Survival Needs & Social Inclusion: Technology Use Among the Homeless Jahmeilah Roberson | Bonnie Nardi University of Calif...
Motivations for this work <ul><li>Mortgage homeless </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Dynamic thinking about urban poor </li></ul></ul...
Defining Homelessness <ul><li>People who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence, and people with a primar...
Social Lives of the Homeless <ul><li>Assumptions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Removed from larger society  [Snow & Anderson, ‘93]...
Research Sites <ul><li>Los Angeles County   </li></ul><ul><ul><li>73,702 homeless people </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>11,442...
Methods <ul><li>Observations </li></ul><ul><ul><li>42hrs of observation over 14 weeks  </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Particip...
Findings <ul><li>Survival Needs:  </li></ul><ul><li>Circumvent limitations and constraints </li></ul><ul><li>Social Inclus...
Technology for Survival <ul><li>“ First of all it took me a while to figure out the ins and outs about where the proper pl...
Technology for Survival “ A lot of us are dealing with medical problems and we have to call to follow up with case manager...
Technology for Social Inclusion <ul><li>“ We’re going to start a whole other concept and that concept is going to take us ...
Technology for Social Inclusion <ul><li>“ Most people sort of expected some of the photographs of the shopping cart or peo...
Conclusions & Future Work <ul><li>The homeless are able to  skillfully use digital technologies to promote survival and so...
Questions? Jahmeilah Roberson  [email_address] Bonnie Nardi [email_address]
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Technology for Survival and Social Inclusion

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Presentation on technology use among the homeless at CSCW 2010 in Savannah, GA.

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  • This study examines the issue of technology ownership among the homeless in Los Angeles County. We conducted observations and interviews for 14 weeks, analyzing the practices that solidified their use.
  • Changing face of homelessness in the US How are homeless positioned in terms of technology Realize the homeless are an important part of the urban landscape The use of technology to satisfy survival needs (food, shelter, safety, money) and extend their social worlds
  • Stewart B McKinney Homeless Assistance Act of 1987 We learned that while this is the federal definition of homelessness there are many organizations who ammend this to serve their local community. often time this definition is extended to include people who couch surf or multiple families residing within a single family dwelling. For that reason the defintion of homelessness isn’t that cut and dry. Even for those who fit this definition it does not provide an adequate picture of homelessness b/c it does not address the issues they face during the day, more than half of which is spent outdoors.
  • Understanding survival needs is often easier than obtaining a realistic view of the social lives of the homeless Detached from social institutions In part this is because much research has explored homeless people with severe mental illnesses. The neighborhood also plays a large part in the social lives of the homeless . We refer to these varied interactions as social inclusion. Social inclusion - going beyond these relations to include socializing with members from outside of their community (peers and service workers)
  • Members of long beach community less comfortable being recorded (audio, video, and pictures) - lots of note taking Cared about audience, general fear that if people knew they had technology they’d assume they could fulfill basic needs and didn’t need aid Technology seen as legitimizing them whether it did or not Members of skid row very open to being recorded didn’t care about audience Specific examples of people discussing their ownership of technologies and looked at how they related to our predetermined themes of survival needs (food, shelter, safety, money) and an extension of social worlds
  • Members of long beach community less comfortable being recorded (audio, video, and pictures) - lots of note taking Cared about audience, general fear that if people knew they had technology they’d assume they could fulfill basic needs and didn’t need aid Technology seen as legitimizing them whether it did or not Members of skid row very open to being recorded didn’t care about audience
  • Survival: food, shelter, safety, money Many hours of their day was spent trying to secure these needs Previous self with resource of internet knowledge intertwined with new social world to and in survival and adaptation to the streets
  • Time constraints make ownership important In both cases we see that its not temporary access but having the technology ready at hand
  • Wealthy share space and resources with the poor and in the cases of both skid row and long beach they came into frequent contact b/c even those these areas were seen as “homeless places” they were in fact only separated by a street and access between the communities was possible Recognition within larger social sphere Technology important for creating ties outside of their primary and secondary relations “ Most people sort of expected some of the photographs of the shopping cart or people strung out or shit on the street. What they didn’t expect is seeing some of the beautiful images like this one of the sunset through the barbed wire fence. It’s like, ‘w e ll, wait a minute, a homeless person would go to the beach?’ T hen you start to realize, ‘y e ah, we are very similar and we have a lot in common.’”
  • Wealthy share space and resources with the poor and in the cases of both skid row and long beach they came into frequent contact b/c even those these areas were seen as “homeless places” they were in fact only separated by a street and access between the communities was possible Recognition within larger social sphere Technology important for creating ties outside of their primary and secondary relations “ Most people sort of expected some of the photographs of the shopping cart or people strung out or shit on the street. What they didn’t expect is seeing some of the beautiful images like this one of the sunset through the barbed wire fence. It’s like, ‘w e ll, wait a minute, a homeless person would go to the beach?’ T hen you start to realize, ‘y e ah, we are very similar and we have a lot in common.’”
  • These activities were sources of motivation for technology ownership Technology is powerful and useful part of the their lives Continue to explore the skid row photography club as a site for bridging the homeless with broader local community and the importance of technology within that setting for constituting tertiary social relations
  • Technology for Survival and Social Inclusion

