Tim Maly wrote an interesting piece about Homeless Hotspots, a controversial marketing stunt where BBH deployed wireless hotspots to homeless people at this year’s SXSW festival as a kind of walkable infrastructure for festival attendees.
Three days before I’d heard about Homeless Hotspots, Clarence was still homeless and I still owned a $750 pocket computer. Clarence lost his house in Katrina. In 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011, Clarence was still homeless and SxSW was still going on. Homeless Hotspots didn’t make Clarence poorer or me richer. The biggest crime of the project may be that it invited some deeply uncomfortable comparisons.
I think this observation astutely captures the reason why so many people felt uncomforted by the project: It’s not so much that Homeless Hotspots belittles or exploits the homeless, but rather that it makes it more difficult to ignore them. I don’t know and won’t speculate whether this was the original intention behind the project, but would call it a success in this regard anyway.
I spent the last year recording the stories of London’s homeless…and programmed these voices into an animated homeless figure I built. As I watch him in action on the streets, its not hard to miss the irony …..people will stop and listen to a homeless ‘robot’ but few give the same time to the real thing…..