ACDC News – Issue 01-21

Wising up to the limits of an “information approach.” 

Recent research from the United Kingdom points to a “fundamental limitation of information provision in assisting public enlightenment on new technologies or products.”  Researchers at the Centre for the Study of Environmental Change, Lancaster University, examined public interactions with new technologies such as biotechnology and information technology.  Results led researchers to call for industry and government to change their approach to market communication – from “information” to “interactive understanding.”  Some requirements for such a change:

  • A revised understanding of people – as “people” first and “consumers” second
  • A shift from the understanding of technologies and their associated products as “tools” to an understanding of them as “social processes”
  • More “socially sensitive antennae” incorporated into the very processes of technological innovation
  • A “new spirit of humility by ‘experts”

Reference:  Use a title search (“Wising up”) or author search (Grove-White) for the full citation, including URL for online access.

Ineffective information systems in rural development.

A theme similar to the one noted above appears in a book that we identified recently for the ACDC collection.  The book explores lessons from rural development projects of the World Bank and U.S. Agency for International Development.  A sample point:

“Information has become confused with knowledge: more information is assumed to yield more knowledge.  In practice, this has led to an increasing dependence on technology, that is, the more processed information is, the better it is assumed to be.  But is it?  And, if so, for what purpose can it be used?  More information in itself is worthless unless the capacity exists to analyze, criticize, and reflect on it.”  (p. 177)

Reference:  Use a title search (“Ineffective information systems”) or author search (Gow) for the full citation.

$1.5 billion for bridging the digital divide.

We have added to ACDC a description and background study about the Virtual Colombo Plan that was announced during August.  The Australian Government and the World Bank announced this $1.5 billion partnership to combat global poverty with a state-of-the-art distance education initiative.  Key principles cited:

  • Provide assistance that is demand-driven and locally appropriate.
  • Design activities that test innovative concepts and make full use of modern monitoring and evaluation techniques to provide regular feedback on performance.
  • Allow for technical, institutional and financial sustainability as critical considerations.
  • Mainstream gender considerations.
  • Ensure that expertise is properly adapted to developing country circumstances.

Reference:  Use a title search (“Virtual Colombo Plan”) for the full citation, including URL for online access.

A caution for rural communities investing in telecommunications.

“…rural communities and policy makers are investing in telecommunications projects without good data on positive and negative impacts and the comparative efficacy of different implementation models.”  That finding comes from an analysis by Gwen H. Wolford and C. Ann Hollifield of existing literature on telecommunications and U.S. rural development.  Their 1997 conference paper also lays out an agenda for future research.

Reference:  Use a title search (“Impact of telecommunications”) or author search (Hollifield) for the full citation.

Seven myths about GMOs.

Research among European publics has prompted Marris Claire, social scientist at the French National Institute for Agronomy Research, to identify seven myths about public reactions to genetic modified organisms:

  1. The public either accepts or rejects GMOs.
  2. People who oppose GMOs are irrational; if only they understood the science better.
  3. People are obsessed with the idea that GMOs are “unnatural.”
  4. People are concerned about the use of GMOs in agriculture, but not about their use for the production of pharmaceuticals.
  5. Reactions against GMOs are due to an unfortunate series of previous and ongoing food scandals in Europe.
  6. People demand “zero risk.”
  7. People do not realize that GMOs can improve food production in developing  countries, and would prefer to block such use.

Reference:  Use a title search (“Public views on GMOs: deconstructing the myths”) or author search (Claire) for the full citation, including URL for online access.

Agricultural sellers as losers:  “the curse of knowledge.”

Results of a recent laboratory market experiment suggest that “there is evidence of a curse of knowledge for sellers…when quantity traded for the entire market is known.”  Researchers found that public information may improve the bargaining position of buyers relative to sellers in private negotiation trading with spot deliveries.  This finding holds special interest in an era when “trading institutions in agriculture are evolving from auction to private negotiation.”

Reference:  Use a title search (“Bilateral trading and the curse of knowledge”) or author search (Menkhaus) for the full citation, including URL for online access.

Rural learners as losers: a case of misdirected education.

“Education programmes appear to oppose nomadic culture at all levels,” according to a review of literature about education for nomadic pastoralists.  Saverio Kratli’s analysis revealed, for example, that most of the education provision as conceived, designed and delivered:

  • “competes (from a position of power) with the generation, distribution and reproduction of pastoral specialisation, and in so doing creates a threat to the livelihood of the pastoral household…”
  • “undermines pastoral societies’ potential for endogenous change – paradoxically, at the very moment in which it presents itself as an instrument of change…”
  • ignores the “unintended social, political and economic effects that may result from the [educational]policy and its implementation.”

The 2001 report includes a Mongolia case study and identifies nine key issues for future policy.

Reference:  Use a title search (“Education provision to nomadic pastoralists”) or author search (Kratli) for the full citation, including URL for online access.

Requirements of a healthy rural journalism.

A book from India, Rural press: problems and prospects, puts it this way:

“Healthy rural journalism is 100 per cent purposive, promotional, field-based and result-oriented.  It is expository, incisive and interpretive, it is investigative and educative – all packed into one.  It requires the ability of a news-hound, the professional skill of a quick-witted and resourceful editor, a fleet footed reporter, an agile publisher, a fairly good printer, a creative typographer and lay-out artist and an enterprising circulation and advertising manager.  It also warrants the quality of a roving and sensitive cameraman, a competent interviewer, prober and researcher and a persuasive writer.  In short, rural journalism is instantaneous and participatory, requiring barefoot and missionary zeal, spontaneity, resourcefulness and innovativeness on the part of rural journalists.”

Reference:  Use a title search (above) or author search (Press Institute of India) for the full citation.

Professional activities approaching:

November 14-18, 2001
“Every day is game day: there is NO off season.” Annual convention of the National Association of Farm Broadcasters at Westin Crown Center, Kansas City, Missouri.

Best regards and good searching.

Please pass along your reactions, questions and ideas for ACDC. Feel free to invite our help as you search for information. And please suggest (or send) agricultural communications documents that we might add to this collection. We welcome them in hard copy (sent to Ag Com Documentation Center, 69 Mumford Hall, University of Illinois, 1301 W. Gregory Drive, Urbana, IL 61801) or electronic form ( Thank you.

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