Links & Contents I Liked 183

Hi all,
I'm a bit proud of myself that the Link Review has become a regular weekly feature again amidst the approaching grande final of the semester!

Development news
with more great career advice; sexual harassment at ICT4D events; the second disaster of unwanted donations; migrant brides-it’s complicated; World Humanitarian Summit is a mess (file under ‘Breaking news’…); celebrities and designer activism;
Our digital lives on people and ideas that make it into rankings and not beyond; knowledge economy myths; OKCupid data ethics.
A detailed analysis of communication in Sierra Leone is Hot off the digital press.
Academia with data, metrics and publishing capital(ism); and an anthropological take on Beyonce’s fashion brand disaster.


New from aidnography
Development tourism without adult supervision-Reflections on Aftenposten’s Sweatshop documentary

I like the idea that a group of young women takes initiative, is active, inquisitive, speaks up and talks on the eye-level of the target audience: Young people hanging out in malls and spending money on unsustainable fashion items. But their simple conclusion ‘it’s the companies’ responsibility to ensure decent work conditions’ reminded me a lot of the Kony 2012 campaign: If we identify a clear target and ‘bad guy’ we can ‘change the world’.
Admirable as it is to join an old-fashioned protest march for a higher minimum wage as global engagement, Cambodian authorities, Chinese factory owners, the European fashion business or transnational civil society are absent from the documentary.

Development news
Read this e-book to end poverty

The e-book includes a range of posts – questioning development practice, reflecting on personal experiences and proposing alternative ways of thinking. It features topics such as mental health and diversity in aid work. One author attempts to deconstruct the notion of the ever-elusive ‘field’. As well as offering some decent doses of myth-busting and useful advice, crucially, each article reflects what we’re fundamentally all about – by focusing on the question, ‘why?’
Happy birthday to my favorite development group blog for career advice!

I went to Afghanistan to save the world. The world had other plans.

I look back over the past decade, and, more than anything else, I feel like a voyeur. I like to think that some of the things I've done have helped — but I no longer pretend that I'm in any way special, much less indispensable. I didn't save the world, but I did change — I gained, slowly, a sense of humility, and a sense of perspective.
To do this work, you have to distance yourself from the illusion of control, from the illusion that your work will lead to the outcomes you wish to see. And you have to be willing to continue nonetheless.
Michael Bear Kleinman summarizes aid work in the 21st century

Sexual harassment at international ICT events: a call for action

I have become increasingly saddened and dismayed in recent years at the level of sexual harassment, and what I see as inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour by a surprising number of men at the ICT conferences and exhibitions convened by some international organisations. This ranges from generally loutish actions by some groups of young men, to what can only be called predatory behaviour by some older and more senior figures in the sector. Until the last couple of years, I had thought that such behaviour had largely disappeared, but from what I have witnessed myself, from what I have heard from women in the sector, and from what I have read, it is clear that action needs to be taken urgently by all those in the sector, and particularly those who are organising conferences and events.
Tim Unwin add to an on-going and important discussion: How can 'we' meet in better ways, outside the venues and mindsets of expensive, frustrating and diversity-free big conferences-not just in ICT4D but in development and academia as a whole?

'There was so much stuff': the 'second disaster' of unwanted donations

"When we provide goods, wonderful as the impulse is, it often results in either a mismatch, or a surplus of goods that can't really be used...and also creates a large logistical problem that then is added in to the other logistical problems of an emergency management response, at a time when their resources are already stretched."
CBC radio on unwanted donations in the aftermath of the Fort McMurray fires. The quote above should be printed out and distributed to every well-intentioned NGO, church group and person dropping off another teddy bear!

Migrant Brides in the Matchmaking Industry: Blurring the Binaries

The relationship between the brokers and the women also cannot simply be regarded as the “perpetrator” exploiting the “victim”. Migrant brides continuously negotiate with brokers and arrange their journeys in cooperation with them. Scholars have critiqued the general perception that any commodification of love or intimacy means exploitation. Although matchmaking very often involves material exchanges, this does not mean that all prospective brides engaged with such agencies will suffer abuse or trafficking. There are indeed empowering possibilities for both men and women within this sector.
Therefore, the dead-end discourse of portraying foreign brides as either passive victims or active subjects seems inappropriate. Rather, a more nuanced approach and a recognition that their life trajectories are not static, will help in the formulation of more relevant policies.
Inés Crosas Remón highlights the complexities and nuances around the migrant bride exchange economy.

The U.N.’s World Humanitarian Summit Is a Total Mess

So instead of serving as a venue for negotiations, the World Humanitarian Summit has been designed more as a gigantic jamboree, with governments, civil society, relief organizations, and the private sector all supposed to arrive at an agreement in some organic and spontaneous fashion. It is not clear what the secretary-general thinks will happen when he gets the world’s humanitarian stakeholders together on a big global stage — in the midst of the worst humanitarian crises in decades — and shines a bright light on them before they have had any chance to agree on anything. But chances are, he’s not going to get the happy handshakes and photo-ops that follow the conclusion of a successful summit.
John Norris' critique of the WHS reminds me of a long discussion about global summits and there role in the (digital) world. And yes, Daniel Esser and I did some research on a similar event a while ago...

