Links & Contents I Liked 141

Hi all,

The last week was just crazy and we essentially skipped one iteration of your favorite link review. But I enjoyed the debates around my reflections on development volunteering and the rise of a new precariat...
So before we break for Easter (if you celebrate) let's catch up with some good readings!
From a critical CBC volunteering documentary to essential aid life hacks, Nepal's ever failing development, UNICEF's Twitter secrets, the lure of charity porn and an academic essay on 'Bankspeak', the language and discourse of World Bank report language, there is breadth and depth in the development news section!

In Digital Lives we have a guidelines for immersive media projects, an Instagram project that challenges community guidelines and censorship and why Twitter maps should be approached with caution. Last not least, Academia looks at peer review fraud once again and academic book reviews.


New from aidnography

The professionalization of development volunteering – towards a new global precariat?

As the nature of (paid) employment and donor-led development are shifting quickly, volunteering can easily turn into a Band-Aid to tie together different parts of CVs, ‘produce’ new categories of professionals and divert resources from critical engagement with the root causes of underdevelopment.
Well-meaning teachers, academics, policy-makers and NGO staff need to critically engage beyond the ‘any money for development is better than nothing’ argument.
Development news
Here's the Footage that got a CBC Doc Pulled off the Air
We looked into it and confirmed that the reason Volunteers Unleashed was pulled was due to "concerns" raised by Craig Kielburger's Me to We, the for-profit sister company to his Free the Children charity. Me to We pops up a couple of times in Volunteers Unleashed.
However, we had information suggesting that Me to We may have also raised the spectre of libel with the CBC over how they were portrayed in the documentary. Kielburger has sued journalists for libel before.
Like any other industry, the volunteering/voluntourism industry does not like critical mainstream media attention it seems...

10 Life Hacks I Learned by Doing Aid Work
Unless you score an open-ended UN contract, you use up all your savings just to support yourself in between jobs. You constantly question your motivation and the whole system. People slowly begin to think you’re mad. You find it hard to come back home. You even start to relate to soldiers’ stories of their tours in Iraq or Afghanistan. You are frustrated that you haven’t done enough. Or that you’ve wasted years of your life only to end up burnt out and bitter. Or that you’ve done enough and it’s time to find a guy, get a house, pop out a few children and so on.
But here’s what - aid work is like a crash course on life. Here are 10 life hacks I learned by doing aid work
Even though Claudia Liute does not exactly share secrets for those who are professionally involved in the aid industry, I like the fact that her post is doing well on LinkedIn-a space that definitely needs more critical development writing than Richard Branson quotes...

Does humanitarian aid mend communities or break them?
In our interviews, excluded people express bitterness even if they were often unsure who they should be angry at. Should it be the agency creating these selective criteria, governmental officials producing aid lists or neighbours who have received more from humanitarian workers?
So what should you do? Well, when discussing the hidden injuries of humanitarian relief, it is important to emphasise the importance of community consultations to understand local customs and preferences, especially as Filipino village cultures traditionally emphasise values of neighbourly cooperation and mutual obligation to care for each other.
Yes, of course disaster calls for an urgent response. But humanitarians must also pay attention to local sensitivities. After all, community wellbeing after disaster depends not only on addressing people’s material needs.
Jonathan Ong reminds us about some of the inherent complexities of delivering humanitarian aid and interfering with local communities.

Nepal's failed development
The migrants' achievements owe little to the development industry, and the development industry has little to say about them. There are few projects aimed at supporting them.
Nepal's problem is not a want of aid or technical advice. It is political. And if the donors are to be part of the solution, they must be brave enough to publicly demand meaningful action against the entrenched public corruption, the cartels, "syndicates" and "mafias" which are keeping the country poor.
By pumping in money without achievements to match, the donors partly contribute to making extractive politics sustainable. They should recognise that when a scheme doesn't deliver the promised results, the money has still paid for something: such as the empowerment of the corrupt, deeper inequality, and loss of public faith.
Thomas Bell's article is certainly not really news for those who have been following the development of development in Nepal. His article actually made me go back in time to one of my own first published pieces on Peacebuilding as spectator sport, published in 2007...

