Humanising technology…

...or technologising humanity?

Regular readers of this blog will know that I am a big fan of technology and its ability to connect us. Internet-based technology, well used, can transcend borders of politics, race, creed and geography, connecting us as never before.

Those attending the SXSW  gathering in Austin Texas this week could demonstrate that to you in 101 ways of which I can only dream. Is it possible, though, that internet access becomes a drug? Would it be some kind of post-modern heresy to suggest that the depth of our need for digital access suspends our judgement?

Marketing company Bartly Bogle Hegarty have ushered in a new scheme just in time  for SXSW entitled “homeless hotspots“. The homeless people involved with the scheme are carrying 4G hotspot devices, and wearing t-shirts with the legend “I am a 4G hotspot”. Those who cannot survive between venues without their 4G access can log into the paypal account for the relevant t-shirt wearer, pay their money, and enjoy internet access courtesy of their new-found hireling.

BBG feel that this is a step up from the newspapers usually sold by homeless people, in that there are no issues about the content of what they sell. Those who give the money no longer need to be bothered with reading materials written or researched by the homeless, but can bypass it speedily on the entry slip to the information super highway. Each homeless person involved in the scheme no longer offers a service, they become an adjunct to somebody else’s service – note the t-shirt does not say “I have” but “I AM a 4G hotspot”. Does this mean that humanity and dignity are part of the scheme’s price tag, I wonder?. Easy for me to say, perhaps, with a roof over my head and an income. Maybe my ethical speculation is a luxury I can easily afford.


Is this scheme a flash of entrepreneurial brilliance in the darkness of America’s poverty, or a bridge too far?

Writing on ReadWriteWeb, Jon Mitchell clearly thinks it is the latter:

This conference is so hugely, expensively over the top as a monument to the privilege of Internet access that I didn’t think it could top itself. It just did.

What do you think?

6 thoughts on “Humanising technology…

  1. Pingback: Homeless Hotspots? What Could Go Wrong? « rsmithing

  2. Pingback: Homelessness Meets Privilege at SXSWi « You're Talking a Lot, But You're Not Saying Anything

  3. Hi Richard – You make an excellent point about the use of the phrase “I am” vs. “I have.” I believe that simple choice of wording and what it could be taken to imply has been responsible for some of the backlash the project is experiencing.

    I noticed your post in researching my own about this from a PR angle: Homeless Hotspots? What Could Go Wrong? I link to your post here over at my site and would really appreciate your perspective in the comments there given your consideration of the topic, if you’d care to add to the discussion. Thank you.

  4. Pingback: Weekly RoundUp: The Nappy Edition | The Church Sofa

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