    1. 1. Survival Needs & Social Inclusion: Technology Use Among the Homeless Jahmeilah Roberson | Bonnie Nardi University of California, Irvine
    2. 2. Motivations for this work <ul><li>Mortgage homeless </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Dynamic thinking about urban poor </li></ul></ul><ul><li>In computing research </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Urban poor as unexpected users of technology [Thom-Santelli, ‘07] </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Characterize perceptions of technology among the homeless [LeDantec & Edwards, ‘08] </li></ul></ul>
    3. 3. Defining Homelessness <ul><li>People who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence, and people with a primary nighttime residence that is </li></ul><ul><ul><li>(a) a supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designed to provide temporary living accommodations; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>(b) an institution that provides temporary residence for individuals intending to be institutionalized; or </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>(c) a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation </li></ul></ul>
    4. 4. Social Lives of the Homeless <ul><li>Assumptions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Removed from larger society [Snow & Anderson, ‘93] </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Considered in a state of withdraw [Ropers, ‘88] </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Reality </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Establish and maintain intricate social networks [Rowe & Wolch, ‘90] </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Primary social relations </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Secondary social relations </li></ul></ul></ul>
    5. 5. Research Sites <ul><li>Los Angeles County </li></ul><ul><ul><li>73,702 homeless people </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>11,442 living in shelters </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>57,166 living on the street </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The Park </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Downtown Long Beach </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Skid Row </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Downtown Los Angeles Garment District </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>52-block radius </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Participants </li></ul><ul><ul><li>39 people </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>34 homeless, 5 non-homeless </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Digital technology users and non-users </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Sleeping arrangements </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Outdoors </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Temporary housing </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Transitional housing </li></ul></ul>
    6. 6. Methods <ul><li>Observations </li></ul><ul><ul><li>42hrs of observation over 14 weeks </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Participant observations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Skid Row Photography Club </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Neighbourhood Council </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Homeless Count (Los Angeles & Long Beach) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Semi-structured interviews & Informal Conversations </li></ul><ul><ul><li>39, ~ 10min - 40min each </li></ul></ul>
    7. 7. Findings <ul><li>Survival Needs: </li></ul><ul><li>Circumvent limitations and constraints </li></ul><ul><li>Social Inclusion: </li></ul><ul><li>Frequent contact in physical world </li></ul>
    8. 8. Technology for Survival <ul><li>“ First of all it took me a while to figure out the ins and outs about where the proper places to sleep were. [A] joy of my computer is that I would go onto like Craigslist and I would meet up with people who wanted like sexual activities so I would spend the nights there…We would both get a night of pleasure and I would get a place to sleep and shower. The joy of that is that they don’t even know that I’m homeless and that’s what I like.” </li></ul>
    9. 9. Technology for Survival “ A lot of us are dealing with medical problems and we have to call to follow up with case managers and health care people…You never can do things from any of [the service organizations] because you only have five minutes on the phone. So you need to have a cell phone. Most people can’t afford it. People go out and pick up cans just so they can have something to eat, but these other things are necessities too.”
    10. 10. Technology for Social Inclusion <ul><li>“ We’re going to start a whole other concept and that concept is going to take us to better technology. And all that technology does is allows us to compete and be able to do what every...high schooler can do. ” </li></ul>
    11. 11. Technology for Social Inclusion <ul><li>“ Most people sort of expected some of the photographs of the shopping cart or people strung out or shit on the street. What they didn’t expect is seeing some of the beautiful images like this one of the sunset through the barbed wire fence. It’s like, ‘w e ll, wait a minute, a homeless person would go to the beach?’ T hen you start to realize, ‘y e ah, we are very similar and we have a lot in common.’” </li></ul>
    12. 12. Conclusions & Future Work <ul><li>The homeless are able to skillfully use digital technologies to promote survival and social inclusion in important arenas of activity </li></ul><ul><li>Photography Club as site for bridging social groups </li></ul>
    13. 13. Questions? Jahmeilah Roberson [email_address] Bonnie Nardi [email_address]

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