In scraping the web for data I opted to look at twitter, not using or being familiar with twitter myself, I thought this would be a good chance to get acquainted with this popular medium of social media.
What I Now Know About Twitter.
Twitter is a free social networking service in which users are limited to 140 characters to express a thought or idea. Twitter’s mission is to give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers.
Twitter is different to other social networking sites as you can follow anyone on Twitter without approval. Tweets are posted onto the Twitter website, they are permanent, searchable and public.
Some of the more interesting findings.
I began my process of research by generating a spreadsheet of tweets that include both “homeless” and “technology”; 357 tweets were returned.
141 of these tweets were regarding the free Wi-Fi kiosks in New York City, most were retweeting the news articles about the benefits of these kiosks for the homeless.
However, more recently, I searched ‘NYC Wi-Fi Kiosks’ and the tweets surrounding these kiosks have shifted completely.
Unfortunately, the kiosks were misused and used to stream porn on the streets – the homeless population of New York were labelled as at fault for these incidents and the kiosks have since been shut down. Whilst, a lot of my earlier research discusses the positives of technology for the homeless; this incident underscores that technology can also engender negative actions and consequences.
I then used the advanced search option to look at ‘homeless digital divide’ in which many of the returned tweets were from organisations working to close the digital divide in want of a better future for the homeless.
Similar results were returned in searching ‘homeless digital inclusion’.
These findings were interesting as clearly work is being done to respond to the digital divide the homeless population faces. However, these tweets are relatively factual and don’t show a lot of passion behind the issue. A lack of empathy has been a common theme across this research process.
Potential For A Design Response
We so often map physical spaces; defining spaces and representing possession. The homeless population is without the security of the physical space a home provides. Additionally, they are largely excluded The homeless are both without this physical space and access to technology. Essentially, they are locked out of two space denoting a home. In considering a lack of access for the homeless, it might be interesting to map these two spaces; perhaps one map detailing the physicality of Sydney and the second map detailing access to free Wi-Fi throughout Sydney. Inspired by Ewan David Eason, pictured on the left, who has layered maps of Paris, London and New York, this design response would show the complexity of what is the digital homeless sphere.