Links & Contents I Liked 189

Hi all,

Welcome to an almost Brexit-free link review that focuses on the mundane absurdities, LOLs, but also thoughtful insights that a week in development communication has to offer.

A celebrity travels to ‘Africa’-and there are pics and Tweets to prove it; the role of documentaries in development story telling; a new book on orphanages in Cambodia and the power of ‘failure’; managing UN bureaucracy; ‘sophisticated programming’-between complexity and overwhelming local capacity; supporting media innovations in West Africa; poetry and poetic reflections on writing ‘development’.

Digital culture: Bengali click farming; @sree lost his job-a contemporary story of self-branding; how L.A. wants to make open data meaningful

Dean Dad listens to new community college students.


New from aidnography

New research article on ritualized conference spaces & the evolution of peace research professionalism in Germany

It is important to engage with community practices and changing forms of professionalism over time. This allows for important nuances beyond twitter-able claims to add simply more women or enhance diversity at conferences in other ways. These are important steps, but in this day and age of the ‘metricized’ neoliberal university we need to ask tougher questions about how to build and maintain social movements and inspiring communities inside and outside academia.
Especially in Germany where academic social media engagements are still limited, professional bodies still gather very traditionally and academic output is still focused on very conservative outlets we need to continue debates and push for more participatory and creative ways to meet, share and ‘influence’ society.
Development news
Woman Visits Africa

Woman to visit the entire continent of Africa.

Kara Brown documents US actress' Debra Messing's trip to 'Africa' (Malawi). PSI is a great organization, but they may want to review their guidelines for celebrity social media field diaries to avoid stereotyping and communicate their work better.

Thoughts on the sociology of Brexit

The promise had nothing to do with economics or policy, but everything to do with the psychological allure of autonomy and self-respect. Farrage’s political strategy was to take seriously communities who’d otherwise been taken for granted for much of the past 50 years.
In place of facts, we now live in a world of data. Instead of trusted measures and methodologies being used to produce numbers, a dizzying array of numbers is produced by default, to be mined, visualised, analysed and interpreted however we wish. If risk modelling (using notions of statistical normality) was the defining research technique of the 19th and 20th centuries, sentiment analysis is the defining one of the emerging digital era. We no longer have stable, ‘factual’ representations of the world, but unprecedented new capacities to sense and monitor what is bubbling up where, who’s feeling what, what’s the general vibe.
I know, I know...I promised an (almost) Brexit-free link review ;)...but Will Davies' reflections are the most interesting I have come across so far in terms of relevance for 'development' discussions!

Can documentaries help us to tell a different story about development?

Keetie emphasised that, as a researcher, her concern was that she had little control over how her input would or would not be taken into account or the extent to which the programme would provide a fair representation of the experiment and the people participating in it or feed into ‘poverty porn’. One lesson from Keetie’s experience is that academics who work with documentary makers should ask more questions about the content of the show, the working title and the channel on which it will be shown.
A key learning for me, from this discussion, is the importance of differentiation. We need to think more carefully about the needs of different audiences and the opportunities presented by a whole range of genres of documentary. Mainstream TV documentaries have their place but there is also a place for many other types of documentary.
Mark Galloway shares interesting reflections from a workshop on documentaries and their role in development communication.

No orphanages, or just ‘good’ ones? Books and controversies from Cambodia’s Australian orphanage doyennes

While there are some eye-roll worthy moments in Winkler’s book, it’s hard not to have a degree of sympathy and respect for her. After all, who hasn’t been 21, outraged by injustice, na├»ve and somewhat impulsive? Her willingness to be upfront about the mistakes made, her moral dilemmas about how to do the right thing by the children in her organisation’s care, her work with her Cambodian team to make a major change to their approach, and her effort to put it all down in a book that is accessible for anyone who might be tempted to engage in activities that support the orphanage industry, are all admirable.
But times are changing, albeit slowly. Hopefully the Australian public will start to get the message that there are better ways to ‘save’ the children of Cambodia than to support orphanages.
Ashlee Betteridge reviews a new book on Cambodia's orphanage industry. But the fundamental question for me remains whether committing big mistakes in the first place is really necessary this day and age. Also, should the 'next generation' of development enthusiasts stop looking after a book deal and maybe do something else instead rather than creating a 'learning experience' for themselves?

The New UN Secretary-General Will Need to Rebuild the Secretariat’s Integrity

Almost 100 Under-Secretaries-General (USGs), i.e. Heads of Departments, Regional Commissions, Peacekeeping or Special Political Missions, Executive Directors of Funds and Programmes as well as Special Advisers, report directly to the Secretary-General; in addition, several Assistant Secretaries-General.
Owing to the risk of blurred accountabilities and fragmented responsibilities, the important Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) registered its concern that the number of USGs and ASGs was increased by 20% (to 166) between 2011 and 2015. Senior positions as a substitute for action?
Incredibly, there is now only one single process to recruit, place and promote staff members. This would be inconceivable in any national ministry, bank, airline or corporation.
Franz Baumann's essay may not be the most exciting reading, but he makes some interesting points about managing the UN beyond headlines and Periscope streams of candidates' application speeches. The never-ending story of one of the world's most discussed bureaucracies...