International NGO heads call for #globaldev restructure
Campolina said this approach would require a new generation of staff in his organization.
“They will be a combination of community organizers, people who can build alliances, people who can do a proper power analysis in a community or country, and people who can be strategists for policy change,” he noted. “There will also be a much stronger need for campaigning skills, but not the classic mode of campaigning — this will be campaigning with the poor, which is a mix between campaigning and community organizing.”
But Sriskandaraja said the sector has to be more radical because time is running out.
“So many of us are doing such wonderful work, but we’re just tinkering; we’re chipping away at little tiny manifestations of the problem,” he suggested. “More of us have to raise our eyes beyond delivering contracts or services or filling out donor reports, and instead start thinking about what more we can do to achieve that systemic change.”
Great food for debate from INGO leaders.

Truth or Charity? The Lure of Poverty Porn for Nonprofits
“The evidence presented above suggests that stereotypical, individualised, and depoliticised images are those most likely to stimulate recognition and, potentially, donations from the general public, yet perpetuate inaccurate understandings and a lack of empathy.
“You have two sides of a coin,” Nall Bales continues. “You have the actual social analysis of what the problem is and what would improve conditions, but you also have the way that people perceive that problem and what they perceive the solutions to be—and those things are joined at the hip.”
Shafaq Hasan summarizes recent debates around the lure for distorted representations of poverty to achieve short-term non-profit goals. And yes, the key point is that good work or 'evidence' does not simply speak for itself: 'Poverty', 'homelessness' or 'Africa' come with entrenched images, representations and cultural responses-and shifting those takes much more time.

What is the secret for UNICEF’s success on Twitter?
What is your advice for other international organisations?
“Look over the horizon and be ready for what’s next. The GSMA says that by 2020, four out of every five smartphone connections worldwide will come from the developing world. This presents tremendous challenges to traditional ways of communicating. Organisations must take care to speak with a human voice and focus on using digital to shrink the gaps between people in different countries. Social media, the internet – these are becoming ubiquitous more quickly than any of us expected.
Great interview with UNICEF's Jim Rosenberg on how the organization uses Twitter (and as I always point out: twiplomacy is a project of the global PR firm Burson Marstellar).

Why Louise Arbour is thinking twice
“Having worked in the human-rights field internationally, I now find it incredible how the West seems to be absolutely incapable of hearing what it sounds like to the rest of the world – a total disconnect, in the promotion of what it rightly believes are universal values, while being completely oblivious to the fact that others don’t take this at face value as being a good-faith pursuit of universal goods. It just doesn’t work.”
She now sees the R2P doctrine, in particular, as a failure: Its imposition by the UN in Libya, and the resulting chaos, severely crippled the notion of a legal intervention, she believes.
There is a basic flaw in the international effort to simultaneously pursue justice, peace and human rights, she says: “The initiation and unfolding of criminal prosecutions can complicate if not impede peace processes.” Conversely, the negotiation of a lasting peace often requires a delaying, or forgiving, of justice. And by attempting to impose fully formed notions of equal rights on countries that have yet to develop them internally, Western countries appear to be bullies, undermining their efforts on the other two fronts.
Louise Arbour is not exactly sharing best-kept secrets in this interview-but again, it is important that critical thinking like hers reaches mainstream media and policy institutions-because no amount of peace research, journal articles and academic talks will lead to change!

Bankspeak-The Language of World Bank Reports
The Bank has accelerated—but only its efforts; and all these efforts will do is—help; and all those helped will do is—cope; and the helping and coping will have to respect the promoting of the helping (again!) provided to growing economies. But there is no point in looking for the meaning of these passages in what they say: what really matters, here, is the proximity established between policy-making and the forms ending in -ing. It’s the message of the countless headlines that frame the text of the Reports: ‘Working with the poorest countries’, ‘Providing timely analysis’, ‘Sharing knowledge’, ‘Improving governance’, ‘Fostering private sector and financial sector development’, ‘Boosting growth and job creation’, ‘Bridging the social gap’, ‘Strengthening governance’, ‘Levelling the playing field on global issues’. All extremely uplifting—and just as unfocused: because the function of gerunds consists in leaving an action’s completion undefined, thus depriving it of any definite contour. An infinitely expanding present emerges, where policies are always in progress, but also only in progress. Many promises, and very few facts.
You have to be a bit of an academic nerd to fully appreciate Franco Moretti and Dominique Pestre's article, but their analysis is worth a read if you want to understand what 'development discourse' means in the context of World Bank documents.

