Links & Contents I Liked 149

Hi all,

Who do anthropologists think they are?! was my question last week.
This week we have new links on the humanitarian economy, a growing number of children out of schools, social media and social change in Uganda plus the need for a development Wikileaks?
The beautiful essay Everything is yours, Everything is not yours is this week's must read.
New research on how young people de-link celebrities from social inequalities, how indicators shape the world of knowing, the fact that only 0.45% science PhDs will ever become professors, how open access and Wikipedia change the impact of public science & how to write a blogpost on your research article tie the research, digital lives and academia sections together!


New from aidnography
Who do anthropologists think they are?!

When I came across the claim that "Ethnographers give voice to people who aren’t necessarily otherwise heard" I felt compelled to share a few reflections on anthropology and academia.
In a highly individualized, specialized and professionalized industry where yet another street corner, diaspora community and hackers group gets a book written about them we need to be careful about the 'voiceless'. Within a growing sector of (investigative) international journalism, more sophisticated NGO advocacy and a vibrant digital communication space, ‘the voiceless’ or ‘hidden’ groups have more opportunities than waiting for an anthropologist to show up.
Can group writing, reflective practice courses or shorter time spans challenge ethnographic products?
We need to ask the question of what makes anthropology different and valuable in a globalized world of (media) content – and why anthropologists think they still have the ability to give a ‘voice’ to someone other than themselves.
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
Development news
The Humanitarian Economy
The relief aid economy, worth US$156 billion, is criticised for being structurally resistant to change, diversity, competition and the inclusion of locally-based charities. NGOs and donors like to promote transparency and good governance in the countries they work in, but how much do we really know about where and how aid money is spent?
Widely shared (and rightly so) IRIN reporting on humanitarian money

The number of children out of school is growing: What happened?
The report offers two primary reasons for these trends. First, the inability of governments in sub-Saharan Africa to keep up with rising demand. The inputs-based model of education system building (i.e “More teachers, more classrooms and more textbooks”) is no longer adequate. And, hasn’t been for a long time.
Second, conflict in Syria has displaced children’s right to education. It is estimated there are now close to 2 million out of school children in Syria. Such a disruption to education will be very challenging to mitigate in the long-term.
Brendan Rigby reviews the recent UNESCO paper on the increasing number of children out of school; he argues that traditional input-based models have reached their limits and new approach to inclusive education deserve more attention.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, its the unsung heroes of DFID
Reductionist portrayals of the sector which frame humanitarian aid as the international provision of life saving goods and services, fail to contribute to the shifting debates and discourse that actually drive the sector forward. More than that, they actively undermine the work of many and the lives of many more.
As much as I agree with Aidleap's more detailed critique...isn't the give-away of a development PR campaign the selection of 7 white people in the first place?!

Can Social Media Create a Lasting Impact in Uganda?
Although 90% of the population in Ugandan in rural areas use radios, most of the information that is shared by the presenters on these radios is driven by the social media vibe. As long as the presenters are using social media, the trickle down effect of social media cannot be undermined. In the past, information got diffused along the way leaving those in rural areas without correct information, but now even those in rural areas receive the information instantly. Social media has opened up institutions and more voices are now heard.
I think the biggest challenge is that the government of Uganda does not have a plan to transform information technology; there is no digital strategy approach for critical sectors; no commerce strategy, no digital strategy for the education sector for example or even health. It beats my understanding when I sometimes visit the IT ministry website and it is down. I don’t get it. Our government discourages innovation
Colin Asiimwe on social media in Uganda, the changing public discourse and the reluctance of the government to tap into the digital revolution.

Does the Development Sector Need Its Own WikiLeaks?
What if there were a WikiLeaks for the development sector? Would people share their stories and information? How could it be organized? How would we protect the identity of sources and prevent backlash? How could we verify claims and prevent false accusations? What are the dangers of sharing certain facts? And most importantly, would it enable the development sector to be better?
Christian Seelos and Maria May ask some very interesting questions. I am not sure we need a 'Wikileaks for Development' organization; we need good, detailed journalism, we need organizational ownership of knowledge sharing and transparency and we also need funding for critical academic research. While 'Wikileaks for Development' could be a 'one-stop-shop' I wonder whether it would face similar challenges as the original Wikileaks, including questions of leadership, funding and disseminating results.

