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WaterAid use virtual reality to tell the story of the aftermath of Nepal’s earthquakes

WaterAid has recently launched its first virtual reality documentary, Aftershock. The film immerses viewers in the unique challenges faced by hill-top communities in Nepal to restore access to water in the aftermath of last year’s devastating earthquakes.

Aftershock uses virtual reality technology to tell the story of plumber Krishna Sunuwar, 58, taking on the challenge of repairing the community’s damaged water system.

Produced and directed in-house by the WaterAid film team, Aftershock is set against the stunning backdrop of Nepal’s mountain communities.  Aftershock can be viewed on a laptop, but for the most immersive virtual reality experience viewers are encouraged to use a VR headset or cardboard viewer. The app is currently available for download via the Playstore and Cardboard app and iOS. 

WaterAid film producer Catherine Feltham said: “Virtual reality gives us the opportunity to take people closer to our work than ever previously possible. By using this new medium we hope to engage supporters in the reality of where we work and the challenges we face as well as inspire them by proudly showing how we work alongside fantastic community members and project partners.  The beauty of this medium is that it allows the viewer to be fully immersed and we look forward to seeing the reactions of people all over the world as they are transported to Kharelthok.”

Aftershock was funded by HSBC as part of WaterAid’s global partnership with the HSBC Water Programme.

The film is unquestionably beautiful, partly due to the stunning surroundings in which is was shot, but I still sit on the fence when it comes to virtual reality. I showed this film to my children, aged 8 and 9. One of them was totally engrossed. It was great hearing her talk through the story with her headset on and ask so many questions afterwards. For my eldest daughter the experience merely made her feel sick. One of the the other problems I find with VR is the amount of memory it takes to download the app. This film was 1.4GB and I had to delete loads of other apps in order to view it. 

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I applaud WaterAid for experimenting with this new medium which will undoubtedly continue to improve and become more popular in the future. The story is fascinating and the aesthetics of the production are incredible. I appreciate the attempt to immerse viewers in the reality of the destruction and work that needs to be completed. My youngest daughter was fascinated and wanted to take the headset (and my mobile phone) to school to show her whole class. Like other recent VR films such as Clouds Over Sidra and Waves of Grace, I’m unconvinced that the film warrants the large expenditure. I suppose it depends on the main objective of the film, e.g. fundraising versus education or advocacy. For education purposes I think it has huge potential, but that might depend on whether it is possible in the future to drastically reduce the file size of the films.

 Banner image: WaterAid/Adam Ferguson
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International Development Videos 2016

I started curating videos about International Development in 2013. There was no particular criteria, I wanted to showcase a few videos that inspired some emotion within me. Some of the videos were thought provoking, others were inspirational, innovative, educational or brought a tear to me eye. Since then I have been on SAIH’s Rusty and Golden Radiator Panel which aims to critique the use of video in humanitarian communications. Below are a few videos I’ve found interesting this year.

Here are links to videos that caught my eye in 2014 and 2015.

UNICEF – #SyriaCrisis: 5 Years in 60 seconds

Adopt a Dane Foundation – Africa is rescuing old people from Denmark

 

Project Literacy – The Alphabet of Illiteracy

Charity:Water – Fight Dirty With Us

Plan International UK – What do girls really learn at school? Learn without fear

Islamic Relief – Countries in Conflict

UNICEF – A storybook wedding – except for one thing

WaterAid – Manpons 

UNICEF – Unfairy Tales: Malak and boat

Save the Children – Still The Most Shocking Day

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Save the Children – Still the Most Shocking Day Video

So, I did have insider information that a sequel was on it’s way, but I knew little more than that. Here it is, the follow up to Save’s The Most Shocking Day. I wasn’t quite sure what to think when I heard there was going to be a “sequel” and didn’t know what to expect. The new video is indeed quite shocking, sobering, depressing. It made me incredibly sad watching it – all the time thinking of my own two children who are a similar age to the child portrayed in the video.

A couple of questions spring to mind: Will it get as many views as the first video and Will it encourage people to donate? I’ll let you decide….

