Digitally Invisible – Call for Participation

How Digital Data Ignores the Homeless – An ASU Research Study

We are researchers in the School of Public Affairs and Center for Policy Informatics at Arizona State University, conducting research on how some members of society are not being represented in government datasets as we become increasingly reliant on digital services like smart phones, credit card transactions and Internet-connected devices.

Our hypothesis is that homeless individuals are especially likely to not be represented in these digital datasets – leading to a state we call digitally invisible. When government policy is made based on digital data, being digitally invisible means that those policies will not reflect the day-to-day reality of being homeless. Our study is an initial attempt to test this hypothesis, and to open a discussion about how the problems of the homeless can be better reflected in digital data with the long-term goal of improving homeless services and the wellbeing of the homeless.

We are seeking the assistance of with Phoenix Heat Relief Network cooling centers and the City of Phoenix Human Services Department Homeless Programs to connect with clients who self-identify as homeless. We would appreciate the assistance of support workers in bringing this research project to the attention of their clients. We ask that, if an individual expresses an interest in participating in this research, they be given this basic information by a cooling center or homeless services staff member, and arrangements made for a meeting of a research team member, the support worker and the potential participant to confirm their interest in participating.

We are seeking ten volunteer participants to join us in this initial study to capture anonymous digital data that reflects part of the day-to-day reality what it means to be homeless in Phoenix. If an individual chooses to volunteer to be a part of this research, there are three things we would ask them to do:

  1. Meet with us, along with a cooling center or homeless services support worker, to get started. This meeting will involve a discussion of the research project, and a 10 minute interview about their experience living without housing and any digital technology they use (like cell phones and credit cards).
  2. Carry an iButton for one week. This small device (see the actual size picture below) can be clipped to a belt loop or backpack. It records the air temperature and time every 5 minutes. It does not record the location or any other measure – it cannot hear or see anything, and it is not connected to the Internet. The temperature data is uploaded from the device when connected to a computer at the end of the week.
  3. Meet with us again at the end of that week, along with your cooling center or homeless services support worker, for a post-test interview. We’ll talk about their experience carrying the iButton over the previous week and receive the iButton back from them.


To thank the participant for helping with this research, and to compensate them for their time and effort, we will give them a $25 Visa Gift Card upon the return of the iButton. These cards will be registered though no data concerning their use will be track by the research team.

If you have any questions concerning the research study, please contact the investigators by phone at 602-496-0457 or:

  • Justin Longo <> or
  • David Hondula <>

We would be pleased to hear from you should you have clients interested in participating in this study, or if you have any questions.

Thanks for considering this request.


Justin Longo David M. Hondula Evan R. Kuras Erik W. Johnston

2 comments on “Digitally Invisible – Call for Participation

  1. Pingback: Challenges in Revealing the Bright Shadows of the Digitally Invisible | Justin Longo, phd

  2. Pingback: Challenges in Revealing the Bright Shadows of the Digitally Invisible | Justin Longo, phd

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