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GoPro Project Claims Technology Is Making People Lose Empathy For Homeless 320

EwanPalmer (2536690) writes "A project involving GoPro cameras and people living on the streets of San Francisco has suggests technology is making people feel less compassionate towards the homeless. Started by Kevin F Adler, the Homeless GoPro project aims to 'build empathy through a first-hand perspective' by strapping one of the cameras onto homeless volunteers to document their lives and daily interactions. One of the volunteers, Adam Reichart, said he believes it is technology which is stopping people from feeling sympathy towards people living on the street as it's easier to have 'less feelings when you're typing something' than looking at them in the eye"
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GoPro Project Claims Technology Is Making People Lose Empathy For Homeless

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @07:52PM (#46775167)

    I wasn't giving pandhandlers money before, either, now I just have my phone to look at instead of nothing.

  • perception (Score:5, Insightful)

    by globaljustin ( 574257 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @07:54PM (#46775179) Journal

    I usually don't blame "technology" in the abstract for anything...IMHO it's too reductive of a concept to be useful and always glosses over the actual technical details

    This, however, strikes me as different. This is a good thing because it communicates a *need* in a way that our modern society has made obsolete.

    In the 18th Century, cities were so small and mixed that the rich **had to see the poor** daily. They had to see how they lived, open on the streets.

    Today, for several reasons related to technology, the rich are able to go about their business completely obvlivious to the struggles of the poor.

    Those struggles become nothing more than another voice in the din of TV/internet the endless news cycle...easy to marginalize and ignore, even for a really civic-minded rich's just not on their radar screen

    This project aims to correct that with technology...I think it's valuable

  • Which "Homeless?" (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mythosaz ( 572040 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @07:57PM (#46775203)

    Will it be one of the part-time homeless who make a full days' wage standing a few hours on the corner and then retreating to their suburban home because they have a juicy location?

    Will it be a "gutterpunk" who has chosen homelessness as his lifestyle - playing the ukulele on "college" street between heroin injections?

    [Panhandling, apparently, nets about $8/hour, depending on where you live -- more than enough if you aspire to only shoot up and go back to your crappy hotel after a few hours.]

    ...or will it be the genuinely if-only-I-could-bootstrap-myself homeless, the mentally ill, or someone who's on the streets because they're out of options?

  • I can see this (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @07:59PM (#46775213)

    which is stopping people feel sympathy towards people living on the street as it's easier to have 'less feelings when you're typing something' than looking at them in the eye"

    If you are not looking them in the eye, then you are not experiencing the Identifiable Victim effect [].

  • Re:perception (Score:4, Insightful)

    by lgw ( 121541 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @08:02PM (#46775239) Journal

    In the 18th Century, cities were so small and mixed that the rich **had to see the poor** daily. They had to see how they lived, open on the streets.

    And so a common solution at the time was to occasionally have the cops beat all the beggars out of town with cudgels. No more problem with seeing the homeless.

    The issue isn't seeing, the issue is caring. (And personally, my charity goes to people around the world with much worse problems than America's "poor", people whom I will never see, but that's just me.)

  • Strange.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The123king ( 2395060 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @08:04PM (#46775265)
    As someone who walks around with earphones in most of the time, believe it or not, it makes me more empathetic to the homeless.Nothing says "disposable income" more than having headphones, and as such, i'm very self-conscious about that fact. Instead of aimlessly walking on by when a homesless guy tries to chat or ask for money, i'll often stop, have a chat, and give them my spare change. Sure, they might spend it on Special Brew or hard cider, but at least they'll spend all of my change on getting though their day.

    Only 30% of the money you put in collection boxes actually goes to doing charitable work, the rest is spent on administrative costs, advertising, and other costs. When I give change to a homeless guy, i know that 100% of my money is going to do that homeless guy some good, and there's nothing like the feeling of making someone's day. Put that money into a collection box, and only 30% is going to go to good causes, and you'll probably never meet the guy who's day you made.

    All in all, i believe charity should start at home. And for the people who get my spare change, a home is something they can only dream about.
  • Tech is a refuge (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lije Baley ( 88936 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @08:04PM (#46775269)

    We're being driven from our humanity by various forms of corruption in civilization, and technology is helping us escape...inward.

  • by supernova87a ( 532540 ) < minus language> on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @08:06PM (#46775295)
    Maybe, just maybe, showing how many resources and $ are being spent to give homeless people options, especially in San Francisco, only to have that money pissed away and people still soiling our streets and public transport systems, tends to decrease how sympathetic you feel towards the chronically homeless?
  • Re:perception (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lgw ( 121541 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @08:16PM (#46775387) Journal

    The biggest problem as I see it is that so many people think it's the government's job now. After all, we pay a lot of taxes and the government has a lot of social programs. Why do more? I used to think that way myself.

    But these days, I just accept my taxes as a total loss, and only count as charity what I give to good charities that I trust. I also prefer charities focused on fixing the underlying issues, over the merely palliative.

