paid for by the taxpayers in much of the world.
Saskia Sassen also has a new book that critically examines the global economy-looks promising, but also not exactly groundbreaking, but it's difficult to judge from one brief abstract.

Number 17: April 2014: Foucault and Deleuze
Remember the day when you wondered whether there is a cool open access journal out there that specifically engages with Foucault?! Well, it's just a click away...


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