A giant hydrogen balloon catches the wind and floats swiftly upwards. The balloon travels 26 kilometers in total. It passes minefields, barbed wire, and steep mountains before releasing its payload on the lesser-known side of the world’s most militarized border: information from the outside world.
For the Communication installment of Observed, we meet a chalkboard blogger in Liberia, an interactive drone in London, and one of the thousands of vendors in Lagos who have enabled the rise of communication in emerging markets. We receive godly messages to stop pissing in India’s streets, send information out of one of the world’s most dangerous locations, and read some cross-cultural free speech in Cairo.
Last year, Mexican police raided the drug cartel Los Zetas three times. They weren’t looking for cocaine or marijuana; they were targeting the homegrown radio network that stretches across the northeastern chunk of the country, where the Zetas control drug and migrant smuggling routes.
From submarine fiber to towering transmitters, technology has laid the piping for us to connect across vast distances. And more nodes are in more hands: there are nine mobile subscriptions for every 10 people. But how does this affect how we communicate?
200 computer screens, stationed one foot apart, flicker through smoky air and fluorescent lighting. Some have as many as four males huddled around with their arms hanging on each other, mostly shirtless. It’s 11pm on Thursday, and even though discounted night hours haven’t started, the Internet cafe is near capacity.