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three ages DURING WHICH
CHICAGO made (and keeps) itself violent,

one age DURING WHICH chicago
can make itself safe

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chicago's public safety HISTORY is

a tale of two ages
Industrial and DIGITAL

key to the graphic


  • Each ROW surveys the key public safety characteristics of FOUR AGES in light of that age's

    • Primary or dominant MEDIA and their types of response to violence

    • PUBLIC SAFETY STRATEGY and its outcomes

    • Power Source: top down or bottom up:

FOUR COLUMNS. Each column, read from top to bottom, surveys an EVOLUTIONARY TREND

  • COLUMN 1 tracks the general evolutionary trend from passive towards interactive uses of media in addressing public violence. It also tracks the problematic and largely counterproductive impact of interactive media on public safety to the present day (due to the focus of media on violence as opposed to safety). 

  • COLUMN 2 tracks the gradual, citywide spread of youth-centered, digital-age violence in Chicago since its eruption in poor, non-white neighborhoods in the 1960's

  • COLUMN 3 Surveys the evolutionary trend towards away from total police responsibility for public safety and towards great citizen involvement and responsibility for public safety  

  • COLUMN 4 tracks the evolution of the TWO MODES (violent or non-violent) of public safety away from violence (police force) towards non-violence (public health and citywide dialogue).. This constructive trend, however, has yet to reverse the trend towards citywide violence tracked in COLUMN TWO. 

reading the graphic

THE GRAPHIC SURVEYS THE LAST 100 YEARS OF PUBLIC SAFETY  IN CHICAGO from a Digital Age, media-centered perspective. Its four media-defined ages reflect the premise that Chicago is a city in a substantially and increasingly media-driven society.  Working from this premise, the graphic identifies the in-place public safety strategy of a given age and correlates it with the age's cutting-edge media. This correlation points to the roles that Chicago's media - the city's de facto public communications system - have played, are playing and will play in the future to make Chicago either violent or safe.  

THE GRAPHIC SHOWS FOUR EVOLUTIONARY TRENDS. The alarming trend towards citywide violence shown in column 2 is offset by the encouraging trend towards citizen inclusiveness and involvement in public safety depicted in columns 3 and 4. And underlying all three trends is the dominant trend in column 1 tracing Chicago's evolution (or transformation) in the past century from reportial media towards networked media. In this short time Chicago has evolved from a media-informed and in fluenced, industrial-age city to a media-driven and now polarized digital-age city.  From the standpoint of media's relationship to the city, Chicago is evolving from citizen dependence on media (for news and information about public safety) to a point where citizens and media are be mutually interdepen- dent for the maintenance of public safety. Absent this interdependence, it seems clear to us that Chicago's unchecked (and media-exacerbated) downward spiral in violence is certain to continue unchecked. 


Practically speaking, this evolution from at top-down reportorial media towards a top-down/bottom-up mediating media exists today as a mere potential. Its realization depends on Chicago's response, negligent or attentive, to the safety-generating power of the digital media whose networks have already transformed life as we know it in the fields of business and personal communications.

THE GRAPHIC SHOWS CHICAGO AT A PUBLIC SAFETY CROSSROADS TODAY Like other modern cities, Chicago has hardly begun come to terms with transformative impact on public safety of the ubiquity PCs and cell phones in the city. Virtually all Chicagoans now own them. This fact, coupled with the ubiquity of security cameras, police dashboard and body cams, automatically obsolesces all traditional approaches to public safety.  It furthermore makes the general public substantially responsibility for the safety of their home, blocks, neighborhoods and city. Public safety is now a matter of citizenship:  a matter of the sense of belonging to a neighborhood or city that makes residents feel responsible for it. In digital-age Chicago, this sense of belonging is strengthened only when owners of personal (mobile and PC) media and mainstream (commercial and public) media are working together to advance the digital-age goal of making Chicago SAFE.   

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