AAA Responds to Katrina

The AAA has the following announcement:

The extraordinary tragedy that continues to unfold in the wake of Hurricane Katrina will remain an epochal event in the history of the United States. The immense scale of human suffering and destruction is difficult for most of us to comprehend, and the enormity of the reconstruction effort – rebuilding lives, livelihood, and communities – will challenge us for many years to come. The American Anthropological Association (AAA) expresses its deepest sympathy and unwavering support for the victims of this disaster. It is in this spirit that the AAA humbly offers a response.

The AAA response takes the form of an online communications clearinghouse. …

This “clearinghouse” is called a “forum” by the AAA, but is really just three blog posts on separate blogspot accounts, with open comments. This is an unfortunate decision, because comments feeds on blogspot do not have RSS feeds, as do WordPress blogs. The blogs are divided into one for offers of assistance, one for news and information, and one for assistance requests. There is one post on each blog, and the idea seems to be that people will leave comments on these posts.

I have to wonder how useful these “forums” will be at this point, given that most affected universities have already created similar information clearinghouses, but perhaps there will be some anthropology-specific requests that will get greater attention this way.

I have to say that I’m a little disappointed in the AAA response, but I’d be hard pressed to say what else the AAA should have been doing (other than having proper forums already in place before all this started). How did other associations respond? The ASA offered the press a list of experts ready to talk to the press. I didn’t see anything on the AHA web site. The MLA has a forum set up (it seems to be a real forum, although the URL says “weblog”), the forum topics are similar to that of the AAA. I did not see anything on the LSA web site. (Although there has been some Katrina discussion on Linguistlist.) So, it seems that the AAA response is about par for the course. Nothing exceptional, but better than average. Anyone know of any associations that did anything particularly notable?

Regarding the use of new technology in the face of disaster: Ethan Zuckerman has a great post about the spectacular People Finder effort which coordinated thousands of internet volunteers to enter information from various forums into a centralized database.