Disaster 2.0: Lessons from the Post-Katrina Blogosphere


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  • While not overwhelming numbers, 17% and 11% respectively, this behavior implies our collective searching, navigating, and analyzing abilities have considerably improved since September 11th, including the means with which to assess information from such sites as valid or otherwise. But of the folks surveyed, how many were locals? In essence, how do we [locals] get to the heart of the story about [our] hometown?
  • Even if they did not create their blog with the intent of correcting the misinformation being promulgated by the national media, these citizens use their public writing spaces to expose the wreckage Hurricane Katrina and the levee breaches left behind and to recall the memories of what their lives were like before August 29, 2005.
  • Disaster 2.0: Lessons from the Post-Katrina Blogosphere

    1. 1. Disaster 2.0: Lessons from the Post-Hurricane Katrina Blogosphere<br />Daisy Pignetti<br />University of Wisconsin-Stout<br />phdaisy@gmail.com<br />
    2. 2. September 11thDisaster 1.0?<br />Pew Internet data <br />People primarily depended on their television for news, public and talk radio, and their telephones to communicate with and connect with friends and family during the days and weeks after. <br />“43% of Internet users said they had at least some trouble accessing the websites they wanted to consult for news about the attacks”<br />
    3. 3. September 11thKnowing where to look<br />Informative and reverent commentary was happening in unexpected places (emails and discussion boards)<br />A Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter remarked, “It’s as though if I comb through enough Web pages, sift through the right chat rooms, click on the right e-mail, I might somehow find some semblance of an answer to this ugly mess.”<br />
    4. 4. David Weinberger on 9/11Ethos online<br />“Now, for the first time, the nation and the world could talk with itself, doing what humans do when the innocent suffer: cry, comfort, inform, and, most important, tell the story together.”<br />The Internet “gets its value not from the smoothness of its overall operation but from its abundance of small nuggets that point to more small nuggets.”<br />
    5. 5. Jay Rosen on 9/11<br />“When the observer-hood becomes unthinkable, new things can be thought. It is reasonable to hope that September 11 eventually improves the mind of American journalism. If it does, it will be an instance of creative destruction.” <br />
    6. 6. Hurricane Katrina“I Just Don’t Know…”<br />“Television can pack an emotional wallop, in a way that the printed word cannot…with images [that] can distort truth and distract from what really matters.”<br />“The Lessons of Katrina: Natural Horrors and Modern Technology,”The New Atlantis<br />
    7. 7. Television Coverage<br />“New Orleans was presented as a disorganized city on the brink of collapse… [with] certain programmatic themes emerging…finding damage, finding death, finding help, finding authority, and finding the bad guys” (Dynes and Rodriguez). <br />
    8. 8. The Internet “performed admirably during the disaster”<br />Craig’s List began to include postings of housing offers, lost people, and rides to or from Louisiana<br />Nola.com, the web counterpart to the local newspaper, The Times-Picayune, saw its blog “actually become the paper”<br />Katrina.com became “an information center for disaster relief”<br />
    9. 9. “Hurricane Katrina: In the face of disaster and chaos”<br />
    10. 10. City of New Orleans80% under water<br />
    11. 11. SUper<br />
    12. 12.
    13. 13. Locals Needed MoreWhat about my house?<br />
    14. 14. Transparency <br />During and after disasters, locals and other personally invested citizens can offer audiences unique takes on what the experience has done to their lives. <br />The writing they do to document what they observe, while still constructed and primarily published in asynchronous environments, is more “raw” than anyone can ever create. <br />
    15. 15. My Project’s Purpose<br /> Rhetorical analysis of writing that has purposefully gone public to:<br />correct the misinformation being promulgated by the national media<br />expose the wreckage Hurricane Katrina and the levee breaches left behind in so many neighborhoods across the city<br />recall the memories of what their lives were like before August 29, 2005<br />
    16. 16. Jill WalkerBlogging<br />“The primary function of these blogs and videos is not to be a factual report or confirmation of what is happening. They are highly subjective, emotional reports on events that we already know are happening…but we still wanted to read or see them from people actually experiencing the events.”<br />
    17. 17. Meeting My SampleLinked by Comments<br />August 2006 &gt; Rising Tide Conference <br />Organized on a wiki, this meeting described itself as “a ‘real life’ demonstration of internet activism as the nation prepares to mark the one year anniversary of a massive natural disaster followed by governmental failures on a similar scale.”<br />List of New Orleans bloggers emerged<br />More than 300 bloggers listed<br />
    18. 18. Interactive Interview Project<br />Q & A on a wiki rather than face-to-face<br />Obviously tech-savvy respondents<br />Links to representative blog posts requested<br />Writing in the public domain, but I still sent email to NOLA blogger listserv requesting permission to use responses<br />Institutional Review Board paperwork<br />Immediate feedback but then slow follow-up responses<br />Profiles sent to chosen bloggers for review <br />
