First came this brief mention on the New York Times Tumblr coverage of the the uber-hip South By Southwest music and media event that attracts “the most data hungry crowd in the world”.
Homeless people have been enlisted to roam the streets wearing T-shirts that say “I am a 4G hotspot.”
A few hours later, writers for the excellent Read Write Web blog picked up the story and conveyed the dismay that I’d felt reading about this as a data problem:
You pay these homeless, human hotspots whatever you like, and then I guess you sit next to them and check your email and whatnot. The digital divide has never hit us over the head with a more blunt display of unselfconscious gall.
(this post has been updated this morning with an interview with reps from the marketing company behind this project).
The NYT blurb has been tweeted out over 1000 times and “liked” on Facebook hundreds of times.
Commenting is active on the RWW blog post and the RWW editors have “Storified” a range of reactions to their story being posted on Twitter and Facebook.
Tumblr, Storify, Twitter, blogging (and reblogging).
Hundreds of digital hipsters are weighing in on the ethics of this exploit on all these cool new platforms.
But the point would be:
There is no evidence of the voices of the very homeless being discussed. None. Some kid with an Iphone who’s never been within 500 miles of Austin is broadcasting his esteemed opinion on this to thousands of others, but the objectification of the homeless via this stunt continues in the conversations about them.
Because they live on the far side of the digital divide.
And that’s the outrage here.
Update: Mid-day, RWW has updated their post with an audio interview with one of the homeless men.