Values and Self-Presentation in Online Communication by Stakeholders Related to Homelessness

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Values are guiding principles of what we consider important in our lives. They shape, and are shaped by, our information behaviors and interactions with technology. Design approaches that explicitly consider values can change the affordances of resulting technologies. This dissertation extends research related to values and information technology use and design within the social context of homelessness, a value-laden social issue in the United States.

This study used both quantitative and qualitative content analysis to examine the values expressed in online communication (specifically, the 140-character posts on Twitter known as "tweets") by individuals who identified as homeless in their Twitter profiles. They were compared to the values expressed in the tweets of other stakeholders related to the issue of homelessness, including support organizations and homeless advocates, as well as a comparison group of individuals who did not identify with homelessness in their Twitter profiles.

A key contribution of this study is an empirically tested coding manual for identifying salient values of Twitter users through their tweets. The application of this coding manual to Twitter users' timelines of tweets helped to characterize the ways in which values emerge from online communication, highlighting differences between the values expressed by individuals and organizations on Twitter.

The study also showed how Twitter users' self-presentation of their online profiles relates to their expressions of values. These findings show how the role of values in one's self-presentation online leads to important implications for the design of sociotechnical systems and for raising awareness about the intersection of technology use and homelessness in the 21st century. These insights are necessary for understanding information technology use by individuals who are relevant but often absent from the development of new information technologies.