Primary Research & Public Perception

 Post 5 By Alice Stollery

Interview Objectives

Stigma and stereotyping have been recurring issues in secondary sources and the mainstream media throughout my research into homelessness. The societal shift towards technological dependence has also raised a number of concerns for those on the streets, as we create a digital divide, further marginalising the homeless.

With these positions in mind, I recently interviewed a university student to understand the relevance of these issues among the 18-24 year old age bracket. The primary objective of the interview process was to understand their attitudes towards the homeless and their circumstances, and to identify where stereotypes may have influenced their views and behaviours. By conducting an interview and establishing a design probe, I also hoped to ascertain the interviewees dependence on technology, such as their mobile phone and the internet, to ultimately identify areas where access to technology is a necessity for this age group. This would hopefully, in turn, allow me to understand where technology is failing the homeless, and in particular, homeless youth. My interview questions were limited and the interview was conducted more as a conversation to ensure the interviewee was relaxed and open in their response to the questions.


Throughout the interview process, I found that stereotypes were present in both their definition of homelessness as well as the perceived causes of homelessness. Interestingly, the invisible homeless were not accounted for within this person’s definition.

“Someone who doesn’t have a physical home to go to and a physical space to keep personal belongings. Those that are detached from society.”

This simplified definition of homelessness exposed the shallow understanding many people have of the issue. The invisible homeless do not enter our thoughts and we do not consider that the homeless may well be active members of society, working or studying full time, yet living out of the boot of their car or sleeping on a friends couch. By describing homelessness in this way, we almost detach ourselves from it, thinking that homelessness affects those that make poor life choices or who come from difficult backgrounds.

This simplified definition of homelessness may also be due to my lack of interview skills and the time frame in which the interview was conducted. Perhaps with more time and more probing, the interviewee could have established a more comprehensive understanding and definition of the issue. To improve for next time, I would perhaps break down this question into multiple questions as it is difficult to provide a complete overview of a complex issue in a single answer.

Feelings towards helping the homeless

The interview was also used to ascertain the interviewee’s feelings towards helping those in need. Seeing the numbers of people, myself included, walk past the homeless each day, I have always thought that a possible solution could sit within the actions of the passers by. I wanted to know the reasons why people chose not to help them, whether it was a case of not knowing how or whether there was less desire to help them due to a lack of empathy as a result of desensitisation or stigma. The interviewee stated that she was aware of the homeless, yet did not take much notice of them. Confirming the latter of my hypothesis. When walking past them, she realised that she pays more attention to their belongings and the items they keep, rather than focusing on them or their situation. She did not have any particular feelings when seeing them and due to this lack of empathy for them, felt that she had been desensitised to the issue.

Perceived causes of homelessness

When asked, the interviewee attributed the causes of homelessness to unfortunate circumstances and financial difficulty such as keeping up with rent or mortgage payments. She stated that she was aware that a number of homeless people had jobs and in this situation contributed possible causes to reckless or irresponsible spending and differing priorities from those not affected by homelessness. When asked if she had ever considered helping the homeless and if so what barriers she faced or what stopped her from doing so, she stated that not knowing how to help them played a large role in her reasons for choosing not to help them.

“When I walk past, of course I consider helping them but I don’t now how to help without contributing to the problem. Not knowing their situation and how to help them is the biggest barrier.”

This implies that people would be more willing to help or donate to the homeless if they were aware of the circumstances that lead them to be homeless. When asked about the challenges the homeless face, the interviewee listed social stigma and overcoming societies perception of them. I was intrigued by the fact that the interviewee was aware enough of this stigma to list it as a challenge yet not enough to challenge her own views of them.

The role of technology

Moving onto the role technology plays in her life, I asked the interviewee what daily challenges she might face if she did not have access to a mobile or internet technology. These included, waking up on time for commitments as she uses the alarm on her phone, emergencies, lack of ability to contact and stay in touch with friends and family and limited or no access to her uni work or online resources needed to complete her degree.

Design Probe

As the answer to this question did not give a comprehensive insight into the necessity of technology within her life, I asked the interviewee to complete a design probe over the course of the following week.

