Links & Contents I Liked 159

Hi all,

Another busy week...we welcomed two very interesting visitors this week and their talks on social media, protest movements and digital research are posted below.
In Development news we look at the changing face of the ‘digital divide’, a poignant reminder from Kenya why laptops won’t fix education, reflections on the state of the state in Nepal, YouTube for charities & digital #globaldev resources.
Our digital lives on the sad routines of reporting mass shootings and the algorithmic watchtower.
And this week’s most interesting links are in the Academia section: An industry researcher compares her time use between academia and industry with surprising results, Purdue University pulls a talk with a reference to Edward Snowden because of their military-industrial relationship and in a great, long interview James C. ‘Weapons of the weak’ Scott reflects on a life in anthropology! 


New from aidnography Örecomm & ComDev

Undermining Digital Dissent

In 2012, the #YoSoy132 movement emerged in Mexico asking for the democratization of the Mexican media and criticizing the strategy of the PRI Party and its candidate. In contrast to the celebratory literature developed around the movement that has praised the role of social media in the development of a ‘fifth state’, and conceived them as alternative media to the so-called Mexican telecracy, an extended ethnography of #YoSoy132 provided by Emiliano Treré, Associate Professor, Faculty of Political and Social Sciences at the Autonomous University of Querétaro (Mexico), highlights a much more controversial scenario.
Seminar on political expression, social media & citizen engagement with Marko Skoric (CityU HK), Thursday 8 October
Marko Skoric from City University Hong Kong will be joining ‪#‎comdev_live on Thursday, 8 October. He will present his research on Political expression, exposure to disagreement, and opinion shielding on social media as predictors of citizen engagement
If you are interested in social movements, digital media, protest and cutting-edge research on these issues I can highly recommend the seminars by our two visitors from Mexico and Hong Kong we welcomed in Roskilde (DK) and Malmö (SE) on Thursday. These are both very engaging presentations with tons of interesting references to recent academic research, theoretical debates and contemporary protest movement empirical case studies!

Apply for the MA in Communication for Development between 15 September and 15 October 2015!

Final week to apply for our part-time, blended learning online MA in Communication for Development!
Development news
The hidden digital divide

Connectivity — in the form of broadband coverage and speed — has now become a major differentiator between developed and developing nations, continuing to dictate where the power resides.
This comes with a price tag. Improving connectivity requires huge investment in national infrastructure and demands government support. In this respect, a lack of connectivity now underpins, and perpetuates, global inequality.
SciDevNet assembles, analyzes and visualizes how the 'digital divide' has evolved, what is means and what will be necessary to connect the globe.

Primary schools don't need laptops, but more desks would be welcome

Among the immediate losers would be the selection of public universities that have been lined up to design and manufacture tablets that will probably not sell outside government.
They should be compensated for their time and asked whether they wish to proceed with the project knowing that the schools laptop project has been terminated.
These may not be high tech gadgets that show Kenya is entering the digital age, but their arrival in schools would find very active use and help many children who have to write on the floor with curved backs throughout the day.
Kwame Owino's short piece goes is a very poignant reminder that the 'better education in Africa' discourse is a complicated, politicized area where government, public spending, schools and teachers and their lobbies all play a part and have a stake beyond 'one laptop per child' or the next 'this social entrepreneur from the Silicon Valley wants to change the landscape of education in poor countries forever' article.

My dissent

I reject my apparent self – the self that is apparent to you, when you look at me, without my acquaintance. And I reject this constitution. I reject the placatory proposition that the constitution can always be amended and perfected. I reject the barely disguised malice it bears: its attempt to legislate morality; its clever undermining of articles that would otherwise empower the disenfranchised; its blatant misogyny; its Fascist redefinition of what secularism means. I reject it because it has rejected my worldview, where the recognition of every individual as an equal is the precondition, not a derivative; where the laws arise out of the aspirations of the citizenry to better exercise the best aspects of themselves, and not a set of rules designed to keep the bureaucracy afloat, fatten the rich, and inflate the ambitions of career politicians.
I don't post that many things from Nepal, but after all the news items, post-earthquake blurbs and rumors Prawin Adhikari's thoughtful reflections are an exceptional piece of writing of the failings of the Nepali state and her leadership!

YouTube and aid: How NGOs can harness the power for good

If one of the biggest fears for charities is that YouTubers won’t represent their brand appropriately, the other unknown is whether YouTubers will still be in fashion a few years down the line. Will the new wave of digital celebrities have the same impact and shelf-life as the more traditional celebrities? What happens if a YouTuber loses the respect of their audience? There are also many examples of charities disassociating themselves from individuals in the past.
But charities may feel that the advantages of working with YouTubers more than offset those disadvantages.
David Girling on how WaterAid has harnessed the power of YouTube celebrities and what is means for development campaigning.

Join global conversations around development policy, practice and research

With the sustainable development goals (aka global goals) just adopted by the UN General Assembly, it might be interesting to follow online conversations around international development policy, development work on the ground and development research as these goals are being implemented.
For each topic, I suggest some hashtags on Twitter, ordered by category and popularity. I also list some influential tweeps to follow. Please feel free to suggest new ones if I missed out on anything or anyone.
Aurelie Valtat shares a good primer on how to get into current digital discussions around #globaldev.

