Trending: I am not a wi-fi hotspot, I am a free man


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The Independent Tech

The talk of the annual South by Southwest Interactive Conference in Austin, Texas, at the weekend (where the interactive and film components of the Texan festival are well underway) was not a new tech start up or keynote speech by some internet entrepreneur, but rather 13 homeless men.

All wearing T-shirts emblazoned with "I'm a 4G Hotspot", the men had been hired by New York marketing firm Bartle Bogle Hegarty to carry a wireless-internet device and provide web access to conference-goers for a small fee (which the homeless men would get to keep).

The backlash was instant, with The New York Times calling the project "a little dystopian". Bartle Bogle Hegarty says it wanted to reinvent the newspaper model of helping the homeless, through ventures such as The Big Issue, which is well-intentioned enough.

But there's still something a little eerie about using homeless people as infrastructure.