Links & Contents I Liked 177

Hi all,

Many of us will be celebrating Easter and/or enjoy a long weekend of sorts so this is a good opportunity to catch up with some interesting readings!

Development news travels with Barbie Savior; Norway’s fake refugee camps for children; the white savior complex industry is alive and well; Angola’s Wikipedia pirates; INGOs have a right to exist-says ActionAid; MSF & 3D printing; Ellen Page as an imperial LGBT voluntourist; displaced dissent; from fail fests to learning; evidence-based policy crisis.
Our digital lives: Virtual reality is the next big thing in (humanitarian) storytelling.
Academia: Twitter creates academic hierarchies and celebrities; do we really need more PhDs in Canada and the OECD world?


New from aidnography
Opportunities and challenges of the European refugee situation for Communication for Development

My main argument of this short post is that development, especially communication for development, experts based in the global North can contribute to the current refugee debate based on long-standing experience with the complexities of development. Having development or humanitarian issues on ‘our doorstep’ is an opportunity to engage with people, governments and organizations as ‘voices of reason’ who know transnational, global challenges very well. It is also a reminder to avoid historical pitfalls of development and aim at participatory, bottom-up approaches and long-term projects rather than short-term responses to calls for funding.
Development news
Barbie Savior

Jesus. Adventures. Africa. Two worlds. One love. Babies. Beauty. Not qualified. Called. 20 years young. It's not about me...but it kind of is.

Why Norwegian parents are sending their kids to live in fake refugee camps

The teenagers are given only a minimum amount of food and must sleep in crowded residences on their imaginative journey from Sudan to Norway. In the middle of the night, an "attack" on the camp forces the participants to change locations amid temperatures around freezing, according to a recent description of life in the camp by Agence France-Presse.
"The outcome we hope for is to give the teens more perspective on the world and to show them how lucky they are to live in a peaceful country like Norway," Johansen said.
The experience is also supposed to show that it is not only extreme temperatures and exhaustion refugees are fighting but also bureaucracy and legal hurdles, even after they arrive in Europe.
Development education is changing and in this day and age this means 'events', 'experiences' and 'immersion'. But as with many well-intentioned initiatives there is a risk of 'preaching to the choir'; Nordic countries are cutting aid budgets and tend to move further to the political right-and a 'fake' refugee camp may not be the most effective campaigning tool for policy change...

Your White Savior Complex is detrimental to my development

Amy, I could say that it isn’t your fault, that you were just born into a system. But the unfortunate truth is that it is your fault because you are an active agent of that system. The only options on the table are you either educate your funders to understand that your very presence is detrimental to what you are attempting to achieve, or you quit altogether. Either way, you don’t have to play along the same rules that have you at an existential crossroads. True change, often, requires that we do those things that scare us and seem almost insurmountable.
You need to ask yourself some hard questions: What is your primary objective here? Are you doing this because you want to feel like you have done some good in this world? And the easiest, sexiest, most fundable way to do that is to bring change over there? If the problem you are trying to fix over there isn’t fixed right where you are, what gives you the qualifying authority to go there? And by leap-frogging the issues in your backyard, are you really solving the problem or just moving sand grains around on a beachhead? Why are problems over there yours to fix?
TMS Ruge adds to a debate where so little learning seems to be happening even after this discussion has been around for so many years with the same bottom line: Voluntourism is bad and there is very little you can 'teach' in a meaningful way, Amys of the world!

Angola's Wikipedia Pirates Are Exposing the Problems With Digital Colonialism

That brings us to what’s going on in Angola. Enterprising Angolans have used two free services—Facebook Free Basics and Wikipedia Zero—to share pirated movies, music, television shows, anime, and games on Wikipedia. And no one knows what to do about it.
I spoke with experts at three different digital rights groups that have all weighed in on international zero rating in one way or another. None of them were willing to say on the record whether they thought what’s going on with Angola and Wikipedia Zero was a good or a bad thing. But one line of reasoning came up in one of the conversations that made a lot of sense: In many ways, this debate is about what Wikimedia—a community and organization that prides itself on the free transfer of information—fundamentally wants to be.
Jason Koebler's piece on one of the fundamental questions of ICT4D: What if 'they' don't want to use the Internet as 'we' had planned?

You ask if NGOs have a right to exist, but some of us are already devolving power

The real value of the INGO is – or at least should be – in connecting struggles to real wins. Using the example of ActionAid Guatemala’s work on the land campaign, the research produced is done according to participatory methods that listens to the roots, that is developed by and with the communities but also puts a broader slant on the problem. Why is the company grabbing the land in the first place? Why are mechanisms to protect people’s land rights not working? What incentives exist to grab that land? Where does the demand for the end product come from? Who is benefiting from this proposed investment?
But it also considers what other struggles are out there and what we can learn from other communities that have managed to stop land grabs such as those of Dakatcha in Kenya. Others do the same: the campaign on Tax Power does not end at the borders of ActionAid Zambia or UK. It is part of the same network fighting for the same thing: for companies to pay their taxes wherever they operate.
ActionAid's Laura Sullivan reminds us that NGO still have a role as global, networked platforms for campaigning, advocacy and local change. Also, ActionAid moved their HQ to South Africa some time ago and will be interesting to see how Oxfam's relocation to Kenya will affect its understanding of a global NGO.