She was asked to document the role her mobile or internet plays in her life, including her fundamental and vital uses of technology during that period. Whenever she relied on her mobile or internet for work, socialising or emergencies,to name a few, she was asked to take note and record them. In designing this task, I hoped to identify situations when she would not have been able to complete the task without mobile or Internet technology.

A Visualisation of the interviewee’s design probe results. The larger circles act as clocks. Each use of technology has been plotted on the clock to show the time of day for each of the interactions. Each smaller circle is roughly 5 minutes in time.

The design probe results have been visualised above. They depict that for the 18-24 age bracket, mobile and internet technology are primarily used to maintain relationships with friends and family as throughout the week the interviewee spent 4.5 hours on Instagram, 3 hours on Facebook, 1.5 hours checking her email, 15 minutes looking up transport timetables and 1 hour making important phone calls. I was quite surprised by these results as they differed from my expectations. I would have placed more importance on calls or transport information rather than instagram, however this may be due to the particular week in which the design probe was completed.

These results are a good introduction to the issue, however, I would need to interview a number of participants in order to gauge an accurate indication of the primary uses of technology within this age bracket. As the interviewee also pointed out, this just so happened to be a week where she did not need to make any emergency phone calls, and other important phone calls were kept to a minimum.

Five Key Insights
  • The role of technology in the lives of youth may differ considerably from older age brackets, with significance placed on maintaining relationships and social connections through social media. Youth also do not make a lot of phone calls, which places more importance on online interaction.
  • I found that stereotypes were present in both the interviewees definition of homelessness as well as the perceived causes of homelessness as the invisible homeless were not considered within their definition of the issue.
  • There is evidence of a shallow understanding of the complexity of homelessness as well as an indifference towards those suffering form homelessness. This issue is not at the forefront of peoples minds and due to desensitisation and stigma surrounding their circumstances, people may not have empathy towards those suffering from homelessness.
  • People are less likely to help the homeless without knowing their background or situation. The causes of homelessness from a youths perspective include unfortunate circumstances and financial difficulty such as keeping up with rent or mortgage payments, reckless or irresponsible spending and differing priorities from those not affected by homelessness.
  • Social stigma and overcoming societies perception of them is considered a barrier for the homeless to overcome.

Post 5: Ethnography, discovering the unexpected

By Basilia Dulawan


Alya H.


As I identified one of the main stakeholders in the stakeholder map to be media, I wanted my interviewee to take photos and screenshots of how women are portrayed in media in whatever she came across i.e billboards, posters, ADs, Instagram, Facebook posts or headlines etc.

Once she had documented this over 3 days, I asked if she could sort them out in what she thinks is an empowering/positive portrayal and a Negative/degrading portrayal of Women.


“I noticed that women in my social media were not portrayed in distinctive ways. It was pretty negative. Mostly just women in bikinis, sexual objects kind of thing and just on the Instagram like stereotypes about us eating salad and crap. Even the fashion shoot…super sexualised. I didn’t see any like empowering posts or anything.”

Instagram: Izi Simundic

Instagram bio reads:
LONDON Blog: Editor of @the_editorialist • • THEEDITORIALIST.COM.AU

Babe, The Tab. 
Instagram: Windsor Smith 
YouTube + Facebook: Alan Tsibulya
Instagram: Nympha London

What I found from the results of my probe was that the main source of exposure of the portrayal of Women is in social media, specifically Instagram. My participant not only followed individuals but also Australian stores such as Windsor Smith which she interestingly included a quote that they posted on their Instagram account. A lot of the things I noticed was that the portrayal of Women, which Alya points out, had a lot to do with food and body image – something I was not expecting to realise/find.

I think next time I would set a more specific task for example: Here is a polaroid camera, a marker, a small notebook and some sticky tape, I would like you to bring this around with you for today wherever you go. As you go along your day, please take a photo whenever you see Women displayed or referenced on ADs, Magazine stands, TV, Social Media etc. Stick these into the notebook provided and included where you were, what time it was, what you saw and how you thought the Women were portrayed. Additionally, was there any language used to accompany the visuals? If so, what did it say?

The task wasn’t overly successful in providing numerous and varying insights in the portrayal of Women in the media, but I do think I gained some insight into how a young woman perceives Women portrayed in media – something that I wasn’t expecting to get out from this probe.

