Links & Contents I Liked 122

Hello all,

Between my academic vacation (i.e. a non-holiday dedicated to reading and writing and enjoying it very much!) and preparing high quality new blog content my weekly link review is a bit off balance...this is actually not a bad thing as it gives me more time to select slightly less time-urgent content or include replies to more news-ish items...anyway...a great review starts with 'Devsplaining', IDS going open access, sex & the aid worker, World Bank self-praise, Canada's destructive development climate, the state of humanitarian research, a long read on Kari Polanyi's long live and open access reading tips!
The highlights in Our Digital Lives is an essay on why social transformation needs friction and the challenges of data journalism; finally, a look at netnography, Snowden & the 'burning paradise' of the academic sector.


New from aidnography
I’m getting tired of ‘corporatization’ claims regarding the development industry
As always, MSF provides valuable food for thought, discussion and action-and the bureaucratic crisis of the UN remains one of the key issue of this report-but as sustained aspirations are necessary, we should not unduly criticize the aid industry or lose sight of the bigger dynamics that enable many crises in the first place.

My summer readings on communication, ethnography, digital culture, development & expat aid work

Development news
Devsplaining - when a development worker, academic, or someone who generally has more power within the ‘development industry’ speaks condescendingly to someone with less power. The devsplainer assumes that he/she knows more and has more right to an opinion because of his/her position and power within the industry. Devsplaining is rooted in the assumption that, in general, development workers are likely to be more knowledgeable about the lives and situations of the people who participate in their programs/research than the people themselves are.
Inspired by 'mansplaining', Linda Raftree created 'Devsplaining'...question is: What is the correct hashtag for condescending men 'explaining' development?! Devmansplaining? Mandevsplaining??

IDS Bulletin to go open access in 2016
Melissa Leach, Director of IDS said:
‘I am delighted to announce that by 2016 every scholar, student, journalist, policy maker, NGO practitioner and librarian from Oxford to Freetown will be able to access the IDS Bulletin completely free and with minimal restrictions on the reuse of the content.
Since Linda Raftree was referring to the Open Knowledge Festival I want to take this opportunity to share some very good open access news!

So, about last week…
By hardly the second sentence into The Guardian’s article (written by those two researchers from IDS):
“…your day-to-day management challenges also included arguments over what time your colleagues could watch porn in the common room, and negotiating how staff could get to and from a brothel. Yet it is often a reality of the job and it is time we talked about it.”
Where to start? How about here: In a prior post, my research partner on this project described the “typical” aid worker, based on the results of this survey to-date. Once more with the spoiler: it’s a single, 30-something female. You can read the numbers in different ways (and we’ll eventually make raw data available in full), but basically the proportion of the single, 30-something women is above two-thirds of the total.
Based on the simple proportion of women to men in the industry overall, along with what we know from other sources about the propensity of men versus women when it comes to behaviors like paying for sex or consuming pornography, the statement above feels like a bit of overblown hand-wringing.
Also, I just have to say: in 23 years of continuous aid work, including quality time in some of the more notorious team houses in some of the more notorious responses, I have never (not once to-date) heard of aid workers watching porn in the common room.
J. responds to the GUARDIAN article on aid worker's sex lives from a big, groundbreaking survey. Based on my experience, I am also skeptical about the brothel-and-porn stories-and how often they actually happen...

Book: Media and Gender
The purpose of the book is to review some of the most significant scholarly contributions and to propose new directions for knowledge and action towards expanding women's human right to communicate.
Coming from Latin America, Asia, Africa, Europe and North America, the books authors are experts in the issues of the agenda and have been involved in both scholarly and political actions on the advancement of gender equality in media.
This book constitutes the first product of the Global Alliance on Media and Gender.
Open access book-definitely bookmarked for the reading list!

Africa sees $58 billion leave the continent each year
One of the most significant contributors are illicit financial flows. That is mostly money that is not taxed because it is held in off-shore accounts in friendly countries. These tax havens deprive an estimated $35.3 billion in money from remaining in the region. That is more than the $29.4 billion in aid given each year. Ending tax avoidance would essentially double the amount of aid money in Africa by simply preventing it from leaving in the first place.
Sharples hopes that this report can inform both policy makers and the general public. The key takeaway is that aid is only a small piece of the larger development puzzle. Accounting for all of the money that goes in and out of Africa is crucial to understanding what steps should be taken to support the continent’s growth. It also shatters some of the common perceptions about aid and Africa.
It's not the 'wasteful' development lifestyle that harms many parts of Africa, but the complex capitalistic system that enables illicit flows and tax havens.

