Drew Cogbill | Thesis Blog

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Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

Elevated trash can

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This little trash stand is at the house accross the street from where I’m staying in Dangriga.  It’s sturdy and even a better solution for keeping dogs out of the trash as plastic cans are easily knocked over.

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July 29th, 2008 at 8:50 am

Posted in Prototypes, Research

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Trust me, I’m a doctor

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This sign is an ad for an area called Old Belize, which is located on the highway between Belize City and Belmopan.  It does a good job of establishing legitimacy for tourists.

Side note: I got a little sunburned laying at the Old Belize beach yesterday.

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July 28th, 2008 at 12:05 am


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I’ve been looking at the signage of Belize City recently, and will post more on that, but I’m particularly intrigued by this hand painted sign:

In my experience in other towns in Belize, you pick your main up at the Post Office, but perhaps here in Belize City there is some type of delivery service.  I’m wondering: what else beside mail would be slid into that slot? Why the exclamation marks?  Am I supposed to be excited about this?  Or has this Harry been receiving mail for another Harry? And if so, why is the Harry so much larger than the Longsworth?

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July 26th, 2008 at 7:30 pm

No Shoes No Payless

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This sign:

is on the front of this store:


I don’t know if this is a legitimate Payless or not, but they do have a nice selection of shoes. Beyond it being hilarious that you are not allowed into a store to buy shoes if you don’t already own a pair, I think there are deeper implications. In a way, this sign emphasizes how hard it can be to break out of a cycle of poverty to join the consumption class.

Written by drewcogbill

July 26th, 2008 at 7:24 pm

Displays of wealth

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In interviews and conversations, lots of people have told me about younger kids (ages 7-14) carrying around cell phones just to look cool.  In what I’ve seen, kids are using the phones as still and video cameras, as well as a video and music player.  I’ve seen songs transferred via bluetooth and groups of people crowded around a cell phone screen watching a music video.  Below is Shewan with his friends looking at his red Razr phone, which he brought to one of the summer camps held at schools in western Belize my group is running.  His aunt, who lives in the States, sent it to him as a present.

I saw the guy below in the blue tshirt walking in the center of San Ignacio, and though the picture does it no justice, he had tucked the earbuds of his iPod behind his ears though he wasn’t listening to music.  (**Edit 28 August 2008 - I saw this same things several more times during the rest of my time in Belize.)

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July 25th, 2008 at 5:10 pm

“Behavioral Inference Across Cultures: Using Telephones as a Cultural Lens”

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Nathan Eagle’s paper “Behavioral Inference Across Cultures: Using Telephones as a Cultural Lens“, to appear in IEEE Intelligent systems, August 2008,  continues to explain his thoughts into the way data-mining mobile phone usage can be used to discover cultural trends.  He specifically mentions studying the impacts of moving from rural to urban environments, identifying types of students at MIT, and investigating the social hierarchy or friend structure of individuals.

He does mention that such data is often collected without the consent of consumers, but that with proper effort on the part of the researcher, individual privacy can be maintained, allowing researchers to cull through data exposing cultural trends.

Written by drewcogbill

July 24th, 2008 at 11:11 pm


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I’m in Belize City now and was walking around my neighborhood when this new house being constructed caught my eye.  After talking to the guys working on the house, I found out it’s a new office for Strukture Architects.

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July 23rd, 2008 at 4:35 pm


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Mosoko or mobile “soko” (for local market in Swahili) is a text message and voice based “online” market place, “Craiglist for the next billion.”  The system is a launchpad for research into providing a way to interface with the internet through mobile phones.

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July 23rd, 2008 at 4:19 pm

“Inside Nairobi, the Next Palo Alto?”

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The New York Times had an article about the emerging environment of mobile phone innovation in Nairobi a few days ago: “Inside Nairobi, the Next Palo Alto?“.  I’ve read elsewhere that the article came out of the journalist attending BarCamp Nairobi, which I mentioned in a previous post.

It also mentions Google’s Nairobi office.  Google must certainly be interested in Kenya, and Africa, as an enormous future market for services, or they wouldn’t be investing in infrastructure and research there.

Google and the other software developers in Nairobi are primarily focused on expanding what it is to interact with the internet.  In emerging markets where mobile phones will vastly outnumber traditional computers for the foreseeable future, the mobile phone has the real possibility of being the most often used way to interface with the web on Earth.

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July 23rd, 2008 at 4:18 pm

The Question Box

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The Question Box is a telephone intercom system that people can use to call an operator who can look things up for the user on the internet.  It’s a free service available in India, and ultimately people will be able to call in to the system from their mobile phones.

This is great as it expands the idea of what connection to the internet is.  To access the system and the internet, you only need to know how to use a mobile phone or, even more simply, how to push a button.  To use the Question Box would require a certain amount of trust of the person on the other end of the line.  Question Box is supported built by Open Mind, a non-prof, so I wonder how the system is financially supported.

via Appfrica

Written by drewcogbill

July 23rd, 2008 at 4:14 pm