SXSW is suppose to be about celebrating music, movies and everything interactive but in the case of one company’s plans the Austin event is being called “exploitive” and “dystopian.”
Marketing company Bartle Bogie Hegarty decided to have homeless people carry around MiFi devices that allow event visitors to sign into the internet.
Bartle believes the homeless helpers can make some decent money by accepting a few dollars from each user who wants to use the MiFi service. Users can even pay right through Paypal at which point the homeless person is paid at the end of the event.
Jon Mitchell of ReadWriteWeb writes:
“The digital divide has never hit us over the head with a more blunt display of unselfconscious gall.”
He’s not the only one upset about the company’s plans, another blogger writes:
“You are priming an affluent, iPad-toting public to think of that person as a commodity.”
According to the Houston Chronicle the company admitted their marketing plan has generated a lot of bad publicity:
“There’s an insane amount of chatter about this … [that] certainly villainizes us.”
Even with the realization that the company is not receiving any love from top bloggers and voices in the tech industry it says its plan meant well and was geared towards putting money in homeless peoples pockets while the company ultimately wanted to help homeless organizations create online content.
As for finding the mobile MiFi homeless workers they are easy to find because they are all wearing white T-shirts that read:
“I am a digital hotspot.”
Do you think the practice of using homeless people as mobile MiFi connections is exploitative and dystopian or a good way to put money in the pockets of people who need it the most?