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Home Truths and Homeless Hotspots

March 14, 2012

In CTVR we have been discussing the Homeless Hotspots  initiative. I find the whole thing fascinating on multiple fronts. There seems to be outrage about the idea of using a homeless person as a hotspot and frankly this outrage is OUTRAGEOUS. There is little enough outrage at homelessness in itself and in my opinion the issue here is more that homelessness has been shoved in our faces rather than hidden in the shadows and we do not like that, than about the exploitation of people . I also think the whole exercise brings up many issues around ‘usefulness’ in society and forces us to think about these things. Is it more outrageous that a homeless person would carry a sandwich board with a sign for good bargains in a shop around the corner than be a hotspot?

I am also interested in the technology implications but before I go on to the technology issues I want to briefly mention Michael Rakowitz’s work paraSITE.  Rakowitz made the work in response to an obscure anti-tent by-law being enforced by the Giuliani administration in New York City, which stated that any structure 3.5 feet or taller set up on city property would be considered an illegal encampment. The aim of this kind of law is to basically clean the streets of homeless people – clean the streets in way that does not deal with the problem but keeps people out of sight of course. An example of one of Rakowitz’s pieces is below. It is like a parasite sucking heat from the building and hence the name. Anyway I thought of it when I heard about the Homeless Hotspots.


Anyway back to Homeless Hotspots.

From a technology perspective the Homeless Hotspot people have not necessarily gotten things wrong. To address the ever increasing demands for capacity the small cell is vital. There is a huge focus on the small cell. The Femtocell Forum has recently renamed itself to the Small Cell Forum. I notice they have a section on their website entitled ‘what is a small cell?’ – well a cell per human would certainly be a small cell.  We have increasingly taken control of the communication systems we use. We are the telephone operators, the content designers, the app creators … If we look at Cooper’s Law and the factors affecting capacity we can ask ourselves – what are the limits of the spatial division and frequency reuse? Is it on the scale of the human?


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