Western firms 'receive lion's share of aid contracts'
"This imbalance in power structures means, among other things, that companies from wealthy nations have often received the lion's share of contracts. Investments are sometimes routed through tax havens, helping to legitimise their role in the loss of hundreds of billions of dollars to developing countries through tax dodging by multinationals."
The report states that the financial sector has been singled out for particular attention from DFIs in recent years. More than 50% of funding for the private sector went to financial organisations, a move Eurodad says raised serious questions about the kind of impact the investment would have on the ground following the recent financial crisis that "was driven by irresponsible investment decisions and financial deregulation".
And yet again, even if the take a closer look at 'aid' money we recognize that corporate involvement is potentially a bigger problem with more unsustainable outcomes that traditional aid and aid organizations are likely to achieve...

Proposed “Transparency Revolution” in new global development goals meeting UN resistance
If this new language stands, one likely consequence would be the absence from the SDGs of any empirical indicators measuring the availability of such information. Governments would instead be free to report on their own “Access to Information” progress with anecdotes, bromides and unverified national statistical reports.
This is not a North vs. South debate, as some have wrongly portrayed it. Many African, Asian and Latin American countries have firmly backed the inclusion of clear access-to-information and independent-media targets in the Open Working Group debates. But neither does it reflect a consistent divide between democracies and authoritarian regimes. While opposition was vigorously voiced by Russia, China, Cuba and Venezuela, the dissenters also included India, Bangladesh, and Brazil. Objections included concerns that such targets would be used as donor-imposed conditions for development aid and assertions that monitoring progress in these target areas is inherently subjective and unmeasurable.
Bill Orme on the UN negotiations around the post-MDG MDGs...not surprisingly, a lot of 'open' and 'data' talk will remain just that as many states for various reasons are fundamentally not interested in an 'open data revolution'.

How the World Bank Got Over the Curse of Knowledge
We realized over time that the data wasn’t being held back intentionally by the leadership. They had actually thought the information was public. The problem was we had not made the distinction between what’s public and what’s searchable and tagged as usable. Much of our information was in pdf files that you could access if you knew where to look, but most people didn’t know where to look. Also, most people didn’t go to the World Bank homepage to look for data, but to Google or Yahoo or Bing.
The interview with World Bank's Aleem Walji is an interesting exercise in learning about the internalization of corporate speak into Bank operations, the right words and vocabulary and how no one at the Bank would ever hold back important data...

Study cites 'chill' from tax agency audits
Kirkby found evidence for what he called "advocacy chill" among charities who've been subject to some of the dozens of political-activity audits being conducted by the Canada Revenue Agency.
"The data suggest that the current federal government is corrupting Canada's democratic processes by treating as political enemies those civil-society organizations whose contributions to public policy conversations differ from government priorities," concludes Kirkby's MA thesis, accepted last month by the university after vetting by academic supervisors.
"What is unprecedented is the ... coupling of that rhetoric with action. This action entails specifically politicized use of the associated governmental regulatory body (the Charities Directorate at CRA) to pursue harassing actions seemingly designed to 'muffle' and 'distract.'"
Canada and Australia under their Conservative governments are quite successful in dismantling civil society and the development sector...the natural resource income is just too tempting to bother with pesky Human Rights and the environment...

The Donors’ Dilemma: Emergence, Convergence and the Future of Foreign Aid
As poverty declines, what if the remaining pockets of poverty are increasingly focused in countries where aid is already on the way to becoming irrelevant as domestic resources grow - such as some middle income countries - or in countries which cannot absorb aid easily and quickly – meaning many fragile states?
This is the question addressed by contributors to Global Policy’s first e-book entitled ‘The Donors’ Dilemma: Emergence, Convergence and the Future of Aid', guest edited by Dr Andy Sumner, Co-Director, King’s International Development Institute, King’s College London, and Tom Kirk, Researcher at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
A lot of food for thought and debate-not open access, but the very modest ebook price tag gives you a lot of aid thinking bang for the buck...

Antonio Donini, Senior Researcher, Tufts University

Watch Antonio Donini addressing the following topics:
What are the main trends in the humanitarian sector today?
The principal challenges and opportunities?
How will the humanitarian sector look in 10 years' time?
What role should the Sphere Project play in the future?
This video is part of the "Seven-minute expert talks on humanitarian affairs" series
Interesting short video-as the description indicates...

