Links & Contents I Liked 130

Hello all,

Let's just jump right into another comprehensive review! We have new stuff from Aidnography-and a new section that digs into the blog's archive.UN South Sudan whistle blowing, international adoptions, a code of conduct for using photos, the problem with 'evidence' and 'founderitis'; new reports from UNV on global volunteering and from IRIS on localising humanitarianism; tons of digital issues: PopTech, cyber cartels, your dads tech & the challenges of big data and transparency for school quality rating websites; last not least, a look into the value of research methods when discussing Hollaback and research papers as high as Mount Kilimanjaro!


New from aidnography

The future of expats in a globalized development industry-Reflections on the Devex Career Forum

The (expat) aid worker experience will become ‘cheaper’ – in terms of lifestyles, salaries and perks as well as a general ‘doing more with less’ theme.
Old* from aidnography
A few reflections on the ‘blended professor’ of the future (November 2013)

What we will likely see more of is a generation of academics that will use (or forced to use) a mix of blended technology, pedagogy and skills – from TA-ing as a professor in a MOOC to adopting teaching from near-high school levels to PhD supervision. This may not be as ‘radical’, ‘revolutionary’ or ‘disruptive’ as fancy op-ed writers claim regularly, but especially for those at the beginning of their academic careers or post-graduate studies it will be important to think about some of the changes of academia as a profession in the nearer rather than further future.
OLPC in Ethiopia: The thin line between digital innovation, cargo cult and peoples on parade (November 2012)
And the question remains whether OLPC’s technological enthusiasm may come off as (neo)colonial, patronising and probably not the best approach if (local) anthropologists, (local) childhood learning experts etc. are not involved and certainly are not featured in OLPC’s conference presentations.
Links & Content I liked 01 (November 2011)
The first ever, very humble link review...
*After more than 300 posts and 3 years of blogging I decided to feature selected, interesting older posts that I wrote approximately 1, 2 or 3 years ago-partly to remind myself of 'good old days', partly to see which issues are still discussed and partly because new readers and students have joined and can find easier access to my blog archive.

Development news

U.N. Whistleblower Decries 'Cover-Up of a Cover-Up' Over Darfur Debacle

The report concluded that U.N. officials in Darfur, fearing reprisals from an often hostile Sudanese government, self-censored their reporting on Sudanese abuses, leading to "under-reporting of incidents when Government and pro-Government forces were suspected to be involved," according to a five-page summary of the Cooper review distributed Wednesday to members of the 15-nation Security Council. (...)
But Ban insisted that the report "did not find any evidence to support the allegation that UNAMID intentionally sought to cover up crimes against civilians and peacekeepers," (...). And no individuals responsible for shortcomings were singled out in the summary or punished.
While the report's summary echoes Ban's conclusion that there was no evidence U.N. and African Union peacekeeping officials "intentionally" covered up crimes, it provides considerable circumstantial evidence suggesting they may have.
The complexities of UN peacekeeping work, the chances and limitations of whistle-blowing in the digital age and the limits of transparency in international affairs-a lot to think about...

Not a Treat: The UK Aid Impact Commission’s Report on DFID’s Anticorruption Activities

But I didn’t learn anything much from the report—good or bad—about DFID’s impact on corruption because ICAI’s attitude to what counts as evidence is so inconsistent between what it asks of DFID and what it accepts for itself. For example, ICAI suggests that DFID can’t show the robust links between an initiative like the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and reduced poverty. (...) But ICAI can’t attack DFID for inadequate evidence on the one hand and then turn around and use similarly inadequate evidence to suggest failure and success on the other.
Charles Kenny on the difficulties of treating 'evidence' like a fixed, clear, implementable 'thing'-like 'data', 'evidence' doesn't really mean anything and still needs to discussed, implemented and included in messy policy-making processes.

International adoption made me a commodity, not a daughter

International adoption is built upon a foundation of lies and cultural misunderstandings. Better regulation would help, but the power is concentrated in the hands of a powerful adoption agency lobby and adoptive parents, who have legal rights adoptees lack. Adoptive parents’ desires become instantly more important that the child or the child’s homeland, culture, and first family. Adoptees’ histories are erased when their birth certificates are changed to reflect only the names of their adoptive parents – and those parents can change adoptees’ names against the children’s wishes. Adoptee voices are rarely heard in policy discussions and, when they are, they are often dismissed as “angry” or “ungrateful”.
Adoption didn’t help me; it helped the adoption business. Adoption didn’t “save” me; it served the American view of adoption.
A personal story from a young Ethiopian woman who was adopted by American parents...if you are interested in the global adoption industry, do check out 'Finding Fernanda', a book I reviewed in 2012: Finding Fernanda – A compassionate story about the adoption industry in Guatemala highlights core development dilemmas

