Traveling with my Roaddawgz: Using Mobile Technologies To Collaborate with Youth on the Move

Authors: Amy Blondell*, University of Oxford
Topics: Migration
Keywords: children’s migration, mobilities, homeless youth, street connected children, geospatial research, multimodal or mixed methods research, participatory research, narratives, visual research, GIS, mobile digital technologies, qualitative research
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 15
Presentation Link: Open in New Window
Presentation File: Download



Although the US Congress has designated homeless youth as an underserved group, with as many as five million nationwide, their needs remain largely unmet. Homeless youth are highly mobile, difficult to reach, and often lost to care, yet little is known about their routes of travel, destination locations, and first person perspectives.

A transdisciplinary project, the Youth Trek Study drew from the social sciences, public health, geography, and the documentary arts, developing a method called “travelogueing” through which young people used smartphones to document their lives and challenges for up to two years. The homeless young people participated in the Youth Trek study as full research collaborators. They uploaded documentary photos; cowrote photo essays; created personalized captioned maps; periodically transmitted GPS coordinates to help trace out their travel routes; and participated in oral histories, questionnaires, and telephone interviews in which they recorded geo-narratives about their location related experiences.

Participants described modes of transportation and income generation, attested to the importance of their friends, family, and traveling companions (Roaddawgz), critically assessed their interactions with authorities, and offered perspectives on The Occupy, a political movement addressing the causes and consequences of economic inequalities.

The study demonstrated some of the uses of mobile technologies in research, offering insight into the character and motivations of the young people’s transcontinental migration experiences. This mixed method geospatial research will be of concern to those interested in children's geographies, and to researchers carrying out longitudinal research with highly mobile populations.

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