  • Re:Spare Change (Score:2, Insightful)

    by FudRucker ( 866063 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @08:20PM (#46775409)
    the homeless have a right to drink some booze just like anybody else, maybe they have arthritis or a tooth ache and a little booze is the only way to find some temporary relief, so fuck you if you think having a home qualifies you to have a drink while being homeless disqualifies someone from having a a little temporary relief from the pain and struggles of life.

    you might find yourself homeless someday, with no opportunities to improve your situation, then what?
  • Re:perception (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @08:21PM (#46775415)

    Isn't it something we *want* the government to do? I'm not saying the current plan is working out, but isn't a reasonable idea that the government can and should deal with the issue?

  • Re:Spare Change (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BitZtream ( 692029 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @08:38PM (#46775557)

    That may be true in some countries, but not in America.

    In America you have to actively refuse help in order to be in continual pain or homeless.

    I HAVE been poor, there is no excuse for hunger or suffering in the US, there are programs to help.

    The problem is not that they are poor, its that they don't want to be helped, the reason for this could be any number of things from simple depression to severe mental disorders, but it IS NOT because help is unavailable.

    A severe tooth abscess can be handled by the ER if its that bad and no publicly funded ER will turn down you down, its illegal. I know, I've been in EXACTLY that spot. And for reference, alcohol does pretty much nothing at all for tooth pain, you're far better off packing clove powder around it to numb it and treat the infection than drinking yourself silly, unless you drink enough to pass out ... in which case you have to stay drunk or the sobering up process will be FAR worse.

  • Re:perception (Score:2, Insightful)

    by TsuruchiBrian ( 2731979 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @08:53PM (#46775667)
    I think the government is certainly in the best position to help the poor.
  • Not true at all (Score:2, Insightful)

    by msobkow ( 48369 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @09:18PM (#46775793) Homepage Journal

    What makes people ignore the homeless is the fact that there are hundreds if not thousands of them roaming the streets of major (and not so major) cities. When I was in Regina, you couldn't walk 4 blocks without being accosted with demands for money, cigarettes, etc.

    After a year or so of living there I used to just give them the finger and keep walking. It's not that I'm heartless -- I just don't care to be badgered everywhere I go when these lazy fucks could go on welfare and be housed like anyone else. Aside from that, I'm on disability -- I have no more money to spare than someone on welfare after I pay for my meds. Adding to that, I'd actually stopped to talk to and gotten to know a few of them, and found most of them were *on* welfare and did their begging to pay for booze and drugs, not because they needed the money to survive.

    Sympathy. You'll find it between "shit" and "syphilis".

  • Re:perception (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @09:42PM (#46775911)

    No. When the government is doing it, then it becomes a right to a resource that the person is entitled to. They will abuse it and rob the tax payer blind if they are allowed. Charities are more direct and people know that it is being done because people actually care, not because their funds have been confiscated under threat of imprisonment. Not to mention that charities will deny services to moochers and freeloaders who are just out to scam others.

    It is interesting that in the US you will see people standing by the road with some short sob story on a piece of cardboard wanting you give them money. In Mexico, the poor are by the side of the road selling stuff, or doing something entertaining to earn your donation. You can guess which one I'd be more inclined to select as the recipient of my donation.

  • Re:Spare Change (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Frosty Piss ( 770223 ) * on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @09:58PM (#46775987)

    100 percent. Been there, done that.

    There are four basic types of "homeless" -

    1. The mentally ill.
    2. Drug users and alcoholics that don't want to "get off the street" enough to do something about their habits.
    3. Homeless people who lived too close to the edge and became unemployed, drug addicts and alcoholics who want to change their lives.

    And here is Seattle - "Nicklesville" ...

    4. People who feel that society should support their homeless lifestyle.

    There are in fact many services for all of these groups except Number Four. The rest, if they work hard, give up the heavy booze and drugs (there are in fact programs), they can lift themselves out of homelessness.

    And don't fool yourself, Number Four exists in great numbers, dragging the "real" homeless down to their level.

  • Re:Spare Change (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fermion ( 181285 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @10:20PM (#46776097) Homepage Journal
    And this brings up charity versus philanthropy.

    Charity is something you do because you believe you are wealthy enough to give someone money with no strings attached. This is what the salvation army wants you to do during Christmas. Not thinking that your money is going to be used to promote hate, teach people that science is bad, and generally ruin the minds of children. But many people still give because charity is good.

    Then there is philanthropy. That occurs when people with money want to control the world. They decide what is best for everyone, and use their funds to make it happen. It is no better or worse than charity, just different.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @11:23PM (#46776391)

    Also, are shoes making people less empathetic? Before shoes, we had nothing to stare at while avoiding eye contact, but now AFTER THAT BASTARD INVENTED SHOES, everybody's got an excuse.