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Barbie White Saviour Complex

This semester I’ve been teaching on a Humanitarian Communication module for the BA Media and International Development degree at UEA. Whilst planning my lecture on social media and development, I can came across this hilarious new Instagram account – Barbie Savior. It has over 5,000 followers in less than 5 weeks and I’m sure that this will increase at a rapid rate. Big respect to whoever came up with this very funny parody of the White Saviour Complex. It reminds me slightly of the Humanitarians of Tinder site set up a couple of years ago. It’s great that people are taking the time to come up with inventive ideas to raise awareness of the potential harm of voluntourism. Shame that a couple of Bratz Dolls have made it into some photos. That’s just wrong.

Two of my personal favourites – Barbie #Slumfie

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Barbie Dancing

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Social Media and International Development: Academic Texts

Here are a just a few of the academic texts and papers that I believe are informative for anyone studying social media’s relationship with international development.

Updated: 14/04/2016

TEXT BOOKS

General – Communication / Social Media

Boyd, D (2014) It’s Complicated: the social lives of networked teens
Boyd is has worked for Microsoft Research for a number of years and is one of the leading experts in the field of social media. The book focuses on youth in the US and how they lead their lives online. Some of the findings from her study are obvious, other quite illuminating.

Castells, M (2011) Communication Power
A key text in mass communication and power strategies. Castells coined the phrase “mass self-communication” to describe how social media and internet technologies have aided social movements.

Dijck, J V (2013) The Culture of Connectivity: A Critical History of Social Media
A historical and critical analysis of “connective media”.

Fuchs, C (2014) Social Media: a critical introduction
What are the implications of social media such as Facebook, Google, YouTube and Twitter for power, the economy and politics. This book provides a critical introduction for anyone studying social media

Hindman, M (2008) The Myth of Digital Democracy
Three years before the Arab Spring, Hindman argues that political blogs and the internet have done little to change the public sphere. Was he wrong?

Hinton, S and Hjorth, L (2014) Understanding Social Media
This is a very accessible critical introduction to social media. There are two particularly good chapters: ‘What is Web 2.0′ and ‘Social Network Sites’. The chapter on ‘Participation and User Generated Content’ also clearly explains the difference between user generated content and user created content and a great section on users as produers.

Jarvis, J (2011) Public Parts: How Sharing in the Digital Age Improves the Way We Work and Live
Jarvis firmly believes in the power of the internet and social media and how it ‘publicness’ allows us to think, collaborate and organize in ways that were impossible before.

Morozov, E (2011) The Net Delusion: How not to liberate the world
There are cyber-utopians and cyber-dystopians and Morozov firmly sits in the latter camp. Well, he’d prefer to call himself a cyber-realist. Some fascinating insights into censorship

Murthy, D (2013) Twitter: Social Communication in the Twitter Age
My favourite book of 2013. A brilliant introduction to the use of Twitter as a communication tool.

Rheingold, H (2002) Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution
Rheingold, a veteran technology writer predicts how mobile technologies will change the world. He predicted the power of the mobile phone ten years before the Arab Spring.

Shirky, C (2009) Here Comes Everybody: How Change Happens When People Come Together
An excellent book about group forming and how social media has made collective action “ridiculously easy”.

Trapscott, D (2009) Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation Is Changing Your World
A fascinating insight into the ‘Net Generation’ and ‘Digital Natives’.

Weller, K, Bruns, A, Burgess, A, Mahrt, M (2013) Twitter and Society
A current overview of research into the uses of Twitter. There is also a section on analysing Twitter data.

Arab Spring and other social media “revolutions”

Castells, M (2012) Networks of Outrage and Hope: Social Movements in the Internet Age
An analysis of the new forms of social movements by the leading academic on networked societies.

Dabashi, H (2012) The Arab Spring: The End of Postcolonialism
Dabashi uses the phrase ‘delayed defiance’ for how the Arab Spring has transformed the geopolitics of the ‘Middle East’.

Gerbadou, P (2012) Tweets and the Streets: Social Media and Contemporary Activism
Digital activism and contemporary protest culture.

Ghonim, W (2012) Revolution 2.0.
Wael Ghonim is considered one of the most influential people in the 2011 Egyptian Revolutions. This is his personal account of the events. A fascinating and compelling read.

Howard, PM, Hussain, MM (2013) Democracy’s Fourth Wave? Digital Media and the Arab Spring
An examination of the role of the internet, mobiles and social media in the Arab Spring.

Lovink, G (2011) Networks Without a Cause
A probing critique of social media and network theory. Useful chapters and case studies on Facebook, Wikileaks, blogging and online video.

