CCCC 2008| Blogging New Orleans: Locals Creating Reality Online

For those new readers of my blog who may be visiting this site after attending our Saturday Katrina panel at 4Cs–“Composed in the Wake of Disaster: (Re)Writing the Realities of New Orleans”–I’d like to post some text and links for your benefit. As I was the last panelist of four and we were Internet-less in our conference room [something I’ve started to rant about over at Dennis’s blog], I felt a bit scattered. I typically create Powerpoints, but wasn’t in the mood for that this time around. So even though I had typed up a few pages and had a plethora of examples to share, I ended up doing what I prefer, extemporizing.

Here is a more fleshed out version of what I shared on my handout:

Like Bryon Hawk [who spoke on Hurricane Katrina as a cultural media event, using the framework Jean Baudrillard sets forth in The Gulf War Did Not Take Place], I agree that there were repeated and manipulated images of Katrina that circulated at rapid speed, particularly during that week of the storm when little to no information could be verified and the media focus had to remain on those still stranded in the city, Superdome, Convention Center.

But as a New Orleans native, I had other issues with the depiction of my beloved hometown. I was skeptical when Brian Williams declared on NBC’s Today Show (August 30, 2005. 7:05 a.m. ET): “There has been a huge development overnight … the historic French Quarter, dry last night and it is now filling with water. This is water from nearby Lake Pontchartrain; the levees failed overnight.”

Not only did I not know how to begin to process this information—which levee? how much water? where would the water go?—when I watched the news later that night and saw streets in and near the Quarter bone dry, I knew that these news stories were evolving into journalistic “meta-narratives,” and I knew that from this moment on, these would no longer suffice.

Thus, my focus today is on those locals–primarily those cyberliterate and with access to technology–who had evacuated and were watching from hotel rooms or the homes of extended family members. When they could not find any information relevant to their neighborhoods, never mind their eventual return to their homes and beloved city, many went online.

[Here I referred to the chart from a Pew Internet and American Life report on getting news during the storms of 2005, and wanted to highlight how it’s likely that, once again, locals were not part of the sample population. ]

While it’s great that more and more Americans nationwide are turning to and trusting alternative news sources like blogs and discussion boards, my argument is that in the years since the storm, the only place one can truly get a real depiction or chronicle of a Katrina survivor/resident of NOLA is in the New Orleans blogosphere.

With that said, and without Internet access, I read from several blogs, highlighting the dates of the posts to prove that the Katrina narrative is still developing, with every insurance claim, abandoned house or business, death, and reiteration of why New Orleans matters!

Full list of examples I shared or wanted to share, organized by rhetorical mode:
1. EXPLAIN: Katrina stories—locals who stayed and who watched from afar

2. DESCRIBE: the look of one street in January 2008 and a video commentary 16 months after the storm:

Grocery from Editor B on Vimeo.

3. ENTERTAIN: in order to meet new insurance guidelines and avoid flooding next time around, one has to raise one’s house:

4. PERSUADE: a powerful speech and then the speaker’s reflection 1 year later, still outraged at the lack of change when it comes to crime

5. INFORM: One’s shock at the lack of discussion surrounding a scary statistic.
Finally, how to describe New Orleans? It’s a place of its own and one to which we are intensely attached

If anyone has comments or questions, please leave a comment. Watch this space for a link in the coming weeks because a more theoretical look at the “writing wrong” examples like these demonstrate is now in print in the Spring 2008 issue of Reflections.

3 thoughts on “CCCC 2008| Blogging New Orleans: Locals Creating Reality Online

  1. Hey Doc,
    I was inspired by the Rising Tide 2 Conference to launch the Ladder Nov 11th. The Nola Blob-0-reamery has proven exceptional in its support, encouragement and, to a certain degree, guidance. But most of all, with their own blogs they provided a creative and true template from which to learn. As for accuracy, you ain’t gonna catch a Nola blogger off guard with their pants down because hell, they will invite you to a vieuxing.

    I decided to do this blog as much as a place for their posts to coagulate as for “news” from around the country about New Orleans…and posting news from The City to the “outside”…for all of us still on the long road ho. I call it Stitch-Hiking da’Web, in an effort to weave more strands, more threads for diasporate refugees whereva.
    We have now reached a solid average of 5o hits/day/week from all over the country and world…and growing. A lot of people still seem to need to know about New Orleans ya’nola? We passed 5000 hits today.

    I would really honor a place on your list of other nolabloggers. You’re on mine.

    Thank you,
    Editilla Orilla d’Aphasia

  2. Daisy, I appreciate what you have to say about the city–and as someone who put her foot in her mouth on Jenny’s blog, I want to first apologize for being so dismissive when my annoyance is really directed at the government and the media.

    And about the conference and the ‘net: word. word. word. rant. The C’s needs to wake up.

  3. Thanks Joanna. I think that’s my whole point–these NOLA bloggers’ stories are valuable precisely because they counter what the media and government have focused on when discussing New Orleans. If we take the time to read them and talk to the people we meet rather than narrow our impressions down to the “social construction” of Katrina, we’ll hear a whole ‘nother side which exposes the emotional trauma and financial strain.

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