    19. 19. Insider Knowledge<br />I am a native New Orleanian, so my respondents and I share a common language and knowledge of place<br />As an autoethnographic researcher, I answered the questions as well<br />As a participant in the first Rising Tide conference & being a frequent visitor to my hometown, the bloggers know my commitment to this project<br />
    20. 20. Outsider Vibrations <br />As an academic researcher, I was worried about asking people to be too reflective, especially about a traumatic event <br />Might they just tell me to go read their blog?<br />As someone no longer living in New Orleans and not dealing with recovery/rebuilding issues first-hand, my own blog [and civic] contributions are limited<br />Again, might they just tell me to go read their blog? <br />
    21. 21. “Writing Wrong”Sandra Gilbert<br />an activity as much as a process of remembering, testifying, and reorganizing as it is of reiterating and striving to repair or readjust<br />the effort to write [record] and right [rectify] wrong involves both fear and ferocity <br />
    22. 22. Question:Why do you blog?<br />The ongoing chaos of post K New Orleans and the massive breakdown in the social contract that is still destroying my home.<br />We blog about all aspects of New Orleans life, starting with commentary on the daily news and including book reviews and essays from New Orleans writers about what it’s like to live there.<br />Science, the public domain (as a member of Project Gutenberg), government boondoggles and, lately, what it’s like to live in a recovering New Orleans<br />
    23. 23. Maitri @ Vatul.net<br />“Made in Kuwait of Indian parts, I have lived in the Middle East, Champaign-Urbana, IL, Madison, WI and New Orleans, LA” <br />“New Orleans is the only place in America that my multi-cultural background is validated and makes the most sense.” <br />
    24. 24. Maitri @ Vatul.net<br />My favorite pastime during high school and college classes was writing essays on anything I found thought-provoking at the time and emailing them to a list of politically- and socially-motivated friends.<br />In the late 90s, I made my first site and put up essays as static HTML pages. <br />Some time in 2003, after moving to New Orleans, I caught the Blogger bug and then switched to Wordpress. <br />After the flood of 2005, I gave my blog over to citizen journalism on New Orleans.<br />
    25. 25. Maitri @ Vatul.net<br />My writing is relatively more polished and directed at a larger audience, one that has grown in leaps and bounds since the flood. Once readership has grown to this extent, you are obligated to delivering a relevant and readable product almost everyday, lest they lose interest in what is probably the biggest problem facing America today. <br />If I’ve made at least one person think about or face the realities of New Orleans, then I’ve been responsible towards my community and to myself.<br />
    26. 26. Day 219: We Are Not OkApril 4, 2006 <br /> What you need to know is the solemn truth about New Orleans.<br />We Are Not Ok<br /> Did we think life was going to be easy in a 25%-habitable city with more than half of its population gone? No. Did we think we would easily bypass the effects of post-traumatic stress as long as we stayed in the rebuilding left lane, pedal to the metal? No. Did we think coming back was going to be easy? Yes and no.<br /> I know that there is no other place like this.<br /> America needs New Orleans. The world needs New Orleans.<br /> All of this could vanish. Again. And only a few care? We Are Not Ok<br />
    27. 27. Day 338: InspirationAugust 1, 2006 <br /> Lately, I’ve taken to wondering why I do the things I do for New Orleans. Why do I write, take pictures, participate in various charitable and non-profit activities and fight so hard for my adopted city?<br />One of the answers is obvious: I can’t sit still. Doing is such an innate part of me that if I DO not, a minor explosion may occur. All of this energy has to go somewhere.<br />Another is not so conspicuous: New Orleans is my home and it is a mark of responsible citizenship to participate in as many activities as possible that will make one’s city better. This is not socialism or altruism – if you help make your surroundings better, you end up living in that much better of a place.<br />
    28. 28. Day 555: One Football Field Every 45 MinutesMarch 6th, 2007<br />“Louisiana is currently losing approximately 24 square miles of wetlands per year, which is roughly one football field every 45 minutes.”<br />Think about it like this: During the course of one Saints football game, Louisiana may conservatively estimate a loss of four equivalent Superdome greens around us.<br />
    29. 29.
    30. 30. Day 1240: The Lower 9th Ward TodayJanuary 18, 2009<br /> Dear President Bush,<br /> <br /> A parting gift as you leave the White House: an image of New Orleans as it is today. This is where our complacency met your apathy, a deadly combination.<br /> Thanks for waking us up to the worst possible America.<br /> <br /> Sincerely,<br />Maitri<br />
    31. 31. Conclusions…<br />Local bloggers passionately defend what makes New Orleans so unique and worth saving.<br />While this a more personal and emotional project for me, I strongly believe doing so is the most effective way to illustrate how Hurricane Katrina made these locals hyperaware of their basic human need to give and receive information. <br />
    32. 32. Thank You!phdaisy@gmail.com<br />