Links & Contents I Liked 174

Hi all,

Development news features a new aid poem; UNESCO’s app fail on freedom of expression; how traditional organizations struggle with social media in emergencies; child sponsorship works! (says the World Bank); celebrities wearing stupid golden blankets; the hype around ‘effective altruism’; disaster capitalism meets refugees.
Digital lives on how Tumblr teens turn into ourselves; the high stakes world of cute animal Instagrammers;
Academia with more on UK’s proposed anti-lobbying legislation; social science fit for Africa; being a responsible public intellectual & anthropological challenges for a post-Ebola world.


New from aidnography
Kicking Inner City Press’ Matt Lee out of the UN is bad for media & development

Large development organizations in general and the UN system in particular which talks a lot in an abstract way about ‘open data’, ‘transparency’ and ‘freedom of press’ need to find better ways of engaging with new forms of journalism.
I can understand that UN headquarters want to cling on to some traditional rules, regulations and gentlemen (sic!) agreements around reporting and journalism, but in a fragmented media landscape, filled with everything from BuzzFeed to Russia Today, from Foreign Policy columnists to Al-Jazeera it becomes more and more difficult to legitimize a selected few outlets and journalists based on their traditional relationship with press and communications offices.
Development news
Aid work: an insult to the poor? - poem

What greater insult could there be
When a fellow man calls me just a beneficiary
When our pictures of desperation are used for marketing
When our dignity is insulted just for fundraising
When trainings and awareness are imposed on us
When the life of another is planned by another
When the gift we got is never disclosed
When overheads are deducted before we know
I wish Admiral Ncube's poem would get a bit more viral traction-it almost has the potential to become a modern follow-up to the Development Set poem that has been around for too long...

“There’s an app for that!”… Or When UNESCO Jumped the Shark with Freedom of Expression Advocacy

My third and perhaps the most important issue with the app is that even if it did happen to reach millions of people, once they learn about their right to freely express themselves and what they can do to protect this right, will the right ever actually be enforced for them given the contexts they live in? Universalizing instruction in this area is nigh impossible, in my opinion; to even attempt to do so – and through a medium that the people who need it most may not have access to – undoubtedly lessens the potential impact to be realized since what may make sense in Thailand may not actually work or be applicable in Poland.
Ronda Zelezny-Green on how an app, surprisingly, doesn't 'fix' anything and how quickly global campaigns can become tokenistic digital tombs on the app graveyard.

Between Hype and Frustration: Social Media in Emergencies

In fact, we already see some of these mature uses: in the ongoing refugee crisis both refugee and volunteers use social media to plan their journeys and/or organize assistance where it is needed. Similar initiatives have sprung up from Japan to Nepal after natural disasters, but they mostly happen at the local level and are disconnected from the official response system. Attempts by international organizations to insert themselves into this process often feel alien. But that does not mean that social media in emergencies doesn’t work – it just means that currently many of the big actors don’t have much to offer when it comes to communication and coordination with local communities.
Timo Luege points out that socoal media in emergencies often work-but pose a challenge for traditional organizational cultures and institutions.

Does Child Sponsorship Pay Off in Adulthood?

Estimations indicate that international child sponsorship increased monthly income by $13–17 over an untreated baseline of $75, principally from inducing higher future labor market participation. Results show evidence for positive impacts on dwelling quality in adulthood and modest evidence of impacts on ownership of consumer durables in adulthood, limited to increased ownership of mobile phones. Finally, results point to modest  effects of child sponsorship on childbearing in adulthood.
In a new World Bank paper Bruce Wydick, Paul Glewwe and Laine Rutledge look at the long term impact of child sponsorship adding fresh numbers to an ongoing debate.

Was it wrong to get celebrities to pose wearing emergency blankets for refugees?

Seeing a glamorous elite enjoying a night out wrapped in flimsy sheets usually used by the most desperate people on the planet to stave off death was certainly jarring, but probably not in the way they intended.
The juxtaposition of smiles and the metallic shimmer made the crowd look facile, and an event meant to demonstrate solidarity came across more like a vain, empty publicity stunt.
Emma Graham-Harrison and Tim Finch start with the recent PR stunt of dinner guests with emergency blankets to discuss broader point about celebrity campaigning with some experts; I think that a self-absorbed artist found the right self-absorbed crowd for some cheap celebrity selfies that did little to nothing for refugees and advocacy.

Can ‘effective altruism’ really change the world?

The individualistic bias of effective altruism is important here. We seldom change institutions and practices on our own. Instead, we need to develop ties of solidarity with others. And we have to use our knowledge and agency to bring about change collectively. From this perspective, morality is not about picking and choosing charities from an armchair; it’s about trying to become a force for change in daily life, and supporting whatever cause we can contribute to actively, passionately, and in ways that can create institutions and practices in line with our moral values and ideals.
Lisa Herzog takes apart one of the latest buzzwords and the idea that you should and can individualize and rationalize altruism-but if an Oxford philosopher says you can he must right, right?!

How Governments Privatize the Refugee Crises - Lecture by Antony Loewenstein

It’s a democratic deficit at the heart of the asylum crisis but it’s exactly how corporations and governments like it. I’ve reported on the immigration issue for over a decade, in Australia, Britain, America, Greece and beyond, and one recurring theme is privatised refugee policies being far less accountable than publicly-run facilities. Government-managed centres aren’t utopian, abuses can be rampant there, too, but involving the profit motive in the equation guarantees secrecy and mismanagement.
Antony Loewenstein takes Naomi Klein's 'Disaster Capitalism' to a new level and applies it to current developments in Europe.

