“PolicyMap has been an invaluable tool for helping me understand where to look for payphones in each city according to several data characteristics available to me, such as poverty, technology availability, household incomes, and race. PolicyMap provides an essential tool for analyzing the data between race, class, and economics to payphone locations I have found in my travels, which helps us tell the whole story in our visual sociology project.” - Eric Kunsman, Assistant Professor, Rochester Institute of Technology
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Mapping Outdated Tech As Social Markers

Eric Kunsman's first project is titled: "Felicific Calculus: Technology as a Social Marker of Race, Class, & Economics in Rochester, NY." Two years later, Eric expanded beyond Monroe County and had photographed in fourteen different states to create Chapter 2 of his project titled: "Life-Lines Throughout the US."

Kunsman initiated his project by embarking on excursions to physically locate and map individual payphones across various Rochester, NY neighborhoods. Kunsman then sought a tool to help conduct a comprehensive investigation into the correlations between these payphone locations and pertinent zip code-level data. Using PolicyMap, he studied and compared household income, poverty levels, and access to technology by neighborhood. Kunsman swiftly discerned a notable trend: many of the identified payphone locations were situated in areas characterized by a lack of internet and computer access among residents.

As the project grew, Eric collaborated at the Rochester Institute of Technology and gained the aid of colleagues, Rebekah Walker and Janelle Duda-Banwar and collaborated at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Together, they broadened the project's horizon, documenting payphone locations in additional cities, and shedding light on nationwide socioeconomic disparities. Eric's exploration of various urban landscapes revealed a concerning trend. Numerous payphones were being dismantled rather than maintained, perpetuating a cycle of disadvantage for low-income households deprived of internet and communication access.

Utilizing social media, the team is now working collaboratively with photographers from around the world to create living maps of payphones with photographs and locations contributed by the general public that will live on www.payphonemaps.com. They anticipate an early fall release of the first data sets and maps.

Payphones Are A Lifeline

Kunsman has shifted his art and documentary project into advocacy, he is part of an initiative to install free phones with free voicemail throughout Monroe County, NY. The aim is to provide individuals without cell phones or experiencing housing insecurity with a means to access important messages.

Local to PolicyMap’s hometown of Philadelphia? Kunsman’s photographic exhibit “Life-Lines Across the U.S.” will be on view at the Maguire Museum at Saint Joseph's University Until April 5th, 2024. As the exhibit travels, Kunsman invites community members to share photos of their local payphones, adding to their database, and expanding their map.