Designer activism and post-democracy

For the old-fashioned social justice campaigner committed to transformational social change, the unscripted howl of a celebrity is a weak peg on which to hang a revolutionary movement. But for the political and business managers of post-democracy, the unpredictability of celebrities is a useful lightning rod. The Comic Relief gala is a cornucopia of social intelligence: it’s an extraordinarily effective way of finding out what issues the public cares about, and how. The popular response to a celebrity’s radical rant is a useful means of flushing out the depth of support on that issue.
The post-democratic Northern celebrity therefore has a number of overlapping agenda-setting roles—in the ‘real politics’ of power and money, in the public arena, and in defining the nature of international philanthropy or campaigns for social justice. Meanwhile, those who try to support people’s own agendas face not only the hostility of elites; they also find that their messages are dissonant with, or drowned out by, the clamor of designer activists.
Alex DeWaal on the links between celebrity, post-democratic activism and designed engagement in social issues. Great read!

Our digital lives

The T&C 50: The Top Philanthropists of 2016

These men and women are using money, influence, and family name to change the game in big ways.​
50 examples of how social change will unlikely happen, adding to the explosion of rankings of new/young/old/innovative people suckling peacefully on capitalism's tit while pretending to be philanthropists...

How A Princess And A CEO Are Applying The VC Model To Philanthropy

The crown princess discussed the idea with Melinda Gates, who joined their effort as cochair. "It seemed like it might inspire people," Gates says. Soon, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded PSI $5 million over five years to turn the notion into a reality. Since then, the founding members—14 women, aged 26 to 72—have invested $19.8 million of their personal funds in their respective projects, which span 13 countries. Members help design and oversee three-year projects that test new products or services for girls and women in developing countries. If successful, these models are then pitched as larger-scale programs to PSI’s bigger donors, including the Gates Foundation and the United States Agency for International Development. So far, the collective has been responsible for attracting $60 million for new health resources for girls.
Remember: "It's not a club for rich women", but an almost textbook example of 'development' in the age of philanthrocapitalism.

The knowledge economy is a myth. We don’t need more universities to feed it

Expanding universities and encouraging increasing numbers of young people to study for degrees may not be the smartest thing to do. It means educating more people who aren’t that interested, for jobs that don’t exist, in a way that has little impact on their intellectual ability.
Andre Spicer crams a lot into his piece. It's certainly food for discussion and worth unpacking some of his core arguments, but his overall assessment may be too bleak. Would more people be happier in their jobs without degrees?

OkCupid Study Reveals the Perils of Big-Data Science

I suppose I am one of those “social justice warriors” he’s talking about. My goal here is not to disparage any scientists. Rather, we should highlight this episode as one among the growing list of big data research projects that rely on some notion of “public” social media data, yet ultimately fail to stand up to ethical scrutiny. The Harvard “Tastes, Ties, and Time” dataset is no longer publicly accessible. Peter Warden ultimately destroyed his data. And it appears Kirkegaard, at least for the time being, has removed the OkCupid data from his open repository. There are serious ethical issues that big data scientists must be willing to address head on—and head on early enough in the research to avoid unintentionally hurting people caught up in the data dragnet.
Michael Zimmer provides a good overview over the OKCupid data debate and how new ethical issues arise for digital and big data research.

Hot off the digital press

Communication in Sierra Leone: An Analysis of media and mobile audiences

The two most widely accessed media platforms, radio and mobile phones, are almost equally used by men and women and by those in urban and rural areas. In contrast, TV, newspapers and the internet show striking differences in terms of gender – men have consistently higher access to media than women – and location – those in urban areas have higher access than those in rural areas.
BBC Media Action's Annabelle Wittels and Nick Maybanks take a detailed look at Sierra Leone and its communicative landscape.


It’s the Data, Stupid: What Elsevier’s purchase of SSRN also means

SSRN represents better data about the impact of social science research than any single journal, or any publisher’s data (even Elsevier, with its hundreds of social science journals), because it has been built on the good will, apparent neutrality, and level playing field of an open access repository.
Translation: “helping researchers get a more complete picture” means something like “reducing impact to metric that can be applied to an individual scholar”; whereas “institutions will benefit” actually means “universities will pay big bucks for this data.”
Quite a lot of commentary is around in the digital sphere since Elsevier announced its purchase of the SSRN repository; Christopher Kelty reminds us that data and metrics are probably one of the important drivers that fuel academic publishing platforms.

Beyoncé’s Anthropology of Labour

We know that Beyoncé’s clothing line is made in Katunayake, Sri Lanka. To understand what this means, a good place to start is Sandya Hewamanne’s 2008 ethnography of workers in Katunayake Free Trade Zone, Stitching Identities in a Free Trade Zone: Gender and Politics in Sri Lanka. Hewamanne tells the stories of women who leave their villages to take up employment in global garment factories. With an anthropologist’s eye for detail, Hewamanne explains the workers’ hardships and limited choices without ever reducing them to the two-dimensional victims of tabloid headlines.
Rebecca Prentice's piece takes us back to the beginning of this week review: Celebrities, fashion and critical anthropological inquiry!


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