As a New Orleans native enrolled at the University of South Florida attempting to complete graduate coursework, take doctoral exams within a year, and eventually write a dissertation on the affordances of weblogs to both writing programs and grassroots organizations, Hurricane Katrina changed everything.
Not only did Americans witness the consequences of communication breakdown at the federal, state, and local government levels, transplants like myself and, more importantly, displaced evacuees were further abandoned by mediocre television coverage. Overblown flooding predictions, mispronounced street names, and rumors of widespread gang violence dominated the network news, when all we wanted was to know about our friends, family, neighbors, and homes.
Using myself as a case study, "The 'I' of the Storm" explores how I dealt with the breakdown of communication at this time of crisis and how online spaces created before, during, and since Hurricane Katrina have offered me and countless evacuees new ways to share knowledge and create trust. Knowing immediately that I would have to write about the impact this storm has had on my academic life, this essay also tells a meta-narrative in that it describes the challenges I faced when determining which research methods would allow personal, evocative writing and capture the immediacy of the internet.
While this is a piece more personal than most that appear in Computers and Composition Online, by examining the acts of witnessing, documenting, reacting to, and dealing with loss, this article ultimately illustrates how the typically de-centered and diverse World Wide Web creates knowledge in a collective way more effectively than traditional media.