BBH Turns Homeless People Into Wi-Fi Hotspots at SXSW

Modernization of 'Street News' or Dehumanization of Individuals?

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BBH, in a charitable effort meant to help the homeless, is renting them out as wireless hotspots at SXSW. It's called Homeless Hotspots. The agency sees this as an attempt to "create a modern version" of the "Street News" model, in which the homeless community reports, writes and publishes a print product.

Jon Mitchell at Read Write Web sees it another way.

There's a wee little difference, though. Those newspapers are written by homeless people, and they cover issues that affect the homeless population.

By contrast, Homeless Hotspots are helpless pieces of privilege-extending human infrastructure. It's like it never occurred to the people behind this campaign that people might read street newspapers. They probably just buy them to be nice and throw them in the garbage.

Which is exactly what a lot of people do with Street News, BBH's Saneel Radia told Mitchell. Radia said that content creation wasn't the top priority -- social engagement was. In other words, by making homeless people purveyors of the one thing that SXSW attendees want above all else -- a working Wi-Fi connection -- they become visible members of society. And the "hot spots" keep all of the proceeds.

Radia went on to say that the effort might include content at some later point.

What do you think?

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