Next time, I would also ask 3-4 females from different age groups.

Additionally, what I did find beneficial for my ethnography was the semi-structured interviews. Before the interviews I had 4 questions prepared:

  1. What do you think the word “Feminist” means?
  2. How do you feel when you hear the word “Feminism”?
  3. As a Man/Woman, do you feel pressured to act a certain way – follow a certain career path?
  4. Is there anything you feel you can’t do because you are a woman?

I found this created a good foundation that allowed the conversation to develop naturally.

Overall she had positive associations with the word Feminism and said it just means that everyone is equal – which I agree with. I think it was good to start off with this question as it definitely set the tone and helped me understand how she understood the issue of Gender Equality. She also explained that she had always held this view of the word feminism, but understood that not everyone understands it to mean equality. Alya points out that a huge factor to the term being misunderstood is education, upbringing and where you were born. It’s important to note that she was brought up in a very open-minded community (the inner west), and raised with the belief that men and women aren’t different which her parents live out. She says with her parents there is no distinction between who does the cooking, cleaning or housework.

When it comes to feeling pressured to act a certain way, she has never felt pressured, but has received negative reactions from others when she vocalised that being a mother and having children is never something she really wants to do and that her career comes first. A lot of the time people say “Oh you’ll change, you’ll get that motherly instinct” as if it’s something that as a woman, you need to get. Additionally other people say “Well you can do both” as in a career and have kids, but Alya’s perspective is that you can’t, not if you want to be at the top of your career and if you did both you could do a mediocre job of both, but she would rather do a great job at just one – her career.

On another note one of the insights I found when I spoke to Alya was that Women in a corporate world such as Alya’s mum – a lawyer, dress in a certain, professional way to be heard. When Alya questioned why her mum wore heels to work when she had bunions and sore feet, her mum explained that as a small woman, she needed to have that extra height to command authority and be heard, it was about dominance physically.



In summary I found:

  1. You can’t anticipate what you will discover
  2. Active listening and not interrupting your participant is very important, especially during the semi-structured interviews
  3. Providing a more specific probe task for the participant with physical tools/materials may improve the depth of results and insights found
  4. Social Media is one of the most important/relevant sources of media in the portrayal of Women
  5. Women are portrayed in not necessarily a positive or negative way, but are definitely portrayed in reference to their body image and food choices.


Approaches to design for change, design-led ethnography

My first task was to develop a general understanding in the gender equality topic through collecting data from secondary sources. These secondary sources referred to articles from newspapers, magazines and online news sources.

To begin deepening my knowledge in the subject this step was absolutely necessary and it gave me a clear overview of how the debate around the issue is shaped in Australia today. The analysis of the articles was preformed by contrasting and critiquing the authors positions and viewpoints. Due to the nature of the subject, the authors behind these articles are often very earnest and invested in their opinions, which resonates in their work.


My second task was set to identify two scholarly articles on the gender equality subject, and build knowledge on how the issue is positioned in these.

This was also a step in the right direction to further investigate the subject. I chose articles that described the issue from clearly different angles, locally and internationally. I found that one of these articles was much more profound than the other, this reinforced the lesson about researching the authors more closely.


The third task was commenced together with my peers through mapping out the stakeholders/participants involved in the gender equality issue.

Using our knowledge obtained from our secondary sources in previous research tasks we identified the stakeholders and their degree of impact and influence in the issue.

Mapping exercise
Mapping exercise by Ahlstrom, C. Carmody, A. Dulawan, B. Vuong, A. (2016)

We all agreed on that this exercise was helpful in discovering the bigger picture, since we all researched in different areas and direction in the gender equality topic. We determined connections between the participants and we also saw how stakeholders affected each other. I built further on the maps to extract more information and gained more clarification in the issue through this.


The fourth task I developed upon was to identify and research a project produced by a designer / design studio relating to work and gender equality.

This task was challenging in terms of finding an example that was innovative with its design thinking and also based on the gender equality subject. The project I chose to research, the Data Explorer by WGEA (2015), was showing a great way of how to utilise and visualise data and make it more accessible for the public. This example is however not necessarily original and experimental in its execution, although based on the subject it related to I found that the research gave me useful knowledge.


