Social Software Helps Rebuilding Efforts in New Orleans

June 27, 2008 at 12:16 pm | Posted in Blogs, BurtonGroupCatalyst08, Enterprise 2.0, social software, Web 2.0 | 2 Comments

I’m here at our Catalyst Conference in San Diego and just saw a great presentation from Alan Gutierrez of Think New Orleans.  Alan is a community organizer and, through a stunning set of photos from his city, showed the challenges that New Orleans faced after Hurricane Katrina and how social software in every possible form helped to provide informal, emergent connectivity between people when the formal, centralized organizations had failed.  One particularly poignant photo showed a road sign that had read “deaf child area” defaced to read “deaf government area”.

When necessary, open publishing of information enabled the shaming of local politicians and developers into often doing the right thing.  Information sharing was essential for putting together the individual pieces that formed a larger pattern.  For example, Alan described some shifty deals where a string of perfectly good homes along a street that developers probably wanted to freshen wound up being declared a health threat . Alan: “It’s hard to get local press, but we can get national press and then we get local press and then something gets done.”

Alan described how the idea of community that feeds much of Web 2.0 is a natural fit for New Orleans.  As Alan said, “This is a city that is familiar with community … Mardis Gras isn’t created by the chamber of commerce – it’s created by krewes that pool together to create a float.”

Much of Alan’s work has been around trying to ensure that the rebuilding of New Orleans doesn’t form an excuse for gentrification that replaces the communities in the city with generic, upscale suburbia that displaces existing residence.  Alan: “Life takes place outside in New Orleans … this is a 19th century city and we want to know the city we’re rebuilding is the city we lost; that we’re not building over it.”

Social software – including groups, wikis, blogs, and extensive use of Flickr – provided a way for disenfranchised residents to exchange information, note patterns, and organize to address them when required.  For example, in one case social software was used to pull together a rally of 5,000 citizens to protest a rash of violence . But, as Alan said, the use of these technologies was not just useful but necessary: “If you’re used to meeting people in your community in the coffee shop and if your coffee shop is now gone, you use these technologies because you’re compelled to”.  Today, “In New Orleans, being a citizen means being a knowledge worker”.

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  1. […] and, through a stunning set of photos from his city, showed the challenges that New Orleans fachttps://knowledgeforward.wordpress.com/2008/06/27/social-software-helps-rebuilding-efforts-in-new-orl…RIM: Wall Street Can Wait BusinessWeekThe BlackBerry maker turns in strong financial results for the […]

  2. […] Social Software Helps Rebuilding Efforts in New Orleans …deals where a string of perfectly good homes along a street that developers probably wanted to freshen wound up being declared a health threat… […]


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