Links & Contents I Liked 246

Hi all,

August still seems to be a bit quieter as we are slowly getting into gear for a new semester and new academic adventures! Nonetheless, there's always great food for thought and excellent weekend readings!

Development news:
UNICEF & the YouTube ambassador; China joins the pop-cultural discourse of White Saviors; Are ‘beg-packers’ a thing in Vietnam? Tanzania’s ghost safari-an old tale of modernization & development in today’s Africa; Africans are not waiting for their diaspora; new ways of being a digital Nigerian; chatbots & humanitarian assistance; ICC uses social media as evidence; Indonesia’s restrictions of the Internet also determine SDG success; how to involve communities in SDG monitoring; the history of foreign aid & American public opinion. 

Our digital lives:
Facebook & platform capitalism.

Climate change meets humanitarian aid discourses; online protests harm companies; Nkrumah’s legacy of national self-determination.

A virtual panel to discuss meetings, bureaucracy & more; how harmful is predatory publishing really?


Development news

A very interesting take on the elections in Kenya-and probably on 'democracy' and its rituals more generally...

UNICEF Picks YouTube Star As Ambassador

Little Lilly would also be proud of Superwoman Lilly because, as the first ambassador from the digital realm, UNICEF is giving her free reign to create the kind of videos she knows viewers would want to watch. "They've really been collaborative," Singh says. "They said, 'Hey, we have never had an ambassador that does what you do. You tell us what you think is going to work.' "
Singh's biggest challenge will be figuring out how to weave UNICEF's education message into her own brand of comedic, visual storytelling — and getting her fans to engage. "Any time you reach out to an audience that wasn't cultivated for the purpose of advocacy, you're going to run into followers who are less interested than others," says Simmons. "If I had to place a bet on whether she will figure it out or not, I would bet on her."
Jackson Sinnenberg for NPR Goats & Soda. How different will Lilly's engagement really look like as a new generation of ambassadors focuses on digital storytelling tools?

China’s Wolf Warriors 2 in ‘war-ravaged Africa’ gives the White Savior complex a whole new meaning

Leng, a Rambo-style lone wolf fighter who miraculously dodges bullets and uses a mattress to stop a grenade, is charged with getting the adopted African child of a slain Chinese doctor to safety. He’s the first to survive a disease called “lamania” that has killed many locals, thanks to the doctor who discovered the cure before his death.
Lily Kuo for Quartz with a reminder that China's engagement in Africa is now also reaching pop culture.

No exception for foreign ‘beg-packers’ on Vietnam streets: tourism director

Street begging is not allowed in Vietnam, and the rule applies to locals as well as foreigners, Tran Chi Dung, the Kien Giang tourism chief, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on Tuesday.
“No exception was to be made for foreign street beggars in Vietnam no matter how polite they appeared to be,” he said.
Dung was referring to a recent photo posted on Facebook of a foreign woman meditating on a pavement on Kien Giang’s Phu Quoc Island, with a note written in Vietnamese placed in front of her that reads “meditate for luck, need money.”
According to Dung, foreigners have long come to Vietnam seeking short-term jobs and even resorting to begging on the street to fund their trip.
Tuoi Tre News with another story of 'beg-packing'-it's difficult to get an idea of how big this phenomenon really is (or whether it really is a phenomenon at all...) beyond the catchy term...

Tanzania's ghost safari: how western aid contributed to the decline of a wildlife haven

“I work more and more with the World Bank or the African Development Bank,” says scientist Holly Dublin, “and I see what their plans and what they are giving loans for to these governments. It is like there’s a total disconnect. So what you are going to see is that of course, elephants come last. In fact, anything to do with wildlife comes last.”
The companies in the valley all worry about this too and have all employed their own techniques to try to stem the losses. The rice plantation has run education courses on modern agricultural techniques in order to help local people grow more rice in a smaller area; the teak plantation, in some places, has alternated teak and miombo to try to give the wildlife some space. The sugar plantation is trying to build up a forest area in one part of in the north of the valley where elephants are still sometimes seen, so that the elephants will continue to pass that way without stumbling into the plantations (a beehive fence to keep them in the forest has been strung along one point). But they agree that the problem is just getting worse.
Bibi van der Zee and Sophie Tremblay for The Guardian. This is a sad, almost timeless story about 'development', aid and modernization...

Dear African Abroad: Home is NOT Waiting For You

Remember that home is not your little project. Home is not waiting. Home is not frozen in your absence. Should you decide to do so, the home you left behind is not the one you will return to. Do not expect to be at home in all the same spaces. Feel your way in. Fall into place where you’re meant to. Home has changed, and so have you. Return as much as you need to, for as long as you must. Settle as necessary. Never count yourself greater for having left. Remember that the greatest experts are, to use this tired phrase, “on the ground”.
So, whenever it is that you come home, do so with your head bowed, with your ears sharp and attuned to listening. Take your shoes off at the door, be confident to speak and share the perspectives you’ve learned, but be quick to listen and learn how exactly it is that home needs you.
Priscilla Takondwa for Tiwale with a reminder that as countries in Africa are rapidly changing, so are notions of 'diaspora' or 'brain drain' and the impact of those who return 'home'.

