Links & Contents I Liked 161

Hi all,

In Development News we start off on the lighter side with a great cartoon on how to end global wealth; in the build-up to the World Humanitarian Summit the role of local NGOs and the issue of aid worker sexual violence attract more reflections; Indonesia is burning; large foundations are bad about feedback; the SDGs need to get smarter about technology; ethical photography; the joys of development blogging and IDS celebrates UN @ 70. Our digital lives and the joys of working from home. Academia with a critical look at the platform capitalism of; the challenge to access aid workers for research; mobile technology for urban learning and ‘me and my shadow CV’ filled with academic rejections.


New from aidnography

Geek Heresy (book review)

I believe that Kentaro Toyama delivered one of the most interesting and intellectually astute contributions to the ICT4D debate in many years in an engaging format that effortlessly combines professional insights, relevant anecdotal evidence from ‘the field’ and a broader theoretical framework that demands serious discussions with the development industry.
Current affairs talk on Israel-Palestine with ComDev alumna Rebecca Bengtsson
The ComDev team took the opportunity to catch up with alumna and former staff member Rebecca Bengtsson, Communications Officer with the Temporary International Presence in Hebron.
Tobias Denskus and about 20 students discussed the current situation in Israel and Palestine, including the challenges of C4D work in the context of an international observer mission, the complexities and fragmentations of Palestinian governance and the role of (international) media in recent reporting on a new ‘electronic Intifada’.
Development news
Swedish Band 'The Knife' Nail Central Flaw of The UN's Sustainable Development Goals

Great cartoon on 'ending extreme wealth'...

Gloves off between local and international NGOs

She said a group of local NGOs intended to press ahead with plans for their own southern NGO network, lobbying for a pooled fund managed by NGOs headquartered in the Global South, and a target of 20 percent of all humanitarian funding to go directly to local organisations.
The fury of local organisations, according to Adeso, is about far more than administrative technicalities. They are, said Patel, sick of the assumption they are corrupt, of being called partners while being treated as subcontractors, of a system that fails to cover their overheads and poaches staff, then questions their capacity. “They use us. This is not about partnership. INGOs have only themselves to blame for the levels of resentment and frustration...
Imogen Wall and the IRIN team is following the build-up to the World Humanitarian Summit next year very carefully which I appreciate. Will the humanitarian system really be able to disrupt the well-established order?!

Erik Meijaard: Indonesia's Fire Crisis — The Biggest Environmental Crime of the 21st Century

And I consider it a crime, not just a disaster, because even though setting fire to land remains perfectly legal in Indonesia, endangering the lives of millions of people, destroying protected forests and their wildlife, and threatening the global environment are criminal acts. This is especially the case because the fires could largely have been prevented by solid policies, land-use planning, and law enforcement. None of these were enacted, and the Indonesian government is ultimately culpable for its failure to act effectively.
There is very little international reporting about the fires in Indonesia which shed light on how growth in Asia is linked to environmental degradation.

Aid agencies accused of hiding scale of sexual assaults on employees

Women working for international aid agencies are facing a hidden threat of sexual violence and harassment which their employers routinely ignore or sweep under the carpet, according to testimonies gathered by the Guardian.
While exact statistics on the scale of sexual assault in the sector are hard to come by, many working for humanitarian groups worldwide say sexual predation is an unreported and growing evil that needs to be addressed by those at the top.
The GUARDIAN continues its reporting on what has quickly become one of the top issues on the professional aid work and well-being agenda.

The disruptive potential of feedback

This brings us back to the fundamental power dynamic of philanthropy, as Caroline Fiennes of Giving Evidence explained during the Feedback Summit.
“Why don’t foundations ask for feedback?” Fiennes asked. “Because they don’t have to.”
“It’s difficult and it’s a bit painful,” she went on. “If you have made a chunk of money and you want to give it away, in general you will feel good about that, and everybody will love you. Once you start asking questions” — questions designed to find out if the work is making as much of a difference as it can–“you might not like the answers.”
Marc Gunther is looking into various initiatives that want to create (better) feedback loops in the philanthropic industry, highlighting a fundamental issue of many fairly undemocratic foundations.

Innovation, technology and the SDGs

As a sector, we’ve focused a LOT on technocratic approaches over the past several years, and we’ve stopped being afraid to get technical. Now we need to stop being afraid to get political. In summary, there is certainly a place for technology and for innovation in the SDGs, but the innovation narrative needs an overhaul. Just as we’ve seen with terms like ‘social good’ and ‘user centered design’ – we’ve collectively imbued these ideas and methods with properties that they don’t actually have and we’ve fetishized them.
Linda Raftree adds a timely post to the issues addressed in my latest book review of 'Geek Heresy'.

Does This Picture Make You Feel Sad? Practical Questions for Ethical Photography

Lauren Gardner on how Reboot is engaging with guidelines around ethical aid photography.

The Joy of Blogs (and Tweets): Why Academics should take Social Media seriously

Blogging is a great antidote to that feeling of anticlimax and futility that comes after you send off the paper or the book manuscript, and suddenly the true indifference of the universe becomes apparent. You can keep discussing and communicating with interesting people, and keep the existential crisis at bay.
Duncan Green on why academic should engage with social media; a bit too strong on the Chris Blattman-fanboy side and the focus on 'impact' that academic economics blogging has, but I obviously agree with many of the benefits.
In addition to my research on social media and development, I wrote about the joys and challenges of development blogging.

50 years behind the scenes: IDS's influence on the UN Development Agenda. What next? An event set amidst the buzz of the UN70 celebrations in Geneva!

