Welcome to another weekly link review! This week's development section is focusing on a really broad range of topics-from news reporting in Philadelphia to why the ICRC does not like computer games, UNICEF's image archive, a new book on media & the 1984 famine, Sri Lanka's fragile post-conflict boom, unpaid care work plus Bill Easterly declaring the big aid debate over. And do not miss a great new organizational ethnography on UN's Human Rights periodic review process and why 'creative writing' is really just GYAOTC.
New on aidnography
Rebuilding the News: Metropolitan Journalism in the Digital Age (book review)
C.W. Anderson’s Rebuilding the News: Metropolitan Journalism in the Digital Age, a media ethnography about news reporting in Philadelphia raises some interesting questions not just about news in the digital age, but also about organizations, adaptation and how to engage with different audiences.
“My old medium is dying, and my new one doesn’t pay”
Precarity has become part of journalism (as it has for parts of development work and academia, of course) and the quote by an award-winning news photographer sums it up very well.
All in all, I really enjoyed Anderson’s ethnography. The book has a very nice flow and is telling an interesting story rather than re-telling a PhD; the methodological appendix at the end of the book is useful for researchers and wraps up an excellent case study of media ethnography that is definitely of interest for students and researchers - and the development community as well since the challenges of local journalism are often similar to those of global aid work.
Red Cross Wants Consequences for Video-Game Mayhem
Like many a concerned parent or Congressional committee before it, the ICRC believes that violent video games trivialize armed conflict to the point where players could see various brands of mayhem as acceptable behavior. At the same time, the ICRC’s statement makes it clear that the organization doesn’t want to be actively involved in a debate over video-game violence, although it is talking to developers about ways to accurately build the laws of armed conflict into games.
This is definitely my headline of the week, because it sounds quite Onion-esque. However, as with many quasi-satirical posts there are actually a few grains of truth in the ICRC's statement. Maybe there needs to be an expensive, popular video game where you play a UN peacekeeper and save the world?!How We Can Leverage Online Games for Social Impact
My reflections on international development experts designing games is not to say that these efforts are not appreciated or unwanted. It's important that critical issues in the development field are deployed in an interactive, local and engaging way. At the same time, participation, co-creation and ownership are at the core of social impact, and it's important not to lose sight of that.Wayan Vota shares his thought on a more serious topic that links development and computer gaming.
Stunning Images of International Aid Since 1950
UNICEF just posted this fascinating photo slideshow of photographs that have supported their aid and awareness raising of humanitarian and health interventions since the 1950s. It shows how various iconographies (“starving african child,” or “happy aid child”) evolved over time as part of advocacy efforts.Great photos, but I'm missing a bit of contextualization. But definitely a fascinating piece for discussion around advocacy and the evolution of popular representations of children in development.
Bending the Frame: Photojournalism, Documentary, and the Citizen.
In a world with possibly one billion people with access to mobile cellphone cameras, what is the role for the professional photographer? What new possibilities and challenges for visual media is ahead in this media revolution? In his new book Bending the Frame: Photojournalism, Documentary, and the Citizen, Fred Ritchin put forward a number of relevant questions regarding the photographic medium in today´s image society, focusing on visual journalism. He reflects on what kind of photography projects that really do have an impact on our society. Is there a need for a metaphotography that make sense and contextualizes the myriad of images online?Technically, this is not so much about 'development', but relevant for this week's 'visual' section. And, yes, it's a bit of self-promotion as the talk will be held at Malmö University, but it will be streamed and recorded, too.
New book examines legacy of media coverage of Ethiopia's 1984 famine
"Reporting disasters: Famine, aid, politics and the media" takes a comprehensive look at the iconic news event. Mining BBC and government archives, it concludes that media coverage of the crisis was misleading and inaccurate, and that the aid effort ultimately did more harm than good.Interesting new book which will hopefully be reviewed here soon!
"What made it really interesting ... is that many people have wonderful intentions but ... despite these good intentions, there are terrible outcomes," Franks told Thomson Reuters Foundation. "That is very difficult to understand."
The Big Aid Debate is Over
Perhaps most revealing about the big aid debate that Sachs launched is what finally unleashed this wave of criticism of Sachs. Like Al Capone being convicted of tax evasion, Sachs' promise that aid would deliver an end to poverty wound up being convicted on a lesser charge: not doing evaluation properly. The critics pointed out that any positive trends in the Millennium Villages would have to be compared with the positive Africa-wide trends in health, access to clean water, and overall development. Sachs had not set up the project in a way where this comparison could be done reliably.Bill Easterly on the latest book on Jeffrey Sachs and the Millennium Development Village project-as well as a healthy dose of critical self-reflection on the never-ending big aid debate.