Our digital lives

“Just Getting a Bunch of Likes, or Creating a Hashtag? That’s Not Social Change”: Impact Producer Lina Srivastava
The notion that the way an audience feels about the content they’ve seen is a metric that we should be measuring in terms of social impact, I find rather troubling depending on what the issue is. In terms of genocide, did people watch The Devil Came on Horseback and feel bad? Probably. Did that do anything? Maybe? Most likely not and actually didn’t. So the question about audience sentiment is secondary inquiry to what is actually happening on the “ground.” And it’s really hard to say whether the number of Facebook likes and clicks that you get is a valid impact metric. Creating community through social media is crucial, but for what? Why do you want people to be part of your Facebook community? Your Twitter community? What is it for? Just getting a bunch of likes, or creating a hashtag? That’s not social change.
Lina Srivastava on documentaries, impact and social change-great read with many interesting questions for those who work with film/video.

The Promise and Realities of Creating Immersive Media Projects
It’s clear that the final form of this next generation of storytelling experiences is still evolving. As Lance Weiler says, it’s a time of “audiences moving freely in a pervasive way” through immersive narratives, but it’s also a time of “awkward, fragmented landscapes.”
For creators looking to create innovative work which engages audiences in a new ways without losing them, we recommend the following approaches:
One final common theme we heard when speaking with creators was the lack of truly critical analysis for this type of work. These forms are still so new that we don’t have the benefit of critics who can challenge things. Our goal with this report is to only enumerate best practices, but to begin a critical discussion of this new work through this lens.
Michael Epstein and Mike Knowlton have some interesting recommendations for immersive media that are probably relevant for most communicators, including in the development sector or academia. Communication and media set-up are undergoing rapid changes that will affect the 'next generation' of engaging audiences in social change.

U-Report Indonesia: The story so far…
U-Report Indonesia is a Twitter-based polling system that questions young people on an array of important topics ranging from education to nutrition to child marriage to bullying.
The responses to the questions are then analyzed by UNICEF Indonesia. The idea is to share this information with government, development partners and civil society as a way of fostering adolescent and youth participation.
Another interesting Twitter/social media campaign from UNICEF-it will definitely be interesting to assess the impact of these new forms of engagement.

This Photo Was Removed By Instagram. The Owner Writes A Powerful Open Letter In Response
I will not apologize for not feeding the ego and pride of a misogynist society that will have my body in an underwear but not be okay with a small leak when your pages are filled with countless photos/accounts where women (so many of whom are underage) are objectified, pornified, and treated less than human. Thank you. This image is a part of my photoseries project for my visual rhetoric course.
Rupi Kaur's post is important food for thought in a era of automatic censorship, algorithms and platform capitalism that determines rules about socially acceptable norms, images and causes. What if images of 'starving children' were banned from these platforms?!

Why Most Twitter Maps Can't Be Trusted
The problem with Twitter maps, then, isn’t that social media data is inherently flawed—it’s that the people who make them get lazy. “[When] you have these giant Twitter datasets … it’s very, very easy to get that view from above and let the data speak for itself and just sort of stop there,” says Poorthuis. “That’s not the right stopping point. You need to contextualize by looking at the data in more detail—the variables and dimensions combined with the local knowledge.”
“It’s 2015 now,” Poorthuis says. “It was cool and an engineering challenge to get these points on a map. But now it’s time to ask deeper and more meaningful questions.”
Aarian Marshall on how in the era of big data and fancy visualizations the need for context and 'devil is in the detail' interpretation becomes more important. Large data sets do not automatically 'tell a/the story'!


Major publisher retracts 43 scientific papers amid wider fake peer-review scandal
In a blog post yesterday, Elizabeth Moylan, BioMed Central’s senior editor for research integrity, said an investigation begun last year revealed a scheme to “deceive” journal editors by suggesting “fabricated” reviewers for submitted articles. She wrote that some of the “manipulations” appeared to have been conducted by agencies that offer language-editing and submission assistance to non-English speaking authors.
The academic journal industry created an editing industry that has now created a fake peer review industry...there is always a new iteration in the quest for more 'impact', more publications and more more...

Writing Academic Book Reviews
In fact, like other genres of academic writing, such as journal articles and research proposals, academic book reviews tend to have a standard, even formulaic, structure. Although of course this may vary slightly by discipline and/or publication venue, my advice is, if in doubt, to use the following framework, with one paragraph for each of the following seven sections
Casey Brienza shares some useful general pointers on how to write an academic book review, but as I pointed out recently, the best book reviews are no longer hidden behind journal pay walls! Free the book reviews!


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