How Much is a Celebrity Worth? Nonprofits Pay For Star Power
In some cases, available data actually show a limited return. Vogel points to when Hillary Clinton spoke at a fundraiser for the Boys & Girls Club of Long Beach, California, in 2014. She charged $200,000 to speak, which she donated to her own foundation. Vogel says the Clinton event raised $100,000 total. “So paying $200,000 to raise $100,000. … Probably not that good a return on investment.” In contrast, Condoleezza Rice, who charged $60,000 to speak at the same event in 2009, donated almost all of that back to the organization. Vogel said Rice’s appearance helped gross a whole lot more for the Long Beach Boys & Girls Club than when it had Hillary Clinton come to speak.
White advises nonprofits to think twice before devoting big money to celebrity speakers. “If I could just say one thing to charities, around this country, anyway: Don’t get taken in by the feeling that the Clintons, or anybody else for that matter, are going to make all of the difference. You charities have a long, long road ahead of you. You have to be very sober about how you spend your money.”
Maybe Hillary Clinton and her charitable-industrial complex is not the best example for celebrity engagement...maybe charities should negotiate a base-fee and then add a premium according to the fundraising achieved through the celebrity event?

Everything is yours, Everything is not yours
I still often feel like the seven-year-old girl, waiting for water at the refugee camp in Burundi, trying to assert that I have a right to take up space. I scan every room for the exits, in case I need to run, and I read people’s faces and body language so I know how they’d like me to walk, talk, and gesture, what they’d like me to do. I know I am ridiculously privileged. I now have so much, and I used to be considered worthless, and nothing about who I am changed. I try to be grateful, proactive, and normal. I live in San Francisco. I go to therapy and yoga. I post filtered pictures on Instagram, hoping that the images will inspire someone, maybe even get someone to see that there’s some refugee girl in Syria, right now, who is exactly like me. I can’t stand to be in one place too long, so I travel a lot. I think the only hope for the world is for each of us to become a better, more self-aware, more responsible person. To inch us toward the goal, I talk about my life. “I was born in Rwanda 27 years ago. I was raised in nine different countries, eight of them in eastern and southern Africa. The ninth, and my current home, is the United States of America. No, my parents were not diplomats — far from it….”
Read. This. Essay by Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil

Our digital lives

Celebrity talk and the problem of inequality
Young people discuss celebrity lives critically in relation to success, money, hard work, philanthropy and authenticity. This is a long way from the media stereotype of teenagers who idolise celebrities and want to become just as famous. In fact, their ‘celebrity talk’ is much the same as that of people who are older. Both groups focus more on the downsides of celebrity than the upsides of fame. While this may initially be reassuring, the patterns found in the Brunel research constitute a problem for anyone who wants to challenge social inequalities. Why is that?
In talking about celebrities, young people are also talking about themselves. The claims, criticisms and justifications they make about celebrities operate as evaluations of themselves and the world in which they are growing up. These evaluations matter.
In addition, by talking about ‘ideal’ celebrities like Bill Gates and David Beckham who are male, white and middle class, and labelling others as ‘disgusting’ like Nicki Minaj who is female, black and working class, inequalities based on gender, class and race are reinforced.
It is especially important to explore the power of such cultural stories in the current context of deepening austerity in the UK and elsewhere. By breaking apart and analysing these stories we can begin to create new narratives to support the transformation of society.
Insights into discourse analysis research of the complexities of how young people engage with celebrities and social change.

