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technology

America Isn’t Quite Ready to Use Homeless People As WiFi Hotspots

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 14:  A teenager who collects bottles and cans and lives in a city shelter walks near Times Square on April 14, 2011 in New York City.  Homelessness in New York is at an all-time high according to newly-released statistics by the Coalition for the Homeless, which blames the increase on the policies of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the recent recession. A record 113,553 different people, including 42,888 children, slept in homeless shelters in fiscal year 2010, up nine percent from the previous year.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The ad agency Bartle, Bogle, and Hegarty pronounces on their website, "When the world zigs, zag." Their "innovation unit" is apparently zagging all over Austin with the year's most seemingly parodic South by Southwest idea: "Homeless Hotspots," in which humans without anywhere to live are paid to give off an Internet signal. "The hot spot is a way for them to tell their story," said the director of BBH labs; taking donations is an added bonus, as is the T-shirt declaring, for instance, "I'm Clarence, a 4G Hotspot." It's legitimately hard to tell if the "raising awareness" argument is sincere, albeit tone-deaf, activism or a high-concept publicity stunt (or both). Wired said it "sounds like something out of a darkly satirical science-fiction dystopia," but this pilot program would probably also be embraced in Portlandia.

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Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images