Mason, P (2012) Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions
A discussion of the various ‘social media revolutions’ of 2011: from London to Egypt. An excellent account of the various uprisings around the world.

JOURNAL ARTICLES

General (social media)

Castells, M (2007) Communication, Power and Counter-power in the Network Society
An seminal paper by Castells on the emergence of mass self-communication, power and politics. The new public sphere.

Kaplan, AM (2010) Users of the World, Unite! The Challenges and Opportunities of Social Media
One of the most cited papers on social media, often quoted for it’s definition of social media. But is it still current?

Steinfield, C, Ellison NB, Lampe C (2008) Social capital, self-esteem, and the use of online social network sites: A longitudinal analysisAn investigation into the relationship between intensity of Facebook use, measures of psychological well-being, and bridging social capital.

Social Media and International Development

Ali, AH (2011) The Power of Social Media in Developing Nations
An excellent paper on social media and international development with a comprehensive introduction and some insightful case studies.

Bailard, CS (2012) A Field Experiment on the Internet’s Effect in an African Election: Savvier Citizens, Disaffected Voters, or Both
A study of the internet and social media’s influences on the Tanzanian political elections.

Best, ML, Meng, A (2015) Twitter democracy: policy versus identity politics in three emerging African democracies
760,000 tweets gathered during national elections in Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya to analyse policy relevant discussion.

Bidwell, NJ et al (2010) Please Call ME.N.U.4EVER: Callback and Social Media Sharing in Rural Africa

I admit to not having read this yet. But it looks too interesting not to include… I hope I’m right.

Breuer, A, Farooq, B (2012) Online Political Participation: Slacktivism or Efficiency Increased Activism? Evidence from the Brazilian Ficha Limpa Campaign
A study of social media and political campaigning. Does social media contribute to participatory democracy? A case study of the Brzailian anti-corruption campaign Ficha Limpa.

Briones, RL, Kuch, B, Liu BF, Jin, Y (2011) Keeping up with the digital age: How the American Red Cross uses social media to build relationships
How the Red Cross use social media to communicate with its various publics/stakeholders.

Chiumbi, S (2012) Exploring Mobile Phone Practices in Social Movements in South Africa – the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign
Mobile phone usage in South Africa to mobilize deprived communities

Comunello, F, Anzera, G (2012) Will the Revolution be Tweeted? A Conceptual Framework for Understanding the Social Media and the Arab Spring
To understand the Arab uprisings we need to consider the complex interactions between society, technology and political systems. There is no evidence that fully supports the techno-realist or digital evangelist perspectives.

Drumbl, MA (2012) Child Soldiers and Clicktivism: Justice, Myths and Prevention
A brief paper dispelling the myths of child soldiers portrayed by some NGOs, with a focus on Kony 2012.

Gamal, H (2010) Network Society: A Social Evolution Powered by Youth
Published in the Global Media Journal, Arabian Edition the year before the Arab Spring. A discussion on the digital divide and cyber-optimists. An important article in a literature review considering the author and its timing.

Gregory, S (2012) Kony 2012 Through a Prism of Video Advocacy Practices and Trends
A brief anaylsis of the Kony 2012 video: storytelling, video advocacy, activsm, spreadability and drillability

Guo, C, Saxton, GD (2012) Tweeting Social Change: How Social Media Are Changing Nonprofit Advocacy
This study analyses the social media use of 188 advocacy organisations. It proposes a three-stage pyramid model of social media-based advocacy.

Howard, PN, Agarwal, SD, Hussain, MM (2011) When do States Disconnect Their Digital Networks? Regime Responses to the Political Uses of Social Media
This study looks at 566 incidents where social media has been disabled. The author compares the dataset to understand why states take this drastic action.

Jefferess, D (2013) Humanitarian relations: Emotions and the limits of critique
A critical analysis of development marketing, social media and humanitarian fundraising in the context of the ‘Africa for Norway’ spoof video.

Jurgenson, N (2011) When Atoms Meets Bits: Social Media, the Mobile Web and Augmented Revolution
“Digital dualism” – I’ll let you decide.

Kamis, S, Gold, PB, Vaughn, K (2012) Beyond Egypt’s ‘Facebook Revolution’ and Syria’s ‘YouTube Uprising': Comparing Political Contexts, Actors and Communication Strategies.
A study comparing and contrasting the role of cyberactivism in the Egyptian revolution and Syrian uprising.

