Review of T. Denskus & A.S. Papan – International Development Blogging Evolution and its Challenges
Blogosphere has become an important part of international development discussion on the internet. However its full potential and impact is hardly known. Denskus and Papan in their article “Reflexive engagement: the international development blogging evolution and challenges” in Development in Practice attempted to explore the impact of blogging on reflective writing, work practices and knowledge management. Furthermore, the authors researched motivations, potentials and limitations of blogging within academia, aid organizations, and expatriate aid workers.
Since blogging takes place outside the ´official communication´, without a doubt it’s an experimental mode of discourse and its impact and influence are yet to unfold. Denskus and Papan found that blogs dealing with international development are products of “different types of engagement with international development (p. 457). They distinguish 6 types of blogs according to their authorship: written by individuals, written by individuals within an organization, written by academics and aid workers in the field, official blogs composed by staff members of think tanks, etc. and blogs written by development students, interns, and other non-professionals.
All type of blogs within international development, as the research shows are written purposefully, and are aimed at engaging in dialogue with their readership. The authors also argue that active engagement in social media has become an important part of communication and feedback within international development, in terms of both knowledge and practice.
Through a number of interviews conducted with bloggers, Denskus and Papan conclude that learning process is one of the drivers of blogging. It enables reflective writing, getting a feedback here and now, engaging in discussion and even, adding transparency and accountability, at least in a small-scale development processes. In addition writing for networking, professional growth and to express alternative or advocacy ideas are important within bloggers motivations. As such blogs can be a powerful force that challenges conventional development thinking and become strategically open spaces for organizational learning processes.
Within academia, according to the authors, blogs emerged as an open source and it should become a part of development studies curriculum. There is a great potential of merging the traditional teaching methods with online education, where blog writing, reading and commenting link theories and academic literature to debate and practical engagement.
Large Aid Organizations
As for aid organizations, blogosphere is a useful tool to gain feedback that enrich their individual work practices. Large aid organization have not yet realized the potential of blogosphere as platform for conversation and learning, but sooner or later they shall do so. However, the authors acknowledge the limits of blogs to influence and affect large organizations driven policy and decision-making processes.
For individual aid workers having their own blog, often anonymous one, raise a personal challenge and gives an opportunity to organize their thoughts in writing, and try out new and innovative ideas. As such blogging blurs the line between work and private live.
The research shows that blogging has an extensive impact on personal reflective writing and work practices. In addition, being an open discussion forums, they are closely related with knowledge management, i.e. what is known about international development, good and bad practices, how international development takes place, who is responsible, whose opinion matters and so on. Consequently, this leads to a broader question of influencing development policy and decision-making through blogging exercise, for as long as it attracts enough engaged and active audience. As such blogs have become an open source for debating development and have a potential to supplement, challenge and even change conventional perception and practice of international development.