Infographic: Mass Production

Infographic: Mass Production

Sharing, forking, xeroxing: we have innumerable ways to copy what others have originated. Duplication has been core to modern civilization, allowing our ideas go viral in increasingly tall spikes. But along the way, credit can fall by the wayside, forcing profit-seeking inventors to invest beyond their means in legal protection. […]

Observed: Copycats

Observed: Copycats

Lake Atitlan, Guatemala Daniele Volpe The backdrop of a US skyline enhances portraits for residents who often lack the means to travel. Djabal Refugee Camp, Chad Glenna Gordon Using a wood pen with ink and water, Koranic verse is copied in Arabic calligraphy. Residual water and sometimes the paper itself […]

Straight to DVD

Straight to DVD

Loud music blares from speakers perched just feet away from a main road, covering the busy marketplaces of Ajah, Lagos in sound. Passersby stroll past dozens of clothing stalls, fresh produce stands, and shops with CDs and DVDs in bright paper sleeves strewn along the ground and arranged on crowded wooden walls. This particular […]

Horny Demand

Horny Demand

Every evening, Le Van Tuan would drink a tall glass of rice wine. To combat the ensuing hangover, he ground rhino horn into a glass of water. This, he said, would also prevent disease. Many Vietnamese believe rhino horns can cure everything from hangovers to cancer and impotency. Wealthy men […]

Getting By: Roadside Myanmar

Getting By: Roadside Myanmar

Creative and hardworking entrepreneurs wake up every morning and fill the sidewalks of Yangon, Myanmar’s capital. Their personalized stands provide all the daily goods and services that the people of city might need: a trishaw ride to the market, a game and an ice cream in front of the school […]

Observed: Crowds

Observed: Crowds

In back alleys, street markets, and hidden workshops around the world, microentrepreneurs churn out new ideas and products to help them get by or improve the world around them. We could philosophize on this all day. But here in Observed, we ask our correspondents to say nothing. For the next […]

Infographic: Counting the Crowd

Infographic: Counting the Crowd

What happens when a group of people band together? It depends. The organization of a crowd, the tools it uses, and its culture all determine its impact. Is it structured to collaborate or fight? Does each node have ways to connect with and trust the others? Do its members require […]

Little Lagos, Legit in London

Little Lagos, Legit in London

Mangoes, mobiles, money exchange, Nollywood DVDs, eyelashes, and weaves.

You can find it all at Ziyad’s Cash & Carry, a multi-shop storefront occupying a sweet, sprawling, 1,600-square-foot corner spot on Rye Lane in South London. Ziyad, a confident 16-year-old from Afghanistan, manages the property after school and on the weekends.

Organ Trail

Organ Trail

In China, it is said that there are two types of slaves: those who make Apple products, and those who buy Apple products. Shangkun, a teenage boy from Anhui province, represents the latter. In April 2011, he let a surgeon remove one of his kidneys so it could be transplanted […]

Infographic: Sizing the Swap

Infographic: Sizing the Swap

A tit-for-tat, a rub of the back—things don’t change hands without a reason. And they don’t move freely or fairly without trust. Here, we explore the agreements that make trade tick. From street-market haggling techniques to global supply chains and treaties, the nature of exchange comes down to the decisions […]