Eight and a half years later, I take no pleasure in the defeat of Sachs' big ideas, especially as this failure involves the sufferings of those who were the subjects of the Millennium Villages Project. And Sachs does deserves some positive recognition: He was and is a very gifted and hard-working advocate for compassion for those still left out of the considerable progress that has happened in development. But his idea that aid could achieve rapid development and the end of poverty was wrong, and it's time to move on. It's time to debate what really does matter in development.
Who cares about the unpaid carers? A story of global exploitation – video
Our welfare and wellbeing is dependent on carers, but their plight is too often ignored by policymakers around the world. A report published in August by the special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona, argues that the unequal care responsibilities heaped on women was a 'major barrier to gender equality and to women's equal enjoyment of human rights, and, in many cases, condemn women to poverty'.This is probably one of the most-shared items this week in my networks...great video, under-researched topic!
Sri Lanka's economic boom fails to erase painful civil war memories
Few doubt there has been an economic boom. More than twice as many new vehicles were registered in the north in 2011, the last year for which statistics have been released, than were on the roads in 2009. There are also at least twice as many cattle and thousands of acres of agricultural land, which fell into disuse during the conflict, have been cleared. Many, including the two brothers building their home in Kilinochchi, work as labourers on construction sites.Another post-conflict boom, same questions about the limits and opportunities of the liberal peacebuilding and economic model.
Conditions for the hundreds of thousands displaced by the fighting have improved, albeit from a very low base. A survey earlier this year by the UNHCR revealed 63% of recently resettled families had access to a toilet and only one in 25 had to walk more than 500m to find water. More than 160 schools closed during the war are now open.
But progress is patchy – up to half of respondents in some areas said they had insufficient food – and by some measures things are worse than before. If rates of infant or maternal mortality in parts of the north have improved, in others they have risen, government statistics reveal.
Meet Matthew Lee, the scourge of the United Nations
One of Lee’s strengths has been his coverage of the conditions under which UN staff have to work. They have almost no rights, since the UN is an international body and is not subject to American labour laws.Interesting portrait of an 'underground' journalist at UN headquarters.
“It is troubling that an organisation which preaches workers rights has no rights for its own workers,” Lee explains. “If you really want to know what the UN is doing, you have to talk to the staff - every secret documents pass through their hands.” Not surprisingly, he has more than his fair share of scoops.
Aid worker self-care, community and sacrifice: finding the sweet spot
Firstly it means self-care relies on connection, or community. One of the key resilience factors for aid workers is a strong network of social connection – isolation makes self-care and self-regulation more challenging.Marianne Elliot contributes a very balanced post to whydev.org on finding the balance between helping yourself while helping others (and my summary totally doesn't do justice to her reflective writing...)
True self-care calls for a willingness to be vulnerable, to form meaningful and supportive connections, and to experiment with the balance between our personal needs and the needs of the community or collective.
LinkedIn is Great...But Not as Your Community Platform
Is the world going to end if you house your association's group on LinkedIn? Of course not. But be aware that LinkedIn is not a suitable replacement for a well-managed, robust private online community platform, nor is it a magic bullet in terms of getting members to participate. If your private platform failed because of lack of community management, moving it to LinkedIn or Facebook won't fix that....and you will be investing staff time to make money for those companies, not yours.A few weeks ago I wrote about LinkedIn for development professionals and Maggie McGary's post adds important aspects of community management to the debate.
Keepers of the 'truth': Producing 'transparent' documents for the Universal Periodic Review
In the high ceilinged room of the historic Palace with a view over Lac Léman, as the sun slowly declined behind the Swiss mountains, drafters searched like treasure hunters for the ‘most effective quote’, debated issues to raise in priority, and engaged in vigorous conversations on where to place this or that paragraph. This level of affective engagement contrasted dramatically with the way I had initially envisioned office work. Even though the work involved following tedious proceduressuch as verifying acronyms on databases, classifying information, and cross-checkingquotes extracted from other official UN sources, the production of documents was acollective task entangled in broader rituals and social relations, bringing together the‘local’ and the ‘global’ and hence participating in the creation of specific affectiveregimes and social imaginaries.Fantastic new paper by Julie Billaud! Organizational ethnography in a UN setting at its ritualised best ;)!
What’s “creative” about creative writing?
Writing, in my experience, does not depend on communing with the creative spirit of the universe or inspiration. It is a working activity that grows out of organization and some degree of discipline, just like any other job. If I had to describe my writing routine (I need to juggle writing time with teaching and the administration of my courses), it could be summarized in GYAOTC—Get Your A** On That Chair (from 6.00am for me, but that’s optional). Not having the time to indulge in hesitation, in my case, is a blessing: I sit in front of the page, set the destination, and off I must go. Sometimes even “jfhdjghfkjghfkgbjbn” under the title of a section serves the purpose of breaking the path on the expanse of white screen ahead.Cristina Archetti, an academic and writer, on some of the myths surrounding 'creative writing' and creative processes; I agree, most of the time it's GYAOTC for me, too...