Not the People’s Uber
Whether it’s cut-rate Facebook content moderators toiling in Southeast Asia, millions of people submitting free restaurant reviews to Yelp, or TaskRabbits lowering their prices in a race to the bottom, today’s most celebrated companies are built to extract maximum value from vast networks of worker-bee users at minimum cost. In this arrangement, free or discounted labor isn’t an accidental byproduct; it’s a main catalyst for growth. (And growth is the highest value of every VC-funded company.) At the same time, these companies preach democratic values, economic independence, and the importance of trust and entrepreneurship.
Jacob Silverman on Uber-nothing new, but it is worth repeating-and refuting-the seemingly democratic message of 'disruption' coming from Silicon Valley!

Explainer: how indicators have the power to shape our world
Those that prevail are often sponsored by powerful organisations such as the World Bank. However, some acquire visibility through their simplicity and the appeal of their underlying theory, such as Freedom House and Transparency International, an effect proponents of other ideas may seek to emulate through new indicators.
Indicators smuggle theories of corruption, rule of law, and development into apparently neutral systems of measurement. Some achieve such hegemonic worldwide acceptance that they shape legal consciousness while others are ignored.
Indicators and theories work together. An indicator is more acceptable if its implicit theory is accepted, while a theory may receive wider support if it is expressed in a clear and widely used indicator.
Indicators that become dominant persuade decision makers to follow their models. They also affect governance when they specify a standard such that decision making becomes an assessment of performance with relation to the metrics of that standard.
Sally Engle Merry, Benedict Kingsbury and Kevin E. Davis on the power of indicators-which is also a good example of how to blog about your research (see below).


From lab gigs to headliners
According to the Royal Society’s Scientific Century report, 30 per cent of doctorate holders in science go on to early career academic research, but just 3.5 per cent land permanent positions and just 0.45 per cent hit the professorial jackpot.
As much as I appreciate the THE cover story on post-docs, these numbers are quite scary and should always be in the back of your mind when you think about staring an academic career.

Why Wikipedia + Open Access = Revolution
So Wikipedia generally provides links to high quality scientific articles, even though open access ones are disproportionately represented.
That’s an interesting and important result. Just a few years ago, the only way to access scientific articles was through expensive subscriptions to scientific journals. A single scientific article sourced in this way can cost $50 or more.
That’s a powerful dissuading force for any mere mortal hoping to catch up on the latest breakthroughs. Instead only those with access to top academic libraries can indulge—in other words professional scientists at the world’s top institutions.
But open access has changed all that. Open access publishing has changed the way scientists communicate with each other but Teplitskiy and buddies have now shown that its influence is much more significant. “Our research suggests that open access policies have a tremendous impact on the diffusion of science to the broader general public through an intermediary like Wikipedia,” says Teplitskiy and co.
As interesting as this research is, I would be interested in learning more about downloads and reads of articles linked in Wikipedia. Are they just 'footnotes' to enhance the legitimacy of an entry-or do they lead to proper engagement with said sources, i.e. 'the public' clicking on open access articles and reading them?

How to write a blogpost from your journal article
Of course a blogpost may well not be cited itself (although now reputable multi-author blogs increasingly are) — but if not, this is because it’s job is different. Academically a blogpost boosts citations for the core article itself. It advertises your journal article in ways that can get it far more widely read than just pushing the article out into the ether to sink or swim on its own. A post reaches other researchers in your discipline (those who are not digital hermits). And because it’s accessibly written, it travels well, goes overseas, gets re-tweeted and re-liked. It takes the ‘memes’ key to your research into a limited viral spread. It also gets read by academics outside your immediate sub-field and discipline, potentially pulling new audiences to your work.
So having explained all this to blogging sceptics, the question I ask is — ‘You’ve put eighteen months or two years of your life into doing the research in your article. You’ve devoted months more to writing the paper and sending it to journals, dealing with comments, doing rewrites and hacking through the publishing process. Why would you not spend the extra couple of hours needed now to pull out from your journal article the key bits needed for a good blogpost?’
Patrick Dunleavy on why blogging your research matters and will likely create all sorts of 'impact'. I very much agree with him-as necessary as traditional journal articles are for the academic industry they are unlikely read and shared by itself and the promotion around it should become standard practice for any researcher.


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