You Hold the Keys to a Virtual Home

More and more nonprofit organizations are using digital media to tell stories about the people they serve, and engage us in advocacy campaigns. Thanks to the Lost Remote, a blog that “covers the exploding local media space, from hyperlocal news to location-aware mobile,” I share this provocative project from the streets of New York City. 

Those of us living in urban America likely cross paths with homeless people on a daily basis. Do you stop and offer to help? Give money or buy food? Do you have a policy of only giving to women or disabled people or folks who don’t seem to be using drugs? Do you have a conversation, ask their names, hear their story? Do you avert your eyes and rush off to catch the bus, get to work, check email or send a tweet?

The painful truth is that each encounter is ultimately an ethical dilemma that questions our humanity. Homeless people are us. Yet, somehow, most of “us” have found a way to ignore them on both a personal and societal level. They wander through our streets like ghosts, recognized by the rare, sensitive among us tuned in to their frequency. This is what came to mind for me as I watched the public digital installation below.

Brother Can You Spare the Time? Clearly, the leaders at Pathways to Housing can see that it’s becoming easier for us to interact with our technology, than it is with real live human beings in need. But they also know that if we could end homelessness, or even help one person with the quick and simple press of a button, a click or a text, we would. The people behind this project understand that media have the power to move us and get us moving; and they accept that virtual compassion is better than not caring at all.

I’d love to know what you think about public media/digital installations like this that call upon the “better angels of our nature.” What innovative uses of media have you witnessed coming from the nonprofit world, raising our consciousness and awakening us to action?