Khondker, HH (2011) Role of the New Media in the Arab Spring
This article considers the role of globalization, the media, new media and connectivity.

Li, J, Rao, HR (2010) Twitter as a Rapid Response News Service: An exploration in the context of the 2008 China Earthquake
An analysis of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake and Twitter as a new information channel.

Lee, Y, Hsieh, G (2013) Does Slacktivism Hurt Activism? The Effects of Moral Balancing and Consistency in Online Activism
An interesting look at the effects of online activism and the effects on monetary donations.

Lim, M (2013) Many Clicks But Little Sticks: Social Media Activism in Indonesia
A study of social media narratives in Indonesia and their potential impact as political activism.

Lovejoy, K and Saxton, GD (2012) Information, Community, and Action: How Nonprofit Organizations Use Social Media
This paper looks at 100 Nonprofit organizations in United States and how they utilize Twitter as a communications tool.

King, G, Pan, J, Roberts, M (2013) How censorship in China Allows Government Criticism but Silences Collective Expression
An analysis of social media content in China to measure levels of censorship.

Mandianou, M (2012) Humanitarian Campaigns in Social Media
How humanitarian campaigners have started to use social media to raise awareness and reach potential donors. The articles discusses polymedia events and the role of social networks.

Nemer, D, Freeman, G (2015) Empowering the Marginalized: Rethinking Selfies in the Slums of Brazil
This paper studies selfies to amplify the voice on the marginalized in Brazil.

Neumayer, C, Raffl, C (2008) Facebook for Global Protest: The Potential and Limits of Social Software for Grassroots Activism
Social media for grassroots activism in Columbia

Norris, P (2012) The Impact of Social Media on the Arab Uprisings: The Facebook, Twitter and YouTube Revolutions?
Social media and four functions for mass uprisings: informational, networking, cultural and behavioural.

Samin, N (2012) Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Social Media Moment
This paper contrasts the Egyptian experience with Saudi Arabia.

Seo, H, Kim, JY, Yang, S (2009) Global Activism and New Media: A study of Transnational NGOs’ online public relations
A survey of 75 transnational NGOs and how they use new media as a public relations tool.

Sheombar, A (2011) Social Media for International Development: Social Media Usage by Dutch Development and Aid Agencies
An MRes research project examining social media potential in the sector of Dutch Aid and development organisations.

Shirky, C (2011) The Political Power of Social Media: Technology, The Public Sphere, and Political Change
A discussion on the impact of social media in mobilizing mass political protests.

Smith, BG (2010) Socially Distributing Public Relations: Twitter, Haiti, and Interactivity in Social Media
This study explores social public relations through a qualitative analysis of user involvement on Twitter regarding relief efforts to support Haiti following the 7.0 earthquake that hit Port-Au-Prince in January, 2010

Tufekci, Z (2013) “Not this one”: Social Movements, the Attention Economy, and Microcelebrity Networked Activism
A study of networked microcelebrity activism and broadening participation.

Tufekci, Z, Wilson, C Social Media and the Decision to Participate in Political Protest: Observations from Tahrir Square
A survey of participants in the Tahrir protests to analyse how social media was used during the demonstrations.

Valenzuela, S, Arriagada, A, Scherman, A (2012) The Social Media Basis of Youth Protest Behaviour: The Case of Chile
An interesting exploration of social media’s contribution to the Chile Winter student protests.

Wall, M (2009) Africa on Youtube: Musicians, Tourists, Missionaries and Aid Workers
Videos representation of Ghana and Kenya on Youtube

Warren, C (2015) Explosive connections? Mass media, social media, and the geography of collective violence in African states
Evidence which demonstrates that social media penetration generates substantial increases in collective violence.

Wolsfeld, G, Segev, E, Sheafer, T (2013) Social Media and the Arab Spring: Politics Comes First
This study presents two broad theories: first that you cannot understand the role of social media in collective action without understanding the political environment and secondly that a significant increase in the use of social media is much more likely to follow a significant amount of protest activity than to precede it.

Yates, D, Paquette, S (2010) Emergency knowledge management and social media technologies: A case study of the 2010 Haitian eathquake

An analysis of social media and disaster and emergency management.

