The Homesick Hotline Process and Launch
Step one: Finding a hotline system
After a lot of research, we settled on Twilio Studios because we wanted a pay by minute plan for our low call volume and for the flexibility of the system. With widgets, we did not have to code ourselves which was convenient but later on screwed us over. The Widgets had bugs that I ended up getting around through very time-consuming, tedious trial and error, and staring over a few times. And emailing customer support a lot.
I briefly tried out Telzio but was suspended when they found out I was a student.
We were lucky enough to have a very diverse class so we had access to so many perspectives, cultures, and a decent range of ages. Some interviews we scheduled but about half of the 16 interviews were faculty or students that happened to be in the building and agreed to participate on the spot.
We had our basic set of questions to slowly work our way to more personal questions but we were very flexible to accommodate to how the flow of conversation was going. We learned a lot of interviewing skills and how to properly record audio.
List of interview questions:
Who are the members of your family?
What is your family dynamic like?
What are the things your family expects from you?
How does your family show and receive love?
Are there special ways your family shows love to each other? Is there a specific story you can tell?
What do you cherish the most about your family?
When was the first time your family disappointed you?
What does home mean to you?
What do you need to make your own home?
What does homesickness feel like?
When are the times you feel the most homesick?
When is the last time you called home?
If you could talk to any family member right now who would it be?
What would you say to them that you feel like they need to know but havent said out loud?
We did our best to structure a quite, private space and provided tea and snacks and let the interviewees talk as long as they wanted. We found it did not take much prodding for people to talk about the people they care about. Some people talked for 15min and some were over an hour regardless if they were our friends or an acquaintance.
After we had reached our goal of 16 interviews we took the audio and transcribed the over 8 hours of audio. We needed to cross reference all the interviews to organize their answers into topics for the hotline, and we also wanted full transcriptions of the interviews for our homesick hotline directory. Kathy typed it out by hand where I listened to the audio and dictated it in Word.
We highlighted the transcriptions of what we wanted audio clips of and I set to work hunting them down and splicing together different interviews to make 2-3min segments for the hotline. In total, there are 27 segments with a correlating number that can be dialed on the hotline to listen to it. When a two digit number in dialed in the hotline, participants will hear 2-4 different people’s answer or opinion on a particular subject. I also recorded myself speaking instructions for the introduction and voicemail instead of using the bot.
Configuring the Hotline
Twilio is not user-friendly and is extremely tedious to do any task. After five days of doing nothing but work on twilio studio bugs I finally got it running. We were not really using the hotline flows for what they were built for and the system started to get finicky and over loaded. I’m glad twilio didn’t suspend my account over what I had been emailing them!
Homesick Hotline Directory
We wanted a physical object that could be a compliment to our hotline and become an archive for it once the hotline ever becomes disabled. The directory provides instructions for how to use the system, includes the numbers callers can dial with brief descriptions, and full transcriptions of the interviews. The interviews were anonymous so Kathy drew illustrations of the people we interviewed without including their face, and represented who they were in the number of miles away from home they were from where we conducted the interviews.
We also want to sell the directories to help fund the hotline to stay activate for as long as possible.
The Hotline Number
The Homesick Hotline number 410-927-1738 can now be officially called on any phone, anywhere in the U.S. We encourage callers to leave us a voicemail so we can then use their responses and include those audio recordings into the hotline as well.
This platform is very exciting for its mobility, sincerity, and how easy it is to exist outside the gallery space. The idea of call-in listening libraries has almost limitless possibilities and we have been really happy about the feedback from this project. Listening to strangers “talk to you” on the phone is an intimate experience and for many very emotional. This hotline is the heart of our community and now others have the opportunity to experience this simulated version on their own.