Hot off the (digital) press
Research report: Humanitarian broadcasting in emergencies - A synthesis of evaluation findings

Researching the impact of our interventions is a central priority for Media Action, but this is especially difficult in an emergency. Despite these challenges, the report documents the findings of four evaluations of responses around the 2015 Nepal earthquakes, the 2014/15 Ebola epidemic, the Syrian refugee crisis and the 2014 conflict in Gaza. By carrying out a robust synthesis of these findings against selected OECD DAC evaluation criteria, it seeks to contribute to understanding and evidence of the impact of media interventions in crisis and sets out a series of conclusions as to what mass media interventions, in particular, are effective and less effective at accomplishing.
As always, interesting new research from BBC Media Action

Our digital lives
What It’s Like To Report on Mass Shootings Routinely

I have a mass shooting story prewritten at all times, ready to be filled in with details as needed. Such shootings happen about once a month and we need to be prepared. This is my prewritten mass shooting story:
The routine nature of gun violence is quashing our ability to feel. It means nothing, or almost nothing, to those outside the immediate bubble of the victims. The sheer volume makes these cases difficult to keep track of. The names of countless victims bleed into one another.
Polly Mosendz on the sad, painful reality of reporting mass shootings regularly in the digital media age.

The Algorithm and the Watchtower

This informational flotsam is made up of familiar standardized data through which we have come to define ourselves: school transcripts, health records, credit scores, property deeds, legal identities. Today, these entrenched types of data selfhood are being expanded to cover more and more of who we can be: how many steps we take each day, how much water we drink every hour, how many friends we have, what books and movies we browse, how many cute cat videos we like to watch at night. Though many of us actively showcase much of the information we produce, the algorithms work on this information in silence whether we showcase it or not. We never see the algorithms doing their work, even as they affect us. They scan and scoop and store, and eventually they are able to produce us in their ciphers, all unseen, buried away in black boxes silently composing symphonies of zeroes and ones.
Colin Koopman shares more reflections on the power of intransparent algorithms.

Quantifying my Transition from Academia to Data Science

For the past three years I’ve been tracking how I spend my time with an app called Toggl. I click a button when I start working on something, enter a title, and it keeps a timer running until I switch to the next thing. It helps me understand where my time goes and satisfies some neurotic tendencies.
Becoming part of a team working toward common goals has meant that I now spend about four times as much of my time in meetings with my team or my business partners than I did as a postdoc. Before the switch, when most of my knowledge about business meetings came from TV, I would have been unhappy about this change, but it has turned into one of the most surprising positive changes in my transition. The business’ short-term priorities can change quickly, so frequent check-ins keep everyone up to date on goals and expectations. Some meetings provide an opportunity for all corners of the business to get together and efficiently identify new goals and solutions. It makes for really fun and agile work. It can sometimes be an effort to balance these often short-term tasks with bigger, broader goals but I appreciate being able to make those tradeoffs consciously.
Alex Smolyanskaya on how post-doc work in academia and industry work differ and an interesting case study on self-measurement and the politics of data.

Scholarship, Security and ‘Spillage’ on Campus

It turns out that Purdue has wiped all copies of my video and slides from university servers, on grounds that I displayed classified documents briefly on screen. A breach report was filed with the university’s Research Information Assurance Officer, also known as the Site Security Officer, under the terms of Defense Department Operating Manual 5220.22-M. I am told that Purdue briefly considered, among other things, whether to destroy the projector I borrowed, lest contaminants remain.
Now the security apparatus claims jurisdiction over the campus (“facility”) at large. The university finds itself “sanitizing” a conference that has nothing to do with any government contract. Where does it stop? Suppose a professor wants to teach a network security course, or a student wants to write a foreign policy paper, that draws on the rich public record made available by Snowden and Chelsea Manning? Those cases will be hard to distinguish from mine.
If the faculty and trustees are comfortable with this arrangement, I honestly do not know how.
Barton Gellman showed slides with Snowden material at a keynote at Purdue University. And because the university is part of the military industrial complex they panicked and destroyed the recording. Academia in the United States in 2015-I am quite speechless.

An Interview with James C. Scott

Definitely! I was trained as a political scientist and the profession bores me, to be frank. I am truly bored by mainstream work in my discipline, which strikes me as a kind of medieval scholasticism of a special kind. People ask me about the intellectual organization of my interdisciplinary work, and I have to say, it’s the consequence of boredom and the knowledge that so many other things had been written about peasants that are more interesting than anything political scientists have written about them, that I should go to those places and learn these things and read things outside of the discipline like Balzac and Zola, novels about the peasantry and memoirs. If you spend all of your time reading mainstream political science, you are going to reproduce mainstream political science. Nothing else can happen from that particular place. It seems to me, anything interesting that happens in political science is probably an import from some exotic place outside political science and I happen to go to different exotic places than other people and once in a while I stumble across something that helps me understand. The thing that attracted me to anthropology is that it insisted on a kind of eyes-wide-open fieldwork and total immersion in a peasant community and so I went from political science to a kind of anthropology envy.
he learned Spanish and got himself a job in a slaughterhouse working for a year and a half, including working on the kill floor of the slaughterhouse, and ended up writing an ethnography of vision in the slaughterhouse in a book that I promise you, you cannot put down, it is so gripping. Everybody said that this was a career-ending move as a dissertation, but he wanted to do it and the book is an astounding account of the way in which the clean and dirty sections of a slaughterhouse are kept separate from one another and workers treated differently, and the way the line works. You could only write this ethnography, I think, by actually doing this work. And if he asked permission they never would have given it to him, so he just did it. So, he avoided all of the protocols for the people you’re interviewing, etc., he just ignored it all and did it. To begin with nothing much happened; he spent three months hanging livers in a cold room with another Hispanic worker. I mean, three months just taking a liver that came on a chain and putting it in a box and passing it on. And so he didn’t think that there was a lot of ethnography coming out of the room where he was packing livers, but he gradually worked his way into other parts of the plant. But I wish more people would go into the belly of the beast, either of corporations or supermarkets or institutions.
A very long, very important interview with James 'Weapons of the Weak' Scott conducted by Harry G. West and Celia Plender. Read it!


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