CHICAGO CAN MAKE ITSELF
SAFE BY USING ALL FIVE OF ITS
DIGITAL-AGE SAFETY RESOURCES
Chicago's safety in a digital age is a function of the ability of the public and commercial media that comprise its public communications system to connect, facilitate and help to mediate the public safety interactions of the first four components above.
Chicago can find the right mix of traditional, industrial-age, hierarchical approaches to public safety and modern, digital-age, distributed approaches. This is no small task. During Chicago's industrial age, only the first two components were responsible for public safety. In a digital age, all five have responsibilities. Each must work effectively not only itself but with the other four components to make Chicago SAFE FOR ALL RESIDENTS:
Like all cities, Chicago presently deploys just the first three of its five digital-age public safety resources. The fifth resource - Chicago's media - has ample power to inform, inspire and mobilize the first four resources. But well into the digital age, it's not using its resources for that purpose.
Instead, Chicago's media are confining themselves to the industrial-age (and journalistic) roles of merely covering and commenting on the state of public safety in Chicago.
Decades ago Chicago could have made itself safe by deploying the digital-age communications technologies that have optimized productivity in other areas of modern life. But again, like other cities, it has yet to do so.
Here's a digital age axiom:
In a recent article entitled "The Russian hierarchy vs. the Ukrainian network," a very sharp guy named Azeem Azar has the following to say about two kinds of power and authority in a digital age:
Networks vs. hierarchies is an old debate in computer science and communications. A hierarchy is a vertical structure that depends on top-down control. Hierarchies are centralised, with decision-making largely taken at the highest level and cascaded down. Networks are more distributed: decision-making can be localised, the topology, architecture and links in the network may emerge from individual decisions taken locally.
The Internet was the network approach to communications systems, distinct from the architecture of telephony. In that domain, networks have become dominant. Their benefits of resilience and decentralisation trump the control that hierarchies have rallied. Networks favour innovation and change, hierarchies the impermanent comfort of control.
In a digital age, the capacity of digital-age communications technologies (cell phones, computers, social media, all mass media) to distribute power and authority away from traditional, hierarchical, top-down sources of power and authority and towards grassroots sources (the public) automatically extends much of the responsibility for public safety away from the first three of these public safety components and to all five:
The digital-age approach to public safety advance here is clarified by the longstanding networks vs. hierarchies debate in computer science and communications. Here's how this debate applies to the field of public safety.
In an industrial age, power and responsibility for public safety is hierarchical or top-down. It rests entirely with police and public officials. In a digital-age, digital communications work to distribute power and responsibility for public safety citywide. It now rests with all citizens and with their ability, enabled by the digital media that comprise a city's public communications system, to interact effectively with city leaders. Only when cities recognize this core fact of digital-age life can they devise public safety strategies needed to understand and address effectively the phenomenon of urban violence and its challenge to citizens and leaders in all modern cities.
Throwing light on the digital-age approach to public safety proprosed here is the longstanding networks vs. hierarchies debate in computer science and communications. If The essential contrast is between Chicago's industrial-age and hierarchical approach to public safety and the digital-age, distributed approach.
In Chicago's industrial age, power and responsibility for public safety was hierarchical or top-down. It rested entirely with public officials and police, whose job, along with courts and prisons, was to protect citizens from violence. In this scenario, the role played by citizens was passive: is was simply to be protected.
One instance of this distribution has been the citizen use of cell phones to document instances police brutality (. Another has been the impact not only on public safety but on Chicago's policy, city politics and city government itself of police dashboard cam videos (e.g. Laquan McDonald) and police bodycam videos of police shootings of citizens (e.g.
Yet another instance, deplored by police has been the use of social media by violence-prone young Chicagoans to foment and co-ordinate violence among themselves and in so-called "flash-mob" disruptions in
It is no coincidence the 1960's saw the rise of both network television, with its sensationalized, if-it-bleeds-it-leads coverage of violence, and heavily armed, drug-dealing street gangs. Without intending to do so, these entities exacerbated each