In another research task I accumulated an image library of images depicting the issue around gender equality.

This task led me into another type of secondary source research, where your own opinion is brought forward provoked by certain images that are subjective. In hindsight it was interesting to see what type of images I collected and what this said about my own opinion.


Another primary source research I conducted was an interview with a peer in which I asked and discussed a few questions I developed revolving gender equality. (Ahlstrom 2016, pers. comm., 16 August)

The questions I formed were:

“Where would you position yourself on a scale of conservative and liberal values, why?”

“Have you ever felt or worried about gender stigmas towards any of your decisions or ambitions?”

“Have you based an idea around your own parental leave logistics, have you ever worried about effects on your career?”

“Do you feel like the contemporary popular culture are pushing towards or against gender equality?”

I received thorough and interesting answers from my interviewee based on her personal experiences and background from another country with different culture. However, the questions regarding parental leave was not something she had considered yet. The interview invited into a discussion about the differences in gender equality between cultures, and how we would imagine this would be challenged as a result of globalisation. The world is coming closer together and in these blurred lines and borders our values  are colliding. This topic also transferred into my interviewees issue of choice, about refugee and asylum seekers.

The interview might have been more successful if my questions were framed differently considering that the interviewee was not in the situation to face these decisions. Due to this the interview turned into merely an open conversation, which was definitely worthwhile. What I take away from this is the importance of remembering who your audience is and how this always should be taken into account.


I developed the following probe task for my interviewee to develop upon:

“Draw a diagram showing the split of parenting between your parents”

Together with this task I gave my interviewee a few general divisions such as cooking, transport, cleaning etc. in where she would rank her parents participation.

Probe task
Split of parenting between parents by anonymous  (Ahlstrom 2016, pers. comm., 23 August)

The response to the probe task made me realise instantly that I provided too few ‘parenting’ divisions to be able to extract any useful data. For example, this diagram probably only reflects the interviewees most recent experience with her parents since it does not give a timeline. Neither does the diagram indicate what measures it uses. The task in itself worked well as a practise for this research approach. This form of probe task would be most useful and accurate if it was conducted as a survey, to be able to compare result and measure the data.


Lastly, I collaborated with my peers in a word exercise in which we ordered and experimented with words relating to the gender equality subject. This method of primary research was new to me and my peers and we were uncertain in how to determine and find insights in the subject.

word_06 copy
Map of issue words and stakeholders with influence by Ahlstrom, C. Doust, G. Hartwig, Z. (2016)

At one point in the exercise we were asked to explore other groups word accumulations, regarding the same or other topics, and leave a mark on words that had an influence on you. It was interesting to see the result of this, as the words that were picked were not necessarily the ones that we had considered being most influencing at first. This task certainly extended my vocabulary in the subject as well.

Word accumulation relating to gender equality issue by Ahlstrom, C. Doust, G. Hartwig, Z. (2016)

Learning Outcomes

  • The first step in commencing research should always be to explore secondary sources
  • The importance of primary research methods and mapping out your understanding of the subject to clarify
  • The importance of investigating and considering authors
  • Keep your audience in mind at all times, especially in interviews
  • The importance of language and building up a vast vocabulary in a research subject
By Camilla Ahlström

Ahlstrom, C. Carmody, A. Dulawan, B. Vuong, A. 2016, Mapping of stakeholders, class exercise, University of Technology, Sydney
 Ahlstrom, C. Doust, G. Hartwig, Z. Word accumulation & mapping relating to gender equality issue, class exercise, University of Technology, Sydney
 WGEA, 2015, WGEA Data Explorer, viewed on 21 August, <>


Post 5: An Individual’s Perspective

Post 5: Approaches to design for change, design-led ethnography
Christine Ye


After reading online articles and academic papers by individuals heavily involved in or immersed in the issue of housing affordability, it was interesting to gain insight into someone else’s perspective, and especially someone who wasn’t born and raised in Australia. The questions I asked aimed to gauge her level of understanding on the topic along with her assumptions, observations, experiences and personal thoughts.