MSF Pilots 3-D Printing and Virtual Reality Technology to Design its Hospitals and Improve Patient Care

Elvina Motard, MSF technical team leader, worked with expert consultants to take existing plans for a hospital MSF built in Cantahay, the Philippines, following devastating Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, and made them digital. They then 3-D printed the facility and developed a virtual reality experience in a game engine that generates a virtual world. In this world, the user can navigate through the center using a virtual reality headset and a game pad.
“Such technologies will undoubtedly make discussions more efficient, more vivid and more graphic,” said Jean Pletinckx, MSF director of logistics. “They will allow people to really see themselves inside our future hospital and this will improve hospital design as well as training and briefings. It will also allow our partners, like local ministries of health, to better understand what we can provide and better feedback on our suggestions.”
3D printing and Virtual Reality are the next big things fir humanitarian design...

Ellen Page's Gay Imperialism is Not Activism

If you think you live in a part of the world where the very notion of “sexuality” is unmarked by histories of genocide, colonialism, institutionalized racism, and slavery, you’re wrong. And if you think you live in a part of the world where homophobia—the hatred of “homosexuals” (a distinct minority) by “heterosexuals” (a distinct majority)—was not originally imported and enacted through European sodomy laws, you’re wrong.
And you’re not paying attention.
At its core, Gaycation involves the perpetual restaging of an imperial fantasy that constructs (gay) tourism as an adventure into uncharted territories rife with exotic seductions. In the first episode of her “exploration,” Ellen travels to Japan where she and Ian adamantly search for “LGBT” subjects who properly narrate their lives according to a Western identity politics that privileges “coming out” (the more rainbow flags the better!) and legislative measures, namely gay marriage, as the dominant barometers of social progress.
Tovah Leibowitz' essay is as much about 'development' issues than it is a scathing critique of Ellen Page's LGBT activism travels and documentary. 

Peace, out…

It’s important to understand that displaced dissent, by definition, is not an effective means for affecting organizational change. Displaced dissent is what workers resort to when they feel it is unsafe to dissent internally through established channels, or when they have simply given up hope that their dissent will make a difference.
So, basically, the UN will not change because of “I Love the U.N., but…” You can retweet the link all you like, you can post it on Facebook with your comments, and to cut straight to the spoiler, nothing will happen.
If you want to change the system, you have to do something other than resign and then make a big deal of telling everyone why.
AidSpeak on why quitting your senior UN job and tell the NYT about it is not good enough to change the UN or aid system. 

Forgetting Failure
I'm not opposed to calling something a failure if it is one. And I firmly support those who use the language of failure as a rallying cry to promote openness and learning. But in the end, failures are spectacles. Failure focuses too much on what happened, and not enough on what to do differently. Let's not get tripped up by the word. Let's stop debating whether or not something was a failure. Instead, let's focus on learning and improving. Let’s be candid about what's not going well, reflect on it, learn from it, and start doing things differently so we can chip away at those bucket lists.
June Wang takes the 'fail fest' debate a step further, reminding us that admitting failure is the starting point for learning and change, not an end point to celebrate the opposite of success.

“Evidence based policy” and the replicability crisis

In summary, my view then is that what we need is genuine, robust-evidence-based policy making, and (therefore) a lot less of it. What we’re likely to get is policy making based on a biased selection from an already weak evidence base, combined with a structural attempt to delegitimise any protest or critique of that policymaking as Luddite and anti-scientific. People need to be worrying about this.
Daniel Davies contributes further food for thought to the ongoing 'evidence debate'-and the dream of rational policy-making in an age of Trumpization...

Our digital lives
Emerging Practices: A New Perspective on Storytelling

In terms of storytelling in journalism, Jake Silverstein, editor-in-chief of The New York Times Magazine, explained the potential power of VR in an interview with Consumer Reports:
“We first got interested in virtual reality when we saw a refugee camp film made for the U.N. We showed it to some people around the newsroom, and they were just blown away. Hardened editors on the international desk would take off the headset and say, ‘Listen, I’ve edited hundreds of stories about refugees, and I’ve never had an experience like this one.’”
The Knight Foundation's post is a bit technical, but the message is clear: Virtual Reality is the 'next big thing' and it will play a huge role in development communication '4.0'...

Twitter creates ‘new academic hierarchies’, suggests study

Dr Veletsianos told Times Higher Education that the research demonstrated how Twitter was “not an equalising force” and instead “may recreate or foster alternative hierarchical structures”.
Dr Kimmons said that the use of social media data to measure the impact of scholarly activity – so-called altmetrics – was inevitably called into question by their findings.
“Though follower count might be used as an altmetric for impact, signifying the reach of the academic, its connection to other academic metrics of success, such as rigour and prestige, is dubious,” Dr Kimmons said.
Chris Havergal on new research that confirms what we now from any other walk of life: Digital identities cluster around a very small elite who can cash in on their digital engagement and a large group of 'foot Twitterati' who are living from re-tweet to re-tweet...and as with any measurement of impact: Treat quantitative indicators such as number of Followers with care.

More PhDs? Define the “demand” first

even if we can prove that increased numbers of PhDs would contribute to these outcomes, could we show that PhDs are necessary to producing them? Or would we see the same outcomes with Master’s level degrees and professional experience or additional specific training? How would we know? While doctoral education certainly helps cultivate skills and qualities that are desirable in non-academic contexts, it would help to have some proof that these translate in ways that other qualifications would not.
Melonie Fullick engages with the 'we need more PhDs' argument-arguments that are not just limited to the Canadian context she addresses specifically. I guess we need some RCTs to find out whether 'more PhDs' are worth the time, effort and money compared to performers outside the academy without the end, what is lacking in most countries is an investment in the PhD endeavor beyond some OECD statistics and business school BS around 'competitiveness'-my guess is that fewer PhD graduates that are well funded and well educated will have a bigger 'impact' than simply producing 'more' and hoping for something to 'trickle down' in society...


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