New ways of being Nigerian

Rather than function as instruments of ethnic violence for politicians and ethnic chauvinists, young Nigerians as primary producers and consumers of popular culture can be at the forefront of this national re-orientation. As 21st century citizens of a global world, youth in Nigeria can channel their energy, education and digital literacies to bring about this change. This pan-Nigerian sensibility was on display during the brief Occupy Nigeria protests concerning the removal of subsidy and increase in the price of petroleum products by the Goodluck Jonathan administration in January 2012. Young Nigerians were at the forefront of this struggle and utilized social media platforms to coordinate the various protests.
Cajetan Iheka for Africa is a country shares reflections at the intersection of popular culture and digital transformation in the context of contemporary Nigeria.

Our experiment using Facebook chatbots to improve humanitarian assistance

Finally, we realize that we must prepare to manage all of the unstructured information that Food Bot will collect. Colleagues in the field are already weary of collecting yet more data that won’t be analysed or used. As a result, the team is working on setting up the infrastructure that is needed to process the large volumes of free text data that we expect the bot to produce. This is where our work with automated data processing and dashboards should pay dividends.
WFP's Mobile technology for food security monitoring on chatbots, mobile data collection and questions on how innovative ICT4D ideas can be incorporated into the larger scope of the organization.

And So It Begins… Social Media Evidence In An ICC Arrest Warrant

The arrest warrant against Mr. Al-Werfalli is the latest indication from the ICC that it is keeping up with developments relating to conflict, crime, and communication technology. The OTP noted in its Strategic Plan for 2016-18 that technology has led to a rapidly changing environment in which witnesses, victims, and perpetrators have access to smartphones and the internet. The Court has hired cyber investigators to conduct online investigations. Perhaps the arrest warrant from the 15th August is the outcome of these efforts. However, much work remains to be done to carve a way forward with regards to open source/social media evidence. Practitioners and academics are, in many ways, entering unknown territory. The approach taken to this type of evidence will prove crucial for any future proceedings in conflicts such as Syria and Yemen, where open source material abounds.
Emma Irving for Opinio Juris on how social media can have a real impact in the investigation of war crimes.

Without open and free internet, Indonesia will come short in achieving Sustainable Development Goals

On the one hand, the government show commitment to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, on the other hand they want more control over internet. Can Indonesia’s government accomplish these ambitious goals and targets without giving more freedom for citizens online?
Eko Prasetyo for Panoply Digital with a reminder that the digital sphere (like any other space) will not unilaterally be a 'space for good', but remains a contested one between government interests of control and the possibilities of a free Internet to work towards the SDGs.

Monitoring the Sustainable Development Goals from the community-level

It was clear to us, through our attendance of side events and formal sessions of the HLPF, that governments are not working enough with their civil society partners to research, monitor and deliver on the SDGs. There needs to be space for civil society both to put the spotlight on the disaggregation of government data, and to illuminate the realities and knowledge of those people who, in the official data, remain invisible.
There is also a role for the United Nations, which needs to push its Member States harder to ensure that there is active civil society engagement in this voluntary reporting process.
Jo Howard and Tom Thomas for the British Academy with another reminder that making SDG processes meaningful requires work and political will to collect and interpret seemingly apolitical 'data'.

Foreign aid and American public opinion: A history

It is striking that the percentage of Americans thinking the U.S. spend too much on foreign aid hit what was then a post-Vietnam low in 1985, largely in response to President Ronald Reagan’s decision to offer food aid to Ethiopia as its Marxist government struggled with a calamitous and self-inflicted famine. As Reagan declared, “A hungry child knows no politics,” the public responded to a clear and specific use for assistance: feeding starving children. This uptick in popularity for assistance under Reagan is also notable in that it was counterintuitive: Reagan, as a small government conservative, expanded the aid budget and the overall program became more popular.
The next great shift in public opinion toward the assistance program came in the early and mid-1990s, after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The foreign aid program was suddenly bereft of its primary justification as a bulwark against communist expansion, and USAID had been scandal-plagued and badly mismanaged at the end of the President George H.W. Bush administration.
John Norris for DevEx with an interesting piece that looks beyond the usual 'Americans think their government spends 5/10/20% of the budget on foreign aid' narrative and traces some major developments throughout post-WWII history.

