{post 5} the issue with assumption + concerns of life.

interview. probe. findings. reflection. judith tan.

00_title 2
(Think Eat Write Read 2014)

In this post, I will explain, record and analyse my findings from some primary research I conducted in the hopes of understanding some of the viewpoints young adults have on the issue of homelessness.

{interview: questions}

As I crafted the interview questions, I kept in mind the focus of how people transition to homelessness. I am also very interested in human attitudes, motives and behaviour, which is closely tied up with social exclusion and inclusion. I wanted to know how youth view homeless people, and if they sympathise with them.

Below is a transcript of the interview. Each image contains the spoken thoughts and reflections of the interviewee. My subsequent thoughts and findings are annotated in the captions of each image.

{interview: transcript & findings}

01. The issue that I’m looking at is homelessness and social exclusion. How would you define homelessness?

The interviewee’s first sentence is actually rather accurate of the term ‘homeless’ which refers to more than just those sleeping on the street. But the picture which comes to her mind’s eye is what most assume – those who sleep on the street and beg for money.

02. Can you describe the processes in which you think people become homeless?

Again, the interviewee is quite accurate in her assumptions.

03. How often do you see homeless people and where?

This response highlighted a fact which is common sense, but it is something about which I had not thought. The homeless are more common and the population of them more concentrated in the city, where there is a huge flow of people. There are more chances for donations, and more spaces to sleep without being overly noticed or ousted.

04. When you see a homeless person, what do you feel, and what thought processes go through your mind?

A combination of seeing homeless people so often and being busy with life results in becoming desensitised. Walls of conscious ignorance and indifference build up in the heart of the passerby. Walls of suspicion also go up in a time where people are becoming less and less trusting and trustworthy, as everyone, young and old, rich or poor, chiefly look out for their own personal wants, needs and gain.

05. Do you think homeless people experience social exclusion, and how?

The exclusion is two-fold. One is the appearance of the homeless, which makes them look and feel different. The other is that of society’s reaction. People shy away from what is different from them, what they do not know. People ignore those who are different and down in life out of fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of what might happen to themselves. But there is hope of change, for there are people out there, although few, who choose to stop and reach out to those who are different and in need of human interaction.

06. How aware do you think they would be about their social exclusion, and how affected would they feel about it, in your opinion?

This highlights the inferiority the homeless most likely feel, as they see the many people who go around them, who appear to have some purpose in life with their careers and their busyness.

07. What other challenges do you think homeless people face?

The theme of a negative cycle arises again.

08. Do you have another general thoughts about homelessness?

There are lots of questions and unknowns regarding the homeless, especially people who recently become homeless.

09. So would you be curious to learn more?


10. And would you want to learn more so that you can be more informed, or so that you can help? Why would you want to learn more?

The interviewee is spot on in what she wants to know, in a possibility of homelessness being more than the stereotypes of people’s assumptions, and the ‘stages’, or different situations, which are classed as homelessness.

{probe: task}

I created a probe for my interviewee to do throughout the following week. The task was to keep a log, writing down the following for each day:

  • What made you the most stressed/distressed?
  • What was the cause of it/how did you come to that place? (‘place’ being a situation/feeling, not a physical location)
  • What gave you the most pleasure?
  • What was the cause of it/how did you come to that place?

I wanted to highlight the fact that what us ‘regular’ people perceive as difficulties and joys are far different from that of people in dire situations, such as homelessness. My theory was that the stresses of the former would be insignificant as compared to the latter, while the pleasures of the latter would be seemingly smaller than the former. This would be a result of living a regular, non-homeless life versus living a life in uncertainty of what is to become of oneself in terms of board and living.

{probe: result}







{thoughts on probe findings}

For a typical young adult, stresses are primarily situated around work and study, in particular decisions, workload and being time-poor. Pleasures are often consumerism in forms of food, increasing in material possessions, internet, entertainment and time. Pleasures also tend to be intrinsically linked to stresses, as a form of procrastination in temporary escape and relief. Both stresses and pleasures are reflective of a possession of a good amount of money, and access to many resources, opportunities and experiences which are common in society and yet unavailable to many homeless people.

{ethnographic findings in 5 points}

The following are a summary of five findings from my primary research, in regards to young people and their view of the homeless. Points 1, 2, 3 and 5 are derived from the interview, in analysing the interviewee’s emotional (attitude, quickness of reply) and verbal (how answers were worded) responses .

  1. The basis of assumptions. Assumptions are based on what the eye can see and what the mind can draw on from imagination and existent knowledge.
  2. The human nature of assumptions. Inaccurate assumptions come naturally, while more accurate assumptions come when purposefully contemplating on the issue.
  3. The innateness of social exclusion. The homeless are viewed as “us” (regular society) and “them” (homeless people).
  4. The causes for anxiety which reveal a life of privilege. Even a typical young person’s worries reveal the privileges they have which the homeless would very much desire and need.
  5. The opportunity of an avenue to educate the young public on homelessness. There is an awareness that there must be more to homelessness beyond the stereotype, and a desire to be more informed in the issue. The fact the interviewee wanted to find out more gives hope that there may be avenues to explore in helping people understand more about the homeless. If the public is more aware and understanding of how people transition to homelessness, the issue of social exclusion may diminish as they become more accepting of and willing to help homeless people.

