The Situational Small World of a Post-disaster Community: Insights into Information Behaviors after the Devastation of Hurricane Katrina in Slidell, Louisiana
Description: Catastrophes like Katrina destroy a community's critical infrastructure-a situation that instigates several dilemmas. Immediately, the community experiences information disruption within the community, as well as between the community and the outside world. The inability to communicate because of physical or virtual barriers to information instigates instant isolation. Prolonged, this scarcity of information becomes an information poverty spell, placing hardship on a community accustomed to easily accessible and applicable information. Physical devastation causes the scarcity of what Abraham Maslow calls basic survival needs-physiological, security, and social-a needs regression from the need to self-actualize, to meet intellectual and aesthetic needs. Because needs regress, the type of information required to meet the needs, also changes-regresses to information regarding survival needs. Regressed information needs requires altered information behaviors-altered methods and means to meet the information needs of the post-disaster situation. Situational information behavior follows new mores-altered norms-norms constructed for the post-disaster situation. To justify the unconventional, situational social norms, residents must adjust their beliefs about appropriate behavior. Situational beliefs support situational social norms-and situational information behaviors prevail. Residents find they must trust strangers, create makeshift messaging systems, and in some cases, disregard the law to meet their post-disaster survival needs.
Date: December 2010
Creator: Slagle, Tisha Anne