One surprising opinion I gained from the interviewee was that she thought it was actually quite easy to gain access to a bank loan in order to purchase your own home; this is something that isn’t common through reading articles, which generally pitch the housing situation to be quite dire and difficult to get into for the millennial generation. However one article which I read and analysed in blog post 1 seems to reflect the same idea, that it isn’t that hard to get your foot into the door of the housing market. Without even realising, the interviewee and her friends have a joint-ownership on their property in terms of pooling together funds, which makes owning a house much more affordable.

The transcript of the interview can be read below:

What are your impressions of the housing situation in Australia?
I’ve heard the term before but I don’t know much about it. What I hear is that there are too many people coming into Australia, and that we don’t have enough houses for them so the price of houses go up. Whenever there is a sale, things are sold out quickly.

What is your current housing situation?
Currently I live in an apartment in the city. It’s a three bedroom apartment that I’m renting from a friend, and I also share it with three other friends. We split rent.

Do you feel a strong need to become a home owner in the next five years?
I think in the end, within the next five years, I’ll have to find a house. I think it’s better to live in one, somewhere not too far from the city, but a nicer environment that is not so busy. I feel it’s more stable to buy a house rather than an apartment, and rather than paying rent each month.

Are there any expectations you have of your first house?
I’m still an international student and don’t know much about the situation in each suburb…but I’d want a location that is close to a supermarket, restaurants and shopping centres. Maybe like Parramatta. Definitely not Chatswood though because I heard it’s so much more expensive. Blacktown could be good too because most of my friends live there.

Do many of your friends own a house?
My friends tell me that it’s actually quite easy to purchase a house here, as long as you have a job and you just borrow a bit of money from the bank. But he told me that the debt won’t be payed off for thirty years, that aside, I understand it is quite easy but that’s maybe from an international perspective.

What suburbs do they buy into and why?
Most of my friends live in Glenfield, it’s quite far from the city but it’s cheap there. They all live together to pool funds. One of my friends are planning to buy a newly built house in Blacktown…I heard it’s not too safe of an area but they opened some really awesome luxury houses within a big park that used to be a golf course. However I think you need a car to buy that car, and that the cheaper price difference is due to the distance from the city. Most of my friends in Glenfield live quite far from the station so they end up having to buy a car. The bus station is far too so they don’t have much of a solution.

In terms of what you understand, are there any solutions that come to mind when it comes to housing affordability?
I don’t really know the main problems in housing affordability, but I think it’s maybe the government that doesn’t manage the housing so well. They should come up with a policy to limit the international buyers who don’t even live in the property, or maybe they can build more houses. The government makes it easy to invest.


The probe I constructed for my interviewee required her to ask different people she knew in the 18-25 age range a set of questions on their age, occupation, where they currently live, where they’d want to live and why, and how close these suburbs were to Sydney CBD. The aim of my probe was to gauge a general opinion on why they’d want to live in a particular area. The results are shown below:


A few general things I noted from the probe were that all participants would like to live within the 20km radius of Sydney CBD, but none of them wanted to live in the actual heart of the city for preference of a little more personal space. While nobody mentioned anything to do with how much the average property in the area would cost and if that was an issue, they prefer locations which are convenient in terms of travelling time and suburbs close to shopping districts which generally mean a higher average house price.

Just like with the interview, the probe itself provided insight into a group of people’s preferences which allowed me to make some general assumptions of the cohort. However in terms of where my interests lie, I feel like I should have included questions which evoke a more emotional response, possibly asking participants to rate their satisfaction of the suburb on a scale which can later be expressed in a more engaging visual way. As a probe, it was a quick and easy task for the interviewee to do, however the questions lacked depth and I didn’t gain any extremely surprising responses.

Five Point Summary

  1. Majority of people interviewed in the probe wanted to live within a 20km radius of the city.
  2. Convenience in terms of transport times and vicinity to essential services such as supermarkets was a big factor in choosing where people wanted to live.
  3. Even though my interviewee wasn’t highly knowledgeable on the topic of housing affordability, she showed awareness of how to make it easier when it comes to lessening the financial burden of owning a house.
  4. In relation to my academic sources, possibly the above point does raise a deeply imbedded attitude issue in Generation Y.
  5. When it comes to probes in the future, think up more provoking questions that will allow me to gauge a deeper understanding of how people feel.