How rough sleeping youth use their cell phones.
Thesis DisciplineMedia and Communications
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
This thesis explores the experiences of eight youth and the ways they use their cell phone while living on Christchurch’s streets. While there have been a number of studies conducted into homelessness generally, the interactions of street youths and their use of the cell phone in life on the streets, has been largely unexplored. With the widespread use of the cell phone within society, particularly amongst the youth population, this raises compelling questions about the extent of street youths’ engagement with the technology, given their limited resources. Although a number of theories were utilised within this thesis, the communicative function of the cell phone presents an opportunity for fostering social capital—in particular, bridging capital, which can assist in advancement beyond the streets through connections with socially dissimilar individuals. Through the use of in-depth interviews, this study found that the youths relied on bonding social capital with others living on the street and did not utilise bridging capital via the cell phone heavily. This is suggested as being due to a lack of trust of those outside the street fraternity. However, the youths did use their cell phones in other empowering ways including using the device to reaffirm their sense of self and belonging. Music stored on their cell phones, emerged as particularly important to streeties, in terms of both creating private spaces and as a site for self-expression.