Pixelated Narratives in Invisible Cities: Decoding and Rectifying Disenfranchised Urban Narratives through Virtual Mediums

Giardina, Sarah
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[Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [May 2016]
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Despite longstanding histories of homelessness inside the United States, few solutions focus on the social inclusion of homeless individuals within broader society as it is affected by digital mediums. While greater inclusion may not immediately solve the problem of homelessness, such inclusion grants homeless peoples and communities more social resources through which they can gain the opportunity to better their situations and increase representation. The disenfranchisement of homeless persons has become increasingly visible as the prevalence of digital devices continues to modify how urban citizens interact and contribute information to the city. As digital presence and participation become more widespread in societal intercourse, the conventionally muted voices of homeless individuals within communally shared narratives will only increase, if not provided a means to contribute. This dissertation explores the potential of digital spaces as avenues through which narratives of homeless individuals can be introduced within the broader society so as to help them achieve a greater degree of social integration. Utilizing digital technology to bridge the gaps in homeless peoples’ inclusion within society as their experiences are articulated through their own narratives, for example non-traditional uses of public space, activates contact zones for individuals within the city and abroad. As narratives exist in a physical space, retelling them digitally, primarily through the use of personal cell phones, can allow for the bridging of social gaps through contact zones, creating opportunities to increase empathy in non-homeless individuals regarding homeless peoples’ situations, thereby decreasing prejudice. This dissertation focuses on narratives as spatially marked urban experiences that co-produce communal conceptions of the city. By focusing on the city as a composite of narratives that influences how the city grows, this dissertation seeks to clarify how virtual mediums can better facilitate the inclusion of homeless urban narratives. Urban inclusion will be looked at through multiple phenomena including the following: digital platforms designed for homeless individuals, the mapping of homeless individuals by non-homeless peoples via digital platforms such as NYC311, and ordinances in the State of Hawai‘i dictating homeless movement. Using New York City and Honolulu, located in the two states containing the highest per-capita homeless rates in the nation, to better understand homeless representation in cities, this dissertation prescribes a mobile platform to integrate disenfranchised homeless narratives, resulting in the creation of more spaces produced by an increasingly democratic urban narrative. By increasing narrative inclusion this dissertation theorizes that resultant cities and the communities that compose them will be better able to serve a greater diversity of each respective city’s or community’s population.
D.Arch. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2016.
Includes bibliographical references.
Homelessness, Mobile Application
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Theses for the degree of Doctor of Architecture (University of Hawaii at Manoa). Architecture
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