A look at contemporary ICT4D literature #3

A contemporary look at ICT4D literature. Not a critical view of Communication for Development, but rather a presentational one.

Chapters by Jill Walker Rettberg (2013). Articles by Julie Ferguson, Maura Soekijad, Marleen Huysman, and Emmanuelle Vaast (2013), and Tobias Denskus and Andrea S. Papan (2013).

 

Blogging (a short presentation of chapters 1 and 3)

 

Rettberg’s (2013) first chapter introduces the reader to the essence, features and characteristics of a blog. Blogs not only identified as social media but they also defined what social media do (in one way or another).  Blogs actually, Rettberg argues, signalled the shift from uni-directional mass media to participatory ones.

The author highlights and discusses three types of blogs:

  • personal blogs: diary style. Logs the blogger’s offline life
  • filter blogs: records the blogger’s experiences and finds on the web
  • topic-driven: the blogging limits to a pre-defined topic

Finally, the author defines a blog from two distinct perspectives, as a medium (p.32) and a genre (p.33) respectively:

as a medium (p.32): a frequently updated website consisting of dated entries arranged in reverse chronological order so the most recent post appears first

as a genre (p.33): a frequently updated website consisting of personal observations, excerpts from other sources etc., typically run by a single person, and usually with hyperlinks to other sites; an online journal or diary

Rettberg’s third chapter discusses blogs as networks and communities. More in detail, Rettberg identifies blogging as a form of social media that offers the most freedom of expression to the user. More specifically, blogs are structured as distributed networks with no central hub. Blogs are actually communities of interests. Putting it differently blogs are:

 “networks for sharing ideas, trends, and information”, Rettberg (2014, p.67)

Finally, Rettberg offers some insight in regards to danah boyd’s publicly articulated relationships in online social spaces like blogs. danah boyd elaborates that some defining differences between online and offline social spaces can be found in the persistence, searchability, and replicability of the content, and the existence of invisible audiences. In addition, boyd highlights offline and online social networks collusion as a potential online danger for bloggers.

 

Blogging for ICT4D: reflecting and engaging with peers to build development discourse

 

ICT4D discourse tends to hail new media for their ability to transform and democratize development and promote participation. Ferguson et al. (2013) argue that while new media are important to development they do not necessarily promote participation. The authors focus on blogging as a low-cost, accessible, collective new media to elaborate on their argument.

More in detail, the authors argue that the main blogging purposes are: reflecting and engaging with peers. On the one hand, reflecting is a way to formulate and express their ideas about development. On the other, engaging is about feedback and informed dialogue with an interested audience.

The main findings identified a distance between the bloggers’ perception and the reality of blogging’s effects. The bloggers understood blogging as a knowledge pool that enriches ICT4D discourse and offers access to potentially wider audiences. The findings showed that audience engagement was low, while usually, the blog content followed popular topics as a way to ‘please’ them.

In conclusion, the key findings highlighted that the bloggers engaged mostly with a small community of like-minded people, their peers.

 

Reflexive engagements: the international development blogging evolution and its challenges

 

Denskus and Papan’s (2013) article discusses blogging as a form of writing development outside the formal academic and official communication.

Firstly, the authors categorise blogs with development content on a basis of the main occupation of the blog writer. More specifically, they identify six main categories of blogs that are written by :

  • individuals
  • individuals with organizational affiliation
  • academics
  • aid workers in the field
  • official blogs (think tanks and policy institutions)
  • development students, interns, etc..

Then, the authors highlight the reasons for writing about development. These motivations are:

  • active engagement in dialogue
  • vetting/developing ideas, blogging as a learning practice
  • networking with wider audiences, create new personal opportunities
  • protesting

Also, the authors discuss a set of areas where blogging, as an informal development form of writing, can supplement the formal streams. In that aspect, blogging can be important to academia as a source of discussion and a resource for teaching purposes. In addition, blogging can act as a pool of new and alternative ideas for large aid organizations. Finally, blogs can be the test-labs for the innovative ideas of the expatriate aid workers.

In conclusion, blogging is not able to influence policy-making yet, while it’s accessibility regards an elite of development professionals. Nevertheless, blogging is more accessible and bottom-up driven than the traditional streams of development writing.

 

 

These are the picks for this edition of ‘A look at contemporary ICT4D literature’.  You can access more picks in our first and second editions. For more picks, stay tuned!

Sofoklis

Sofoklis is a development newbie based on a seaside Greek city called Thessaloniki. He likes learning things and that's why he loves a good book or an interesting journey. ComDev offers both and plenty more. If you find his name difficult you can call him Sofo.