SXSW Convention Enlists Homeless As Wi-Fi Hotspots

March 14, 2012


In case you haven't heard, marketing agency BBH Labs hired 13 roaming (and possibly scavenging) homeless people and strapped them with belt-bombs Wi-Fi hotspots to help serve the internet needs of South by Southwest (SXSW) convention goers. It's drawing a lot of controversy BECAUSE PEOPLE ARE F***ING SHEEP. *eyeballing 'KONY 2012' poster*

BBH Labs, a unit of the global marketing agency BBH, gave 13 people from Austin's Front Steps Shelter mobile Wi-Fi devices and T-shirts that announced "I am a 4G Hotspot." The company paid them $20 up front and a minimum of $50 a day for about six hours work, said Emma Cookson, chairwoman of BBH New York.

She called the experiment a modernized version of homeless selling street newspapers. All of the money paid for Wi-Fi - an often difficult thing to find at SXSW - went to the participants, who were selected in partnership with Front Steps. ($2 was the recommended donation for 15 minutes of use.)

But many have called the program exploitive. wrote that it "sounds like something out of a darkly satirical science-fiction dystopia." Technology blog ReadWriteWeb called it a "blunt display of unselfconscious gall

You want me to tell you how I feel about it? However the homeless do. If they're happy about it and making some cash, then good for them. If not, stab a couple convention goers and call it a day. "Jesus, GW!" Sorry, I was thinking about Geekologie-Con's mobile serial killer hotspots.

Hit the jump for a brief video of Clarence, a mobile hotspot who yes, I want to give a hug.

Homeless Hotspots (where you can read the hotspots' stories and donate via Paypal)
South By Southwest: 'Homeless Hotspot' Stunt Stirs Debate At SXSW [huffingtonpost]
Homeless hot spots at SXSW: A manufactured controversy [cnet]

Thanks to dash and Melissa, who heard their first concept was to tie Wi-Fi enabled dogs to light poles.

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