Our digital lives

The Secret Lives of Tumblr Teens

While reporting this story, I went to a dinner party with a group of people who make their living writing on the internet. The conversation turned to teens; the consensus was that modern kids are dumb and boring. “Girls these days don’t keep diaries,” one woman said. “I think that means they don’t have inner lives.” That we would soon depart for a thirtieth birthday party was no coincidence—you don’t have to fear the teens if you can live in denial about your own looming obsolescence.
Having spent several years among teens who have freely laid bare their inside jokes, their Facebook messages, and their deepest thoughts, I think there are three phases of understanding the teens. At first you loathe the teens, because you know nothing about them and think they’re idiots, beneath you. Then you love the teens because you figure out they are smarter than you, and you make peace with the death of your cultural relevance, because you know you’ll be in good hands. Finally, you recognize the shape of the adults they’ll become, corrupted by money and vanity and hubris just like everyone else. And you’ll see yourself in them because they’re relatable: That moment you realize the teens are just like you.
Interesting piece by Elspeth Reeve who contemplates that today's digital teens are not as removed and different from society as we may think.
The highly profitable, deeply adorable, and emotionally fraught world of Instagram’s famous animals

Translating an animal’s persona into a human social media platform is by necessity a team effort. Most pet owners attest that their animals have distinct personalities, likes, and dislikes. And those who become social media stars are to an extent a self-selecting crew—no matter how much an owner wants it, an animal that detests sitting still for photo shoots or fashion shows simply won’t.
But setting up those opportunities and crafting the captions that distill an animal’s personality is, obviously, a human endeavor. Owners laugh about the sometimes-jarring experience of managing a social media persona that is both them, and not them. For fans, it’s a lot less complicated. They love the dog—or the donkey or the capybara, or whatever—and are happy to ignore the human team orchestrating that connection.
I wonder whether there are any ComDev/C4D lessons in Corinne Purtill long pieces (which incidentally is filled with cute animals-but I can still call it 'research'...)

Hot off the digital press
Gender Bias in Academe: An Annotated Bibliography of Important Recent Studies

The studies aggregated and summarized below offer important policy implications for the traditional ways that we quantify the processes leading to hiring, promotion, and tenure. You cannot simply count "outputs" in making an evaluation of someone's worth and reputation if there is a "biased filter" at the first stage of evaluation, prejudicing judgment at the outset. These studies should be required reading of any administrators and faculty committees charged with decision-making. They should be required reading for award committees and Human Resources departments, for policy makers and accreditation agencies.
Danica Savonick and Cathy N. Davidson have compiled an impressive repository of research on gender bias in the academy.

Vol 14, No 1 (2016)
triple C-Journal for a Global Sustainable Information Society with a special section on The Materiality of the Immaterial: ICTs and the Digital Commons


Researchers: speak up now or risk being muzzled on government policy

It is these sorts of vested commercial and ideological interests that university researchers often have to counteract when they advise government on public policy issues.
But the new rules will hamper scientists who want to promote the public interest in policy-making, and hence make it easier for lobbyists, companies and privately-funded campaign groups to sway government decisions towards their agendas. These restrictions will be bad for policy-making, bad for the public interest and bad for democracy.
Bob Ward on what the UK's proposed new anti-lobbying legislation could mean for academics-and the quest of engaging critically with evidence-based research. 

A Social Science in Africa Fit for Purpose

Where is the ‘real politics’ of political management in all this? African scholars first destination is history or political ethnography: documenting what actually happens. This is vital but grossly undervalued. It is done principally by country experts working for think-tanks like the International Crisis Group and the Carnegie Endowment. For sure, these institutions do some superb analysis, and their senior staff can move into academic positions. But it is extraordinarily hard to build a career based on knowing what is really happening a country, especially if it happens to be your own country.
Alex De Waal shares a lecture with plenty of ideas on how social science research could thrive in African contexts.

Responsible self-promotion: negotiating the relationships between self and Other, myself and ‘my’ work

I am not a public intellectual and I do not wish to become one. But I do share some of their privileges, not least the privilege of being offered, and granted, platforms on a regular basis. I have also, on many occasions, found myself in a position of being asked to speak for or over the Other, as part of discussions about ‘my’ work. Too many times, I have slipped up and done it. This makes me question myself and my work, and what it means to promote either. What is it responsible for me to talk about? How far should I stray beyond my own areas of expertise and the research work I have done? What are the boundaries between discussing this research, offering my opinion, and ventriloquising other people’s experiences? I need to ask these questions consistently, to improve my academic and political praxis. I need to be mindful of the relationships between self and Other, and the boundary between myself and ‘my’ work.
Alison Phipps reflects on the challenges of being an engaged researcher and academic and the pressure to perform as a 'public intellectual' between 'elderly statesman' reflections and the pressure for soundbites and opinions you know less about.

The Morning After: anthropology and the Ebola hangover, by Anne Menzel and Anita Schroven

This kind of reduction implies that effective Ebola interventions – first humanitarian assistance and then development and reconstruction efforts – will produce solutions and generate actual improvement for the lives of Sierra Leoneans, Guineans, and Liberians. The fact that such projects, programmes, reforms etc. are certainly not new to the region and, especially in post-war Sierra Leone and Liberia, have been ongoing for more than a decade has so far not nearly disturbed the policy oriented picture as much as it should. While some have pointed out that humanitarian and development aid have been coproducing the disastrous state of national and local health systems, it is worth asking why and how exactly these insights do not translate into more widespread and actually practiced scepticism vis-à-vis established actors, agencies and practices. Why, we would like to ask, has it remained so immensely difficult to break with the improvement of improvement measures that have been producing much less than desirable results. Ebola and the anthropological engagement with the humanitarian response certainly offer promising fields for empirical inquiries into this question.
A very long essay by two anthropologists who write about the 'end of Ebola' in some African countries and how anthropologists need to continue to engage with aid, development and buzzwords of 'resilient' health systems.


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