Practice What You Preach: An Empathetic Approach to Photo Use for the Social Sector

Distinguishing between images that are used internally for research only and images that could be used externally—on the website, research reports, or elsewhere—proved helpful to realizing this system. Where a photo of a person is used to draw a direct connection to an individual, place, or context, using that image makes perfect sense. But where a photo of a person is used only to draw a connection to ‘corporate’ Reboot, this doesn’t fit well with our values. We need to be aware of the fact that we are essentially facilitating an introduction to these people through their imagery, and therefore must be more intentional about how we tell their story when we do use images of people in our corporate communications.
Reboot's Jennifer Thibault reflects on important questions around images and communication that are obviously relevant for many aspects of C4D practice.

Five ways I hope to avoid founder’s syndrome on my project

It takes a certain type of person to look at that situation and decide to do something about it. I’ve realised that it feeds a part of my personality that likes to fight for the underdog. But the kind of person who wants to start something isn’t necessarily the person who should continue it.
Weh Yeoh on how he thinks about the challenging issue of 'founderitis' rights from the start of his fantastic project!

Have you tuned into this fortnights show of Emergency AIDio? - Social Connection in Aid Work.....staying close when apart

Tune into todays show of Emergency AIDio with guests Brendan Rigby and Weh Yeoh the co-founders of WhyDev, and awesome hip hop beats to get you into the vibe. They’ll be diving deep into all things good and bad in the space of social connection, by sharing their insight into the value of peer support, and how it can help to strengthen our ability to thrive amidst the chaos that often surrounds us as aid workers.
Great resource, great show-and who wouldn't like to have the WhyDev founders as guests?!

Hot off the (digital) press

UNV’s experience in strengthening volunteer infrastructure

UNV’s experience in strengthening volunteer infrastructure” is a series of knowledge products based on the findings of the evaluation which currently includes a global report and country reports for Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Liberia, Nepal, Togo, and Viet Nam. These reports are produced in a reader-friendly format to facilitate the dissemination of knowledge on volunteer infrastructure.
Lots of interesting case studies about national volunteering infrastructures around the globe.

GSDM October 2014 Edition Published!

GSDM’s guest contributor Helen Long’s compilation Ten Grassroots Environmental Justice Campaigns from Around the World and Prasiddha Khanal’s photo story on child labor in Nepal are certainly going to make you think. Finally, Prof. Anupama Saxena’s take on development and the tribal people of India calls for a rights-based approach to development and Diego Cupolo’s reporting on drones’ use in Latin America warns about the security threat imposed by the increased use of drones in Latin America.
I wish I had time to read all of these essays, articles and stories!

'De-Internationalising' Humanitarian Action: Rethinking the 'Global-Local' Relationship (pdf)

I argue that, with the exception of the ICRC and a handful of ‘purist’ Dunantist organisations, international relief agencies face an unpalatable choice between defending an international right to provide humanitarian assistance (on the basis that such a right is needed for effective response in conflict settings) and taking the actions necessary to build local response capacity. The ‘purist’ Dunantists I mention do not face this dilemma, as they have chosen to restrict the scope of their actions in a manner that is consistent with the international right to provide humanitarian assistance. The challenge arises specifically for agencies that wish to build local response but maintain an ‘exception’ for internationally‐led response in cases of conflict (by appealing to the comparative effectiveness of international versus local response in these contexts). This dilemma poses a fundamental challenge to the justification of such a position at the organisational level.
Alice Obrecht's new paper is the latest addition to a great collection of reflective papers around humanitarian issues that the IRIS Institute has been publishing.

Our digital lives
Notes on PopTech

The theme was “rebellion” and I liked the people who didn’t necessarily think of themselves as rebels, but who were just doing their thing. I liked hearing the stories from those who seemed less accustomed to the stage, who didn’t have a Ted-Style hero story, and who seemed a bit uncomfortable in the limelight. When it comes to social change, I believe that humility is a key ingredient. Being true to a mission through and through is critical whether you are working in a non-profit or as a social entrepreneur. It was great to see folks on stage who are living their ethics through their work.
Linda Raftree shares many great nuggets of wisdom on how to create a good experience for yourself at the next big, fancy, tech-heavy conference.