Sophisticated Programming - How Donors Can Encourage It

We can certainly see how these requirements become even more daunting for many national and local organisations. Even if their work is as sophisticated as requested, they may stumble over the need to demonstrate this, in a limited number of pages, in English. Not many made a bid as lead applicant. If the ultimate aim of external support is to strengthen the local capacities for peace and equitable development, then this remains a strategic attention point. Not only to enable them to access aid money, but also to understand better where the sophistication in their ways of working may lie.
Koenraad Van Brabant shares insights into a recent tender by the Dutch MFA and the challenges of 'sophisticated programming'.

Supporting People Powered Media Innovation in West Africa

However, as the report details, there are several challenges that continue to persist within the West African media landscape. These include low trust in media from most readers due to presumed political partisanship. In addition, editorial continues to be heavily influenced by advertising revenues from either government or private sector. Finally, entertainment sells, so sometimes there is a drive towards that as a least common denominator at the expense of less sensational content.
Ory Okolloh summarizes a new ReBoot report on media innovation and citizens' participation in West Africa.

The Echo of her Eyes

So I started with myself: Here is my wound, my mother, here is her story, listen to it carefully and then tell me, if we did not have a problem with the way we treat our women! Tell me, if change was not overdue! I needed to find salvation and I found it when I published that book. I hope you will not get offended by the way I describe it, it was as if I walked naked publicly telling my own people, you could shoot me, throw stones at me, you could even tear me apart, but this is who I am. This is how I think. This is how I feel.
I found peace when I broke that wall of silence.
Elham Manea on writing.

“Respond” Award Winning Poems 2015/2016

UHRSN is proud to announce the Winners of the Human Rights Poetry Competition “Respond”. With more than 700 poems from 93 countries the “RESPOND” poetry competition set a powerful sign regarding the plights refugees are facing all over the world.

I see
A woman in black walking, looking down

I know what is in it, in her suitcase
Because I, myself wore it
When I was forced to leave my home
No clothes inside
But one life, a book of her life printed
There are her dreams, sadnes, happiness
Tears in it love and the first apprehension
Suitcase of life traveling with her
Where it will take her
She does not know
It may be dust on the suitcases forever
Or some new love will come
(from Suitcase of life by Esma Dziho)
Even though the original post was published in December 2015, it is never too late to share great, thoughtful poetry!

Our digital lives
The Bengali Click Farmer

Undergirding the seeming likeness between an “organic” and a farmed like is a web of global economic disparities. Likes are supposed to be something that anyone can use with equal meaning, but only Bangladeshi likes are cheap enough to be for sale. At first glance, Bradley’s documentary confirms the most cynical reading of Facebook’s like economy: the uninterested, disconnected liking of click farmers mirrors the disengaged, empty liking of Western, supposedly good-faith users.
She doesn’t seem to much care about the Bangladeshi workers as people; she uses them as unspecified emotional props, as if they should exist only to allow Westerners to measure their own feelings on the futility of liking on Facebook.
Mayukh Sen reviews a short documentary on Bangladeshi 'click farming' in a beautifully written essay.

The Met ousted a top executive, so he used Facebook to show the world how to do unemployment right

It appeared Sreenivasan, in one fell swoop, had taken a stressful and potentially embarrassing experience—the public loss of a high-profile position—and spun it into an opportunity. Any TED talker could tell you, failure is so hot right now. But Sreenivasan’s post—really a call for support and help—went beyond that. He demonstrated a deft, natural mastery of his medium, social media, and gave his network the ammo they would need to help him out of his predicament.
“Everything I’ve gotten has come from being completely open and sharing everything I know,” said Sreenivasan. “So then I said, ‘Let me be open and free. See what happens. Let the universe help.’”
Jenni Avins reports on an interesting case study about self-branding, finding a (new) job in our digital times and the opportunities of 'micro celebrity'.

4 Ways to Make Open Data Meaningful

Through the City of Los Angeles GeoHub, the city invites its employees to use the web GIS platform to find open data, access the city's GIS tools, and collaborate with peers. When government staff know where they can go to access data and contribute their information, it breaks down internal silos and sets up an environment conducive to exchanging ideas.
Anyone can find government data, watch a tutorial on how to make use of it, peruse some apps for inspiration, and start using the data he or she is interested in. This workflow drives a culture of innovation and allows more people to contribute to building smart communities: citizen engagement at its best.
Christopher Thomas on L.A.'s efforts with open data. He makes some interesting points, but I wonder whether his vision is still a bit too optimistic about how citizens use data and information...

Hot off the digital press

UNESCO launch for Massive Open Online Courses guide for developing countries

The guide, Making sense of MOOCs, A Guide for Policy-Makers in Developing Countries is designed to raise awareness among policy-makers in developing countries as to how MOOCs might enable access to affordable quality higher education and help in the preparation of secondary school leavers for academic and vocational education and training.
Interesting new report on the hype (?) around MOOCs for development.

Listening at the Table

The other students weren’t quite as specific, but they made it clear that college was to be only part of what they’d do with their time. And that’s in a context of traditional-aged students who plan to attend full-time. Students who meet those parameters are the exception, but even among those, paid work looms large.
The indifference to online or MOOC-style options. As focused as they were on paid jobs, they wanted classes in person. Some of that may have reflected program choice; Auto Tech is hands-on because there’s really no other way to do it. (...). Still, they seemed much more willing to come to campus an extra day each week than to take an online class. Whether they’ll still feel that way after a semester or two, I don’t know, but I was struck at the clarity with which they all asserted that.
As always, Dean Dad shares some interesting insights from higher education's community college 'front line'.


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