Publishing books vs. the modern world II - The Ebook post

A few months ago I shared some musings, based on my initial experiences with blogging, about writing and publishing in an academic context .  The main point was that the current academic system supports a publication model that ensures high profits for (academic) publishers, but that does not do much in terms of sharing knowledge, starting debates or helping academic writing to get feedback from the ‘real world’ - vital for research on international development, anthropology or any other social science. In the end, there is often an expensive hardcover book that is difficult to order and while many complain that such books are basically ending up on library shelves, they are ending up on library shelves without much notice other than by the library accountant who oversees an ever-dwindling budget for acquisitions. A few days ago I read a long and insightful interview with Barry Eisler and Joe Konrath on Ebooks and self-publishing . They are outlining some of the key challenges

Does Twitter kill compassion? An academic institution struggles with the right response to the catastrophes in Japan

A few days ago a colleague of a development studies institute sent out a message to the postgraduate student community about responding to the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. He is an academic expert on disaster preparedness issues and he wrote a short message, cautioning people not to make rushed decisions regarding donations and also to think about long-term responses to such crises. Sending money immediately may not be the best choice. What I found a bit ambiguous was that he had a small advertisement for his latest book in his email signature and with bad intentions you may have been reading this as an indirect book promotion. But the tone of the email was appropriate, reflective and cautionary – the sort of writing I would have done and I felt perfectly appropriate for a message that goes out to a 200+ audience. It also reflected the ton of discussions in my online network. Since then, his message has sparked quite a debate and in a follow-up message he explains that he has r

Do we need an MA in Social Media for International Development & Change?

As with most short, catchy headlines the answer is probably ‘Well, I am not so sure...’ Me neither. And I do not really mean a fulltime MA programme dedicated to social media in the context of international development and social change. But I do think that social media should play a more prominent role in the development studies curriculum. The example of Northwestern University’s cooperation with businesses ( Here, Tweeting is a class requirement ) to tap into the creative potential of marketing students is very interesting and made me think about the potential and limitations of a similar cooperation between development organisations and the departments that teach an increasing number of students who want to work ‘in development’. I will start from a more conservative point of view – meaning from a point of view that the strengths of development studies courses lie elsewhere and social media may only be a trending add-on. But I also want to share a few more forward-lookin

In solidarity with ‘development 1.0’

Living in a small city in Canada and recently having attended a retirement party for an NGO friend made me think about change, solidarity and the value of local history and stories. Since I started blogging I sometimes feel under pressure to write about ‘current affairs’, i.e. ‘trending topics’, topics with Twitter hashtags or events taken on by the ‘ blogosphere ’ . Not writing about revolutions, T-Shirts or aid transparency – as important as these topics are – seems to be a way of getting out of the loop. But attending a retirement party for a friend, let’s call him Peter, who has been working for more than 25 years in the regional office of a well-known international development NGO and generally living outside the spotlight of international development made me reflect upon some of these issues from the ‘periphery’. It also reminded me that my blog is supposed to be engaging with ethnographic challenges around development and peace issues.  I live in a city in Canada that hos

Aid transparency-From standards to innovative accountability and action

When everyone can see how much aid is being spent where, and on what, governments whether giving or receiving aid – can be held accountable by their citizens for spending it well (Karin Christiansen, director of the global campaign for aid transparency, Publish What You Fund) I agree with the importance of more and better aid data as I have expressed already in previous posts . I also think that the International Aid Transparency Initiative is important. But agreeing on standards for aid transparency is only a first and relatively small step and linking transparency to real, new, innovative 21st century accountability and participatory ideas will be the much bigger challenge . How can citizens hold a government accountable over something that has been and will essentially be a political issue that management tools and technocratic fixes can’t ‘solve’? And I don’t mean in the traditional ‘every four years there are elections’ way. And, at least equally important, how ca

Should I consider a PhD in International Development Studies?

After the Economist’s piece on the (non-)value of doing a PhD and some comments later (e.g. Prometheus doesn't read the Economist (I like the slightly cynical dichotomy between ‘civilians’ and the ‘academic insiders) or the ' 100 Reasons NOT to Go to Graduate School ' (they are only halfway through so check it out regularly in the future...) I had an interesting conversation with a prospective PhD student a few days ago. This was not the first time that I had been approached about doing a PhD and I always try to be as frank as possible, even playing the ‘devil’s advocate’ when it comes to the complicated ‘should I or shouldn’t I?’ decision-making process. At the end of our conversation I sat down and tried to summarize a few important and generic points from the point of view of doing a PhD in Development Studies and in the UK . I understand that every case is different and involves a range of motives, options and rationales, but there a few important questions and t

MA Participation, Power and Social Change at IDS: Linking practice, theory and reflection

The IDS MAP is a unique programme combining action-research and reflective practice with more traditional elements of a one-year postgraduate programme.  It is likely to be a small (~15 participants) course with excellent possibilities for sharing, learning and networking. Subject to university approval, the fees should be the same as for other IDS MA programmes, i.e. around £11,000. Feel free to contact Angela Dowman or myself if you need further information. 'This MA allows me to put theory into practice on a daily basis. I have experienced a paradigm shift in my career.' Tamara, USA, student 2008 IDS is actively recruiting now for the next intake of the MA in Participation, Power and Social Change at IDS (starting in October 2011). MAP is a unique 18-month programme providing experienced development workers and social activists with the opportunity to critically reflect on their practice and develop their knowledge and skills while continuing to work or volunteer for