Should Schools Be Closed? Learning from Schooloscope, an OpenData post-mortem

While some parents admitted the site was of great help for them choosing where to live and where to send their kids to school and some even used it to demand change, the site received quite a lot of complaints from teachers, head teachers and parents who were offended by the way their schools were represented on the site.
Maintaining the data proved more difficult and laborious than initially expected, with Ofsted often changing the way they measure the schools which led to Schooloscope’s algorithms breaking. The data released was not always complete or came late, and by the time it could be formatted too many schools were showing old data that was no longer representative of their current status.
It challenges the sentiments that see data as value-neutral and its representation as devoid of politics. In fact, access to school data exposes a sharp contrast between the private interest of the family (best education for my child) and the public interest of the government (best education for all citizens). When families that are privileged enough distance their children from “sad schools”, the situation only gets sadder and this well meaning act of transparency leads to further inequality.
when it comes to the conflicts between the public and the private, is open data and its representation really value-neutral? Ultimately, whether it be school sites, hospital comparison tables, or crime maps, are these open data initiatives really built to fight for change? or are they simply normalising the status quo?
Mo' data, mo' problems...Mushon Zer-Aviv's detailed and thoughtful essay is definitely food for thought for (big) data enthusiasts-and we will be seeing more of these challenges in the future.

Guns, gore and girls: the rise of the cyber cartels

Cartels are integrating cyber into their more traditional business and using the net to advertise and organise their skills. Many of them are monitoring would-be opponents or victims, and some of them are even inventing new types of crime -- like threatening kidnappings using knowledge garnered from geolocation and GPS. "The gangs don't even have to leave their seat to enable this kind of crime."
The effect of this online activity by gangs has not just resulted in more killing and violence though; cyber cartels have also had a "chilling effect" on new media. Prominent journalists are being intimidated and killed, and the result is that the media itself in Latin America is self-censoring. "Paradoxically some of the most objective and accurate information is available only on social media," says Muggah.
Robert Muggah on how gang and cartels in Latin America are engaging with the digital world...

The Dads of Tech

Most of all, the dominance of the Dad’s-eye-view of the world shores up the Internet’s underlying economic operating system. This also means a de facto free pass for corporate surveillance, along with an increasing concentration of wealth and power in the coffers of a handful of advertising-dependent, privacy-violating info-monopolies and the men who run them (namely Google and Facebook, though Amazon and Apple are also addicted to sucking up our personal data). Study after study shows that women are more sensitive to the subject of privacy than men, from a Pew poll that found that young girls are more prone than boys are to disabling location tracking on their devices to another that showed that while women are equally enthusiastic about technology in general, they’re also more concerned about the implications of wearable technologies. A more complicated Internet would incorporate these legitimate apprehensions instead of demanding “openness” and “transparency” from everyone. (It would also, we dare to hope, recognize that the vacuous sloganeering on behalf of openness only makes us more easily surveilled by government and big business.) But, of course, imposing privacy protections would involve regulation and impede profit—two bĂȘte noires of tech dudes who are quite sure that Internet freedom is synonymous with the free market.
No snippet can do this great essay by Astra Taylor and Joanne McNeil justice! Your must-read in this review!


Hollaback and Why Everyone Needs Better Research Methods

The Hollaback video also shows why “data” without theory can be so misleading—and how the same data can fit multiple theories. Since all data collection involves some form of data selection (even the biggest dataset has selection going into what gets included, from what source), and since data selection is always a research method, there is always a need for understanding methods.
Research methods, a topic that is seemingly so dry, are the heart and soul of knowledge. Most data supports more than one theory. This does NOT mean all data supports all theories: rather, multiple explanations can fit one set of findings. Choosing the right underlying theory, an iterative process that always builds upon itself, requires thinking hard on how data selection impacts findings, and how presentation of findings lends itself to multiple theories, and how theories fit with existing worldviews, and how better research design can help us distinguish between competing explanation.
Zeynep Tufekci on why any video, campaign, catchy, viral, fashionable digital thingy deserves critical attention and 'boring' questions often asked and trained in research methods courses... 
Most cited research papers

The bar on the left shows the height of a theoretical stack of papers that represents the first page of every paper cataloged in Web of Science. It would almost reach the height of Mount Kilimanjaro. The breakout stack is a zoomed in view of the 14,351 paper pages with at least 1,000 citations, and finally, the magnified orange section represents the top 100 papers.
A mountain of research, literally a mountain if you printed them all out...


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