Community resource messenger: a mobile system and design exploration in support of the urban homeless
Le Dantec, Christopher
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Access to computers, to mobile phones, and to data connectivity has opened new avenues of interaction and created expectations about the flattening of society brought about by these new modes of production. These technologies have enabled us to recognize many forms of community---from close knit social groups to individuals who merely co-habit public spaces---and to support interaction with each other in novel ways. The notion that modern digital technology holds promises of democratization by expanding access to information and broadening modes of knowledge production often fails to acknowledge that these benefits rely upon devices and infrastructure whose availability reflect socioeconomic contours; that the technologies that enable information access can also reinforce rather than obviate marginality due to barriers to access and suitability. This assessment points to opportunities for better understanding and better designing technologies for the marginalized or dispossessed. The research presented in this dissertation discusses the findings from empirical, theoretical, and design based investigations of technology use with the urban homeless. The empirical work provides a foundation for understanding current technology practices among the homeless and their care providers. The theoretical investigation develops Deweyan publics as a novel frame for participatory design. The design-based investigation presents findings from the design and deployment of the Community Resource Messenger at a shelter for homeless mothers. The results of this research shed light on impact of social computing platforms on social service provision and on the ways the staff and residents used the Community Resource Messenger as a resource for identifying common issues and taking action to contend with those issues.