Youmans, WL & York, CY (2012) Social Media and the Activist Toolkit: User Agreements, Corporate Interests, and the Information Infrastructure of Modern Social Movements
An analysis role of social media in the Arab Spring uprisings using four case studies.

Zuckerman, E et al (2010) Blogs and Bullets: New Media on Contentious Politics
A critical analysis of “cyberutopians” and “cyberskeptics” perspectives on the impact of new media on political movements.

POLICY BRIEFS AND REPORTS

Ackland, R, Tanaka, K (2015) Development Impact of Social Media
A background paper prepared for the World Bank’s World Development Report 2016 Digital Dividends. The paper gives a good overview of social media for development with chapters on social learning, economic activity, emergency response and community voice.

Africa Practice (2014) The Social Media Landscape in Nigeria
Data on the personalities and platforms which are most influential in Nigeria in terms of content and quality.

Alder Consulting (2014) Social Media Nigeria Reports 2014
Five reports on the state of social media in Nigeria

Bohler-Muller, N and van der Merwe, C (2011) The potential of social media to influence socio-political change on the African Continent
A detailed account of the Arab Spring uprisings with some policy recommendations.

Camp, M (2016) Assessing the impact of social media on political communication and civic engagement in Uganda.
This paper was the result of the first annual Social Media Conference organised by the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) in conjunction with the Centre for Media Literacy and Community Development (CEMCOD) and the African Centre for Media Literacy (ACME) in July 2015.

Friedrich Ebert Foundation (2014) – Social Media in Cameroon
Powerpoint presentation with stats on the rise of social media in Cameroon

Gao, H and Barbier, G (2011) Harnessing the Crowdsourcing Power of Social Media for Disaster Relief

IBT (2015) Social Media – Getting Your Voice Heard
Advice for NGOs and how to use social media as a communications tool.

Jebril, N, Stetka, V, Loveless, M (2013) Media and Democratisation: What is Known about the Role of Mass Media in Transitions to Democracy
The potential role of mass media in transitions to democracy, with case studies from Central and Easterm Europe, Latin America and the Arab World.

Johnson, R et al (2012) Social Media Amongst Most-at-Risk Populations in Jamaica
I was totally intrigued by this study as it offered some important practical insights into how social media can be used to disseminate health information. I’ve written to the authors twice to find out if it was successful but have not received a reply.

Kaigwa, M (2014) Nendo Social Media Trend Report, Kenya
An excellent report on the state of social media in Kenya

Nendo (2014) A-Z of Kenyan Twitter
Nice little report giving insights into Twitter in Kenya

Pedrick, C (2015) Embracing Web 2.0. and Social Media: A life changing pathway for agricultural development actors

Portland Communication (2014) How Africa Tweets
3 months of geo-located tweets from Africa

Taki, M, Coretti, L (2013) Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture: The Role of Social Media in Arab Uprisings – Past and Present
Six articles designed to answer :What are the cultural, technical and political variables that are conducive to using social media for mobilization? How have citizens and states used social media during the uprising and beyond? How do we research social media movements in the Arab world?

The Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) Embracing Web 2.0. and Social Media
18 case studies about how social media and Web 2.0. technologies have been used to support agricultural development. Case studies from Madagascar, Cameroon, Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana, Rwanda, Burkina Faso and more.

USAID (2013) Social Media Handbook for Agricultural Development Practitioners
An excellent interactive PDF document for people interested in social media for agricultural development.

Zab, S (2013) Why Nairobi is the Next World Tech Capital
Nice presentation including stats on mobile, internet and social in Africa.

VIDEOS

9 movies about social media textbooks
Students in the University of Westminster’s MA in Social Media have as part of my module “Critical Theory of Social Media and the Internet” directed movies about books that present theoretical knowledge and empirical research about social media’s role in society.

The power of social media and democracy
Iceland President Ólafur Grímsson talks about how he was made to take political action due to social media campaigning in Iceland during the global financial crisis.

Arab Democracy and Social Media with Ethan Zuckerman
A discussion about free speech in the developing world

Behind the Great Firewall of China
TED talk by blogger Michael Anti

Citizen Journalism as Counter to Censorship and Culture Wars
Talk at MIT by Zeynep Tufekci on 140 Journos

How Young Africans Found a Voice on Twitter
TED talk by 22 year old Siyanda Mohutsiwa from Botswanatalking about when her hashtag #IfAfricaWasABar went viral.

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