At SXSW 2012, wireless hotspots are peopleS

Seriously, the Soylent Green references are almost irresistible. A marketing group called Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH) has come up with a really bizarre solution to the lack of wifi access at South by Southwest 2012: Turn homeless people into 4G wireless hotspots.

Top image via A Hardly Normal View.

As Jon Mitchell explains over at Read Write Web:

[Homeless Hotpspots] gives out 4G hotspots to homeless people along with a promotional t-shirt. The shirt doesn't say, "I have a 4G hotspot." It says, "I am a 4G hotspot."

You can guess what happens next. 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.

Apparently it's an attempt to modernize the Street Newspapers phenomenon — instead of homeless people selling newspapers that are created by the homeless to talk about homeless people, the homeless can sell you access to your OK Cupid profile or Twitter or whatnot. As Tim Carmody explains very succinctly on Twitter: "It's such a typical dumbass tech-co move: the problem with homelessness is nobody's making any money off of it." There's also a spirited discussion happening in the comments on BBH's blog post.

So yes, it's very weird and dystopian-feeling, and an encapsulation of the hubris of tech companies. On the plus side, though, at least it's actually getting people talking about the homeless. [Homeless Hotspots]