Connecting After Chaos: Social Media and the Extended Aftermath of Disaster

Book by Stephen F. Ostertag: “Natural disasters and other such catastrophes typically attract large-scale media attention and public concern in their immediate aftermath. However, rebuilding efforts can take years or even decades, and communities are often left to repair physical and psychological damage on their own once public sympathy fades away. Connecting After Chaos tells the story of how people restored their lives and society in the months and years after disaster, focusing on how New Orleanians used social media to cope with trauma following Hurricane Katrina.

Stephen F. Ostertag draws on almost a decade of research to create a vivid portrait of life in “settling times,” a term he defines as a distinct social condition of prolonged insecurity and uncertainty after disasters. He portrays this precarious state through the story of how a group of strangers began blogging in the wake of Katrina, and how they used those blogs to put their lives and their city back together. In the face of institutional failure, weak authority figures, and an abundance of chaos, the people of New Orleans used social media to gain information, foster camaraderie, build support networks, advocate for and against proposed policies, and cope with trauma. In the efforts of these bloggers, Ostertag finds evidence of the capacity of this and other forms of cultural work to motivate, guide, and energize collective action aimed at weathering the constant instability of extended recovery periods. Connecting After Chaos is both a compelling story of a community in crisis and a broader argument for the power of social media and cultural cooperation to create order when chaos abounds…(More)”.