Bridging the digital divide: Homeless women participate in Internet life
Marcella C. Gemelli, Arizona State University, United States
Arizona State University . Awarded
The experiences of the homeless are wide ranging, but whether they are situated among suburban, gated housing communities or tucked away in a shelter near office buildings, their limited economic capital contrasts with the necessary and sometimes excessive economic capital needed to participate in spaces and sites of consumption. To be a consumer means to be a part of American culture. But, how does someone who is homeless assert their belongingness to American culture when they have limited means to consume? How does someone who is homeless get to claim a space in American culture despite being marginalized?
Social scientists, artists, homeless advocates, and others concerned with social justice seek to provide spaces from which marginalized groups may be heard. Empowerment participation projects that are designed to foster empowerment for marginalized groups through their own representations of self may do so through visual means such as photography. Further, these projects may foster spaces of representation for marginalized groups through introducing, instructing, and fostering a relationship with technology such as through the internet.
This dissertation documents the lives of thirteen homeless mothers residing in a transitional shelter in Phoenix, Arizona who participated in an internet art workshop, a type of empowerment participation project. From data gathered through interviews, observation, texts, and the photographs taken and websites created through the internet art workshop, this dissertation explores the lived experiences of these homeless mothers. The analysis of their experiences of living in a transitional shelter center on understanding these experiences of being homeless as situated within the larger constructs of inequality, single motherhood, and consumption practices. The personal accounts of their experiences differed from the visual representations of those experiences.
While the personal accounts of the homeless mothers tended to focus on struggles of living in the shelter and balancing employment and mothering, their photographs and websites indicate an adherence to presenting a normal family and consuming material goods. The content of their websites was influenced by the suggestions and themes put forth by the internet art workshop thereby limiting through what voice they could be heard.
Gemelli, M.C. Bridging the digital divide: Homeless women participate in Internet life. Ph.D. thesis, Arizona State University.
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