It was meant to seize the opportunity offered by the celebrations of the UN's 70th anniversary to track the history of IDS's influence on the UN development agenda, from the Institute's just-post-colonial origins to today's global context. It was also an opportune time to ponder over the future of development thinking and IDS's role in shaping it.
Lots of things have been written in the context of UN @ 70, but as the editor-at-large of this humble blog I will highlight a short post by my friend and IDS PhD colleague Mila Cherel-Robson who attended the festivities in Geneva! IDS is certainly not perfect, but a great space to reflect on the achievements and shortcoming of the UN system.

Hot off the (digital) press

Ends of Critique

The reader will not find boring literature reviews, long bibliographies and overly artificial politeness. A dialogue, we assume, is a direct and polemical fight with the dialogue partner as well as with the problem discussed. In fact, we believe that only in arguing with each other will the problem(s) eventually take shape and become visible. Taken as a whole, however, the contributions exemplify that a multi-perspectival approach to the question leads to – how should it not? – a multiplicity of entry points into the discussion.
This is a bit 'heavy' on academic theory, but this open access publication tries to engage in profound debates around contemporary ideology in a more accessible format-best to check it out for yourself ;)!

Our digital lives

Working From Home: Awesome or Awful?

So do the positives or the negatives win out? It’s a toss-up for now, but the frequency and location of telecommuting can tip the balance. Job satisfaction increased for people who work remotely about two work days a week. After that, though job satisfaction plateaus. The study also finds that most research showed productivity for those had a choice of work locations—which can include satellite offices, home offices, or coworking spaces—increased, while peers who worked exclusively from home were less productive. This suggests that allowing workers to spend some, but not all, of their time outside of the office could be beneficial for everyone.
Gillian B. White's piece at The Atlantic is short summary of the well-rehearsed debate about working from home; in the end, a future with no commutes, no city center office blocks and no office is unlikely to be near and most of us will continue to enjoy a healthy mix of different work spaces and locations.


What does Academia_edu’s success mean for Open Access? The data-driven world of search engines and social networking

After all, compared to the general sluggishness (and at times overt resistance) with which the call to make research available on an open access basis has been met,’s success in getting scholars to share suggests that, for many, the priority may not be so much making their work openly available free of charge so it can be disseminated as widely and as quickly as possible, as building their careers and reputations in an individualistic, self-promoting, self-quantifying, self-marketing fashion. Nor is this state of affairs particularly surprising, given the precarious situation in which much of the academic profession finds itself today.
The key aspect of to be aware of in this respect is its business model. Unlike that of some for-profit publishers, this is not based on academic authors, their institutions, or their funders paying a fee for their research to be made available on a free and open basis: what’s known as author-pays or an article processing charge (APC). Its financial rationale rests instead on the ability of the angel-investor and venture-capital-funded professional entrepreneurs who run to exploit the data flows generated by the academics who use the platform as an intermediary for sharing and discovering research.
Gary Hall raises important questions about as an academic player in the age of platform capitalism; I would disagree slightly that the platform is primarily used to promote oneself and your work-I am using actively to connect to academic colleagues, discover interesting new papers and have the feeling of being part of a vibrant community-and no, say, EU-mandated open access platform will ever be able to achieve that...

Fieldwork Challenges #1: Accessing Aid Workers

My assumption had been that shortly after my arrival my research relationships would fall into my lap, much in the same way my previous relationships have with friends and colleagues when I lived and worked in Kenya, Uganda and Palestine.
But being a researcher in a foreign land is very different from being an aid worker, or anyone else in any other profession. For one thing, you are very much on your own. There is no organisation to cushion you and give you a safe landing into unfamiliar territory. No managers to guide you or structure your day with priorities and deadlines. And the only person who can really answer the sort of questions raised above is you, the researcher.
In addition, I’m realising that no matter how confident we feel in the community we are researching, we should never assume that access will be easy. Accessing research participants – identifying who exactly they may be and how we approach them – requires constant negotiation and self-reflection.
Gemma Houldey on the challenges of aid work and research on aid workers; I am wondering whether there is also growing 'research fatigue' among the development industry as more researchers venture out to interview aid workers. In some popular, usually capital city spaces, it sometimes felt that as if there was a researcher for every aid worker-but that is not based on solid empirical data ;)!

Artfully converting open space to learning space: Seoul literature through mlearning

This paper outlines the creation of an urban mobile learning activity that attempts to engage literature spatially, collaboratively, and compositionally in an urban setting. The Korean novel Three Generations (1931) by Yom Sang-Seop (염 상섭) is engaged through mobile learning. The reflective and analytical activities surrounding the novel are translated into field-based activities
Michael Gallagher shares his latest article and research on how to use mobile learning technologies in urban Seoul.

Me and My Shadow CV

A CV is a life story in which just the good things are recorded, yet sometimes I look at it and see there what others cannot: the places I haven’t been, the journals where my work wasn’t accepted, the times a project wasn’t funded, the ways my ideas were judged inadequate. I’ve started to imagine my CV as a record of both highlight-reel wins and between-the-lines losses. If you’re lucky, you will, like me, also one day come to recognize the places where the losses — as painful as they were at the time — led to unexpectedly positive things. Slammed doors, it turns out, may later become opened ones.
When I was meeting with my department’s academic-job seekers recently, one of them asked me about the last time I was rejected.
"My last rejection was one week ago," I admitted to them, feeling uncomfortably like someone introducing myself at an AA meeting. "I got two rejections, in fact. One was really, really hard to accept, and, I think, wrong. But I’ll take it for what it’s worth and try again."
Devoney Looser on academic rejection-an essential part of every academic career...


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