Some genius at marketing giant BBH decided to outfit 13 volunteer homeless people in Austin, Texas with 4G Wi-Fi transmitters, turning them into human Wi-Fi hotspots for the duration of the South by Southwest festival, which draws thousands of visitors to the city.
Wearing t-shirts that read “Hi, I’m ___________, a 4G hotspot,” the volunteers were asked to walk around offering Wi-Fi access in exchange for donations. Granted, they were volunteers, and some said they were happy to have the work – but the internet immediately registered intense disapproval of the project, with many on Twitter and around the blogosphere calling it exploitative and dehumanizing.
The “work is work” defense seems a bit shoddy here. The problem isn’t the job of carrying around a transmitter and offering Wi-Fi. It’s the “I am a Wi-Fi hotspot” bit, which isn’t all that different, when you think about it, from giving homeless people garbage bags and a t-shirt that says “I am a garbage bag.”