{reflection on ethnographic methodology}

This was not my first time conducting the interview, but it was my first time creating a probe. I found the process of interview and probe fascinating, insightful and refreshing.

Fascinating, because it is interesting to learn the opinions of someone else, and to gain a little access into the personal life another being. I also loved getting a taste of probes and seeing the complexity of the design examples shown in the studio groups. Probes are something I would like to explore more in future, as I can imagine there could be many possibilities for interesting personal projects, and a method to gain insight from target audiences which would inform more effective design.

It was insightful, confirming some points I already knew, and opening my eyes to deeper thoughts and avenues for exploration, both for research and design response. For example, it would be interesting to research into people who pretend to be homeless. As for a design response, an objective might be to stir and then satisfy the curiosity of young people regarding homelessness, resulting in increased understanding and empathy to the homeless.

Refreshing, as it was a welcome break from self-directed research. Instead, it felt as if the research was done by someone else, and I just had to organise and analyse the results.

As for what I would like to improve and do differently in future, there are two things: time and quantity.

There was a very short amount of time to form the interview questions and probe tasks. It would have been good to have a longer time to properly think and flesh out questions and tasks based on sound reasoning in order to conduct more purposeful research.

The other issue was that I only interviewed one primary source. This was not enough to make reliable observations thus come to objective conclusions. As a result of and in addition to this, much of my findings are based on my own common sense and assumption regarding the individual’s thoughts and what the ramifications of those thoughts might be.

However, it was good to have a brief taste of ethnographic methodology in order to open my mind to options and depth of exploration in future design responses.


{title image}

Think Eat Write Read. 2014, Thoughts, Thoughts of a Fangirl, viewed 1 September 2016, <http://thoughts-of-a-fangirl.blogspot.com.au/2014/05/t-i-m-e.html>.

{interview: transcript}

01. Poverty Insights. 2009, Dehumanizing Homeless People, PATH, viewed 31 August 2016, <https://cnsblog.files.wordpress.com/2008/10/homeless1.jpg>.

02. Fadul, M. 2008, Blues at Midnight, Flickr, viewed 31 August 2016, <https://www.flickr.com/photos/nika_fadul/2840494089/in/faves-jessenialuna/>.

03. McBride, W. 1956, Das Brandmauer Bild, Berlin, Tumblr, viewed 31 2016, <http://67.media.tumblr.com/53f5d3d59eaa791ed0c77c5731da8438/tumblr_nuj1no4pKK1rp66ruo1_1280.jpg>.

04. A. 2016, Longing, Pinterest, viewed 1 September 2016, <https://au.pinterest.com/pin/414401603195243829/>.

05. Johnson, J. 2010, Girl, Crown Fountain, Chicago, Flickr, viewed 31 August 2016, <https://www.flickr.com/photos/jefferycjohnson/4756462936/>.

06. Sociedade Excludente. 2015, Homelessness, Pinterest, viewed 1 September 2016, <https://au.pinterest.com/pin/569072102889411944/>.

07. Delectable Collectibles. 2012, Bars, Tumblr, viewed 31 August 2016, <http://delectable-collectibles.tumblr.com/post/35744733320>.

08. Louis, P. 2014, Mental Health, Natural News, viewed 1 September 2016, <http://www.naturalnews.com/gallery/640/Men/Homeless-Man-Sleeping-Hobo.jpg>.

10. Hoshimov, S. 2016, Midnight Walk, 500px, viewed 1 September 2016, <https://500px.com/photo/23229517/midnight-walk-by-shavkat-hoshimov>.

{probe: result}

Wed. Zaytseva, I. 2016, Shopping, Pinterest, viewed 1 September 2016, <https://au.pinterest.com/pin/303781937345860295/>.

Thu. Morris, S. 2015, Udon, Pinterest, viewed 1 September 2016, <https://au.pinterest.com/pin/409827634819337337/>.

Fri. Ramirez, S. 2016, Phone, Pinterest, viewed 1 September 2016, <https://au.pinterest.com/pin/328129522831709577/>.

Sat. Retail design blog. 2016, Lacoste boutique, viewed 1 September 2016, <http://retaildesignblog.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Lacoste-boutique-by-DesignLSM-Manchester-UK-02.jpg>.

Sun. GFF Magazine. 2015, Meringues, viewed 1 September 2016, <https://au.pinterest.com/pin/465911523929140777/>.

Mon. Waes, B. 2016, Study, viewed 1 September 2016, <https://au.pinterest.com/pin/600808406508399511/>.