Interview with Michèle Rioux: Nine Decades of Scientific and Militant Life

This is a transcript of an interview conducted by Professor Michèle Rioux, Director of the Centre d’études sur l’intégration et la mondialisation (CEIM) and full professor in the department of Political Science at the Université de Quebec á Montreal, with Kari Polanyi during the Fall of 2013 and published in Interventions Economiques. The interview is part of a research project leading to a book that will discuss the work and life of two extraordinary women in Canadian political economy, Kari Polanyi and Sylvia Ostry.
The solution does not lie in ever more sophisticated technologies but on the contrary, in questioning how we really want to live with each other, in the natural environment we are too rapidly destroying.
A fascinating long read interview with 91-year old Kari Polanyi on political economy and so much more!

Our Digital Lives

The year of the freedom technologist

But perhaps I am giving freedom technologists too much credit. What exactly have they contributed to the new protest movements? With what consequences, if any, for real political change? What can we expect from them in future global and national crises? More importantly, what can the rest of us do to help? These are precisely the questions I will be asking in a new series of 42 blog posts over at my research blog, media/anthropology. This public scholarship marathon will run for a year, each post symbolically standing for one kilometre.
John Postill introduces his writing project at the intersection of technology, media and anthropology.

Alberto Cairo: Data journalism needs to up its own standards

Even if data journalism is by no means a new phenomenon, it has entered the mainstream quite recently, breezed over the peak of inflated expectations, and precipitously sank into a valley of gloom. Hopefully, it’ll soon enter the last phase, one of stability and productivity. There’s a need for a journalism which is more rigorous and scientific. Data skills shouldn’t be the turf of a small guild of savants — they should permeate journalism in general. Data and explanatory news organizations can help achieve those goals.
Albert Cairo reviews data journalism between hype, crisis and promising prospects.

The case for hard: why social transformation demands lots of social friction

Note that ‘innovation’ here seems to be a euphemism for ‘marginalizing workers and circumventing demands for transparency’ – in other words, removing the obstacles that are inherent to the democratic process. This use of language reveals the real weakness of this mentality: if a project can be made easy, (for example, by removing oversight or abolishing the need to negotiate with labour unions), then it must be an improvement, a better way of achieving social change.
But sanitized social change – carefully engineered and described in the most anemic terms available – isn’t change at all. Power concedes nothing without a fight, and the fight is always worth it. Reparations for racial discrimination show why the wrenchingly difficult processes of confrontation, negotiation and repair both rely on and encourage the human traits most crucial for deep-rooted social transformation: empathy, obligation, humility, sacrifice, patience and a never-ending commitment to democracy.
Amy Schiller hits the nerve of an entire generation between digital solutionism, the entrepreneurism and innovation discourses and the global rise of the Silicon Valley mindset. Highly recommended read!

Academia & Anthropology

Academia and the people without jobs

My title is also written with more than a little irony. The “people without jobs” aren’t all simply jobless. They just don’t have the right jobs to be included in academia’s big self-promotional story. They are academia’s others. The ones who aren’t working as deans, provosts, and department chairs. They are the adjuncts, the lecturers, the people who work at Home Depot or spend their nights as waiters and waitresses. They ended up switching careers, starting all over, or worse. Their stories give us another view of academia. Another version of events. Their histories—contrary to the shiny pages of university websites—tell us what higher education isn’t doing. Their voices can tell us what went wrong, and what needs to change.
Our paradise burns. We stand by watching. We burn with it. We have to change the narrative. We need to listen to those other voices.
Ryan Anderson adds yet another great essay to the debate on the non-future of the academic industry...

The difference between netnography and digital ethnography

I decided to talk here about my work as in this chapter I am trying to reiterate different stiles of online ethnography by distinguishing between their specific theoretical, methodological and technical characteristics. To this purpose, I am focusing on three emblematic ethnographic styles: ethnography of the virtual worlds, netnography and digital ethnography. Hereby I will only discuss synthetically about netnography and digital ethnography, two labels that too often are mingled.
Alessandro Caliandro provides a concise overview over digital anthropological concepts.

Surveillance, Snowden, and Big Data: Capacities, consequences, critique

However, for a fuller understanding of Snowden's revelations and Big Data surveillance several matters have to be unpacked, not least the questions of the socio-technical character of Big Data, how several of the Snowden revelations demonstrate dependence on Big Data techniques and which have a highly significant impact for understanding the character of surveillance today. Of course, some of what Snowden has revealed involves targeting but the main focus here is on Big Data techniques. Beyond this, it is vital to consider what is meant by the controversial key concepts, “Big Data and surveillance.” What follows is a provocative introduction to some key issues raised by the social and political realities of this conceptual conjunction, prompted by the Snowden revelations.
The open access journal Big Data & Society with a special issue around Edward Snowden and his leaks.


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