Databasing the Homeless
This is a WIP sketch of what could be a larger project about data and databases, knowledge production, and the electronic turn in social services. It's inspired by Craig Willse's 2016 book, "The Value of Homelessness: Managing Surplus Life in the United States"—specifically, the "Governing through Numbers" chapter.
The text is from Joe Bernstein's 2016 article in the Seattle Weekly, "Stealing From the Homeless". The images are from an HMIS (Homeless Management Information System) training manual.
In disrupting the data field this way, the idea is to show how databases constrain the kinds of information we can know about a person. The resulting "statistical portraits," to use Willse's phrase, stand in for a population that doesn't actually exist until the database brings it into being. This reality has important applications for how we use databases (and algorithms that rely on them) to create and inform policy.
The Value of Homelessness by Craig Willse
"Stealing From the Homeless" by Joe Bernstein
“Andres Serrano teaches us how not to help the homeless” by Jillian Steinhauer