Street newspapers – publications created and sold by homeless people – aren’t exactly and innovative talking point anymore. But advertising agency BBH have modernised the concept of street newspapers by launching an initiative at South By Southwest Festival that gives out 4g hotspots to hobos.
The Homeless Hotspots Project involves homeless people from the Front Steps Shelter carrying MiFi devices and wearing t-shirts that say, “I am a 4g hotspot.” You pay the person a small fee and are in turn allowed to sit near them and access your email.
Like all print publications these days, street newspapers are suffering at the hands of digital media. So BBH have “modernised” the idea, giving access to content rather than the physical content itself.
Anyone at South By Southwest who is craving an internet hit simply need to introduce themselves and then log in to the 4g network, paying either in cash or via a Paypal link. Whichever method they decide, the money will go directly to the “hotspot” that gave them access.
SXSW is being used as a beta test for the 4g Homeless Hotspots Project, which has a central website to show where each of the hotspots are located and also tells you a little more about the individuals participating in the project.
But whilst BBH hope to “optimise and validate the platform” in the hopes that it can be adopted on a wider scale, the projects has received a mixed response. It has been questioned why the t-shirts read, “I am a 4g hotspot” rather than “I manage a 4g hotspot,” claiming that it reduces the individual to a piece of infrastructure. Others have accused that this is an elaborate piece of satire. But is this just cynicism gone mad? After all the participants must be willing to get involved, so is it really exploitative, or an innovative social enterprise?
By Ella White
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