Our digital lives
You Are the Product

To sum up: there is a lot of research showing that Facebook makes people feel like shit. So maybe, one day, people will stop using it.
What if advertisers don’t rebel, governments don’t act, users don’t quit, and the good ship Zuckerberg and all who sail in her continues blithely on?
John Lancaster for the London Review of Books with a long-read on our digital lives and virtual connectivity in the age of platform capitalism.

Has Facebook finally given up chasing teenagers? It’s complicated

The young people I talk to for my research suggest that Facebook’s broad appeal and easy design presents a unique experience for them. Facebook is a field of potential social landmines, with the fear that the diverse user base will see everything they post – causing anxiety, hedging and inaction.
Having to negotiate this broad audience means young people seem to be less likely to use of some of the public aspects of Facebook, choosing instead to rely on aspects such as groups and private messaging. This explains why they seem to be increasingly relying more on platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat to interact with their peers, a trend also noted by other researchers.
In this light, the attempt to encourage teenagers to use the same features as they do on Snapchat when Facebook’s brand is so associated with a more public and socially difficult environment seems inherently flawed. We can’t say where the company will go in the future but it seems likely it will struggle to ever be as central to young people’s online social experiences as it once was.
Harry T. Dyer for The Conversation presents his latest research, adding more nuances to the complicated question about the future of online platforms and 'the next big thing' for social networks.

IDS Bulletin calls for humanitarian aid and climate change sectors to work together

The editors, Siri Eriksen, Ruth Haug, Lars Otto Naess, Aditi Bhonagiri and Lutgart Lenaerts, question whether or not humanitarian aid should remain focused on ‘saving lives in the time of crises – or also engage in longer-term concerns, including climate change’.
They argue that ‘humanitarian crises appear dramatic, overwhelming and sudden. Aid is required immediately to save lives. On the face of it, linkages to longer-term climate change and adaptation appear far-fetched. However, the causes for humanitarian crises – such as the current food shortages in Ethiopia and on the Horn of Africa – are rarely sudden’.
Political and financial frameworks are needed to facilitate longer-term actions; alongside taking into account the experience and knowledge of local communities, and those directly impacted by climate change.
A new edition of the open access IDS Bulletin.

The Effect of Online Protests and Firm Responses on Shareholder and Consumer Evaluation

Contrary to recent studies suggesting that participation in online protests is only token support without any substantive effects, our results show that online protests do hurt. Firms can expect to suffer financial, reputational, and sales damage when an online protest campaign mobilizes consumers successfully. We also show that online protests are more likely to take firms by surprise than offline protests.
Tijs van den Broek, David Langley and Tobias Hornig with a new open access article for the Journal of Business Ethics.

An unintended legacy: Kwame Nkrumah and the domestication of national self-determination in Africa

The article identifies three key ways in which Nkrumah shaped the law of self-determination in Africa: first, by actively campaigning against ‘tribalism’ in Ghana; second, by enlisting the UN to prevent the secession of Katanga in 1960, thereby creating a crucial precedent; and, third, by playing a leading role in establishing the OAU in 1963, which went on to endorse the legal validity of colonial frontiers. In this way, Nkrumah helped settle arguments around the authentic self-determination unit in Africa, forging an unintended legacy that continues to shape the legal and political contours of the continent to the present.
Andrew Small with an open access article for the African Human Rights Law Journal

First (Virtual) Meeting on Meeting (MoM) #bureaucracy
¨I’ve been troubled by this idea of performance in meetings. On the one hand it seems straightforward, meetings are sites where professional (and other) identities are performed. And yet I know that the health managers I worked with would scoff at the idea that they were performing ‘status’ or ‘hierarchy’ – they would say that they were just doing their jobs. Some of the reviewers of our JRAI contribution also helpfully pushed us to question the way that we were using notions of performance in our analysis. I think for these reasons (and here I am echoing Tom’s point somewhat), also because of the influence of Annemarie Mol and other science studies scholars on my work, I am more drawn to terms like ‘enactment’ and ‘production’ in trying to make sense of what is made through meetings. I think this kind of move is important – I am not sure that Maia and I could have made the argument that we did in our JRAI article, that contemporary international development is a system of meetings, without this kind of subtle shift away from the performative.
Julie Billaud, Hannah Brown and Adam Reed for Allegra Lab. An interesting conversation about the role of meetings, including in the context of development.
In my own research
, I actually make links to performances and performance studies and do believe that they are important-even if people say that they are 'only doing their jobs'.

Who is Actually Harmed by Predatory Publishers?

We find that established publishers have a strong motivation to hype claims of predation as damaging to the scholarly and scientific endeavour while noting that, in fact, systems of peer review are themselves already acknowledged as deeply flawed.
Martin Paul Eve and Ernesto Priego with an open access article in triple-C that takes a critical look at 'predatory publishing' under the conditions of the neoliberal academy.

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