The talk of Austin is a jarring campaign in which homeless people actually become Wi-Fi hotspots. “The worry is that these people are suddenly just hardware,” admits its organizer.
At SXSW, the annual tech startup conference in Austin, 13 homeless men are hanging around the conference center wearing white shirts that say "I'm _____, a 4G hotspot." Each is carrying a wireless internet device, and for a PayPal donation, will provide conference-goers with internet access for as long as they want. .
The men are part of a campaign called "Homeless Hotspots," devised by a marketing firm called BBH. It effectively debuted today, and started backfiring immediately.
The first person to flag the stunt as a little off was the New York Times's David Gallagher, who called the plan it "a little dystopian." Since then, the Internet's been aghast: The story has been both amplified and deprived of context, inspiring thousands of knee-jerk responses. It's really not going over very well at all.