  • the real truth (Score:5, Insightful)

    by slashmydots ( 2189826 ) on Thursday April 17, 2014 @12:03AM (#46776533)
    I don't like the homeless because I met a bunch of them. They sincerely are lazy, unmotivated, and/or drug addicts. There's a temp agency in town where if you show up sober in the morning, you work. The end. If something is preventing you from doing that, it's probably your fault. So that's why I dislike and don't empathize with the homeless. I'm CIO of one company and the rest of the day run a computer repair shop just to make ends meet. I typically work 12 hour days. One of my homeless friends...well, he spends all day playing Magic the Gathering at a hobby shop, hanging out at various locations, bumming rides off people, and stays at the homeless shelter. When we told him to get a job at a temp agency for even just a week, he said he doesn't do that kind of work because he doesn't like it. He's also convinced he's unhireable because he's homeless but it's a cover for being lazy. THAT right there is the homeless. So take your Go Pro and shove it up your ass.
  • Re:perception (Score:4, Insightful)

    by lgw ( 121541 ) on Thursday April 17, 2014 @12:03AM (#46776535) Journal

    Interesting assertion. I think the government (or parts of it) benefits greatly by creating a permanent underclass dependent on government assistance (giving a man a fish while trying to prevent him from learning to fish). We've seen plenty of clear historical and current evidence of people in power using aid to the poor to create a supply of loyal followers. There's little that's more creepy than a "free" school with the patron's picture everywhere and lessons everyday on what a good person the patron is and so on - this is still common today in parts of the world, as is becoming a powerful government/religious leader because of it. And to me, a poorly structured government charity (one that actually penalizes moving to a minimum wage job) has the same creepy vibe, if to a lesser degree.

    I give to charities that focus on improving communities become self-sufficient and breaking these kinds of traps (though I do have one religious charity I'm slightly skeptical of, they have a solid reputation). Precisely providing that kind of aid without the "and you only have to me my loyal follower" strings attached.

    Do we have much evidence of government assistance that actually fixes underlying problems, rather than help keep people satisfies with things as they are? I like to see some rays of hope in that area, somewhere!

  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Thursday April 17, 2014 @01:07AM (#46776687) Homepage

    Here in Norway I have the impression that it's only two main groups. One is Romani [] that arrive through the EU agreement, basically the kind who come with no rights, no education, no work history, no nothing and the only thing they're here for is to beg, steal and live off various programs that provide shelter and food for the homeless while leaving a trail of littering and vandalism in their wake. And yes, I don't mind stigmatizing the whole group because 68 of 69 beggars in a random sweep of beggars had a criminal record. And despite a million attempts to integrate them, they have no intention of ever becoming productive members of society and raise their children just like them to embrace their nomadic and parasitic lifestyle. Many of the children aren't enrolled in primary/secondary education at all and the few who are absent more than 1/3rd of the time. They also have more than a few cultural issues with suckers who work all day for an honest wage, why anyone would give them money is incomprehensible to me.

    The other big, big group is drug/alcohol addicts, but there are hospices and such that will give them shelter and food if they don't show up high as a kite. The truly homeless are the ones who can't keep their drug use outside the shelter, but even those get winter sleeping bags so they don't freeze to death on the streets. They're not trying to hustle you for money in order to eat or drink or put clothes on their backs or a roof over their heads, it's to feed their habit. It's almost a protection racket, we're addicts and we will find the money to get our kick so you can either throw a few bucks in our cup or we'll get desperate and you really don't want us to get desperate. If you give them anything nice they'll probably sell it for the money anyway, you can give them money but it's not going to lead to anything positive. The rest are mostly taken care of, if you just have mental or money problems you won't be the streets and you won't have to beg for a living.

  • Re:perception (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dahamma ( 304068 ) on Thursday April 17, 2014 @04:07AM (#46777223)

    Actually, I don't agree that food, shelter, educations, and health care are in any way *rights*. I see rights as restrictions that should not be placed on an individual by others. Rights are the basic humans conditions that the government should leave alone and/or protect, depending on the situation.

    But that doesn't mean I don't think there are *obligations*. If you have an extreme excess of wealth and no interest in helping others in severe need, you are morally if not financially bankrupt. The fact that many people in this situation seem to pretend to follow "Christian" or other religious practices is even worse, and at some point hypocritical.

    I agree with you that private charity will never cover the "need" if the need is in fact just basic income inequality. Private charities do a great job solving issues like diseases because they focus on popular trends or cross-cutting concerns that affect everyone equally. But being poor isn't likely to afflict the child of a wealthy person, and that's where collective pooling of resources come in, ie. taxes - which is where the US system of regressive taxes and selective charities is failing so badly. If you make $70k a year in salary you will pay 30%+ in taxes, but if you make $100M a year from investments you will pay 15% (eh, and yeah, 15% if you are an idiot). Hey, even without all of the tax shelters if you feel generous/guilty and want to donate to a charity, it can be much less! More to homeless albino 3 legged dogs, less to homeless veterans...

"Conversion, fastidious Goddess, loves blood better than brick, and feasts most subtly on the human will." -- Virginia Woolf, "Mrs. Dalloway"