The driving idea behind the application I have gone about conceiving is the capability of aid being available to young homeless individuals wherever they may be, which essentially comes down to mobility and the seamless communication between devices to and from those locations, wherever they may be. The app draws from and relates to the various different types of mobility, specifically on temporal and spatial mobility. Just the presence of smartphones out in an urban setting alone changes the situation not just for individuals, but also for the homeless community as a whole. Simple access to the internet with the addition of photo and video documentation capabilities not only can help these people, but it can also give them more of a voice. (Kakihara)
HomeMore isn’t just about distributing phones to homeless youths however, the point is to put phones in hands so that the app can be used widely. The app will utilize texting phone calls, location services, and mobile internet. For every young person using the app, there is a counselor or contact on the other end. While phones are moving with the homeless individuals, all the information goes back and forth between them and a hub. The point of this whole app however is the media needs to be flexible and mobile. For this reason, aside from professional counselors, the app would also incorporate a volunteer system. Given the average person’s tendency to spend time on their phone and communicate in public, it would make sense to take advantage of this. (Turkle) Anyone with a smart phone who downloads the app can apply to be a sort of mobile contact for a homeless youth on the other end with whom they can communicated with. That way, neither is confined to one place necessary to access the information. Mobile counselors could have the option of how many young homeless individuals they would like to work with and vice versa, the homeless can have several contacts.
The app doesn’t utilize phone numbers or personal information however so as to protect the information privacy of the user whether the homeless user or not. Instead, all communication goes through the app. If the counselor and the individual wish to exchange that information, that comes down to their discretion.
There is the possibility however, that distributing these phones with camera capabilities would create a certain type of surveillance that could not be controlled by any organization or outside force. Individuals with cameras are going to take pictures and videos, and those same individuals will likely upload them if the internet is available. As much as this may be a problem for those who do not wish to be observed, it has to be taken into consideration how prolific “social surveillance” already is in really any setting now, regardless of the presence of any app. All this would be doing is it would expand what already exists into newer areas and given how difficult this is to control, it might just be worth looking at as a trade-off something worth dealing with in exchange for such a beneficial product. Marwick discusses this social surveillance in the context of employed individuals who likely don’t suffer from poverty and homelessness. (Marwick)
When it comes to using the phones, we cannot assume that the phones can just be handed out and everyone will know how to use them right out of the box. I am not saying the homeless are all so out of touch that one would not understand, but only so much can be discerned from unstructured learning. Some, if given a phone could very possibly not know quite what to do with it and given the number of illiterate adults in the world (Chipchase), it’s entirely possible that some of these individuals would be illiterate. Chipchase makes some good points on how cell phones can help someone who is illiterate communicate and can aid in the accomplishment of tasks that require some degree of literacy. However, the article was written in 2008, shortly after the release of the first iPhone and before the smartphone became so prolific in society and since then mobile communication has grown and shifted in staggering amounts. Chipchase did speak on the method of learning how to use a device through trial and error. However, the faster individuals get to use these devices, the more quickly the benefits can begin to take place. (Chipchase) For this reason, there would either have to be a course for the users to attend, or the app would have to have a feature or interface specifically laid out for easy use.
Although the added stimuli of smartphones into a homeless community may bring some adverse or unwanted effects, like surveillance and a location tracker, the benefits to come from such an application far outnumber those and past the simple enough matter of educating both the homeless individuals as well as the mobile counselors on how to best use the app, change can begin to take place fairly quickly.
Chipchase, Jan. (2008). “Reducing Illiteracy as a Barrier to Mobile Communication.” In Katz, J. E. (Ed.). Handbook of Mobile Communication Studies. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. P. 79-89
Kakihara, Masao & Sorensen, Carsten. (2001). Expanding the ‘Mobility’ Concept. SIGGROUP Bulletin, 22(3), 33-37.
Marwick, Alice. (2012). “Public Domain: Surveillance in everyday life.” Surveillance & Society. 9(4): 378-393.
Turkle, Sherry. (2008). “Always-On/Always-On-You: The Tethered Self.” In Katz, J. E. (Ed.). Handbook of Mobile Communication Studies. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. P. 121-137.