Showing posts from June, 2015

Who do anthropologists think they are?!

You may have followed the ensuing debates around Alice Goffman’s ethnography and the broader moral, ethical and potential legal implications of her written account based on six years of ethnographic involvement in ‘an American City’. As it has become the gold standard in our digital times for any controversial topic that needs a through discussion without approaching any solution, the major academic platforms have been featuring op-eds on this topic. But it was a sentence in David Perlmutter’s ‘ In Defense of Ethnography ’ detailed and balanced piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education that triggered my own desire to share a few reflections in the broader context of development anthropology: Ethnographers, thus, give voice to people who aren’t necessarily otherwise heard. As a development anthropologist and academic myself I find such a sentence in 2015 quite astonishing-even if I understand his remark in the broader context of his low-level street policing ethnography; who do a

Status Update (book review)

Alice Marwick’s book Status Update: Celebrity, Publicity, and Branding in the Social Media Age is a very important and timely book that deserves widespread attention in development and ICT4D circles. Her ethnographic study on status, hierarchy, reputation and (in)equality in the tech scene of the Silicon Valley raises important questions that go far beyond the American start-up scene. Even if the development and ICT4D industries have not moved that far into notions of celebrity and branding the scope of her study will raise some important starting points for discussions: (M)y interactions made clear that the tech scene had, in fact, a strict social hierarchy. It mattered what company you worked for, whether you were an entrepreneur, and how much attention you received online. I hypothesized that studying the status structure of this community (…) would reveal a great deal about how status was build into Web 2.0. and thus illuminate how popular social software may promote inequ

Links & Contents I Liked 148

Hi all, This blog has been silent for far too long! But the 'end of the term' period has turned into a rather prolonged period of wrapping up, examining, marking, plus engaging with a large UN agency over an interesting strategic advisory project. So finally some new, fresh links! New development insights confirm how the World Bank is struggling to match its organizational culture to its rhetoric of ‘openness’; can we just send the bill for development to dictator and redistribute his assets?; Has-been politician was involved in an expensive conference without impact (that MUST be a first…); colonial humanitarian work in Haiti; social media tips from UN staff & how to teach the next generation of development professionals. New reports on World Bank & intimidation, PRTs & NGO insecurity and NGOs & systems thinking. Digital lives features a beautiful essay on ‘Hotel Melancholia’. Academia features reflections on ad-hoc help in Nepal, academic publishers and

The new prophets of capital (book review)

I enjoyed reading Nicole Aschoff’s The new Prophets of Capital on a recent journey between two of Sweden’s largest cities. Her book, which is actually a very accessible, jargon-free essayistic long-read, Aschoff investigates how ‘in this moment of crisis a new generation of elite storytellers, masquerading as progressive thinkers, has emerged to reinvent the free market as the universal solution to society’s problems’ (front sleeve). By taking a critical look at Sheryl Sandberg’s business of feminism, John Mackey’s Whole Foods conscious capitalism, Oprah Winfrey’s neoliberal consumerism and Melinda & Bill Gates’ philanthrocapitalism, it becomes quite clear why this book should be of interest to the global development community: These new prophets of capital are all in some way or another in the business of ‘doing good’ and remind us how fluent notions of ‘markets’ or ‘charity’ have become in the age of personality brands, self-empowerment and de-politicized notions of ‘developme

Links & Contents I Liked 147

Hi all, As our academic term is approaching its grande finale with 15 MA thesis examinations and a great seminar my link review is a bit shorter and more eclectic than normal, but nonetheless contains interesting readings on (assumed) expat travel privileges, exp e nsive Ebola clinics, informal schooling & institutional social media success strategies; plus new books and essays on algorithmic governance and digital journalism and academic readings on the (ab)uses of peer review & a very long read that answers all your questions about book publishing! Enjoy! New from aidnography Is banning Powerpoint from the classroom the best we can do for digital, inclusive education? I tend to disagree - not with the general sentiment that all of us have suffered through a more than fair share of bad Powerpoint presentations, but with the notion of a technology-free, disconnected classroom and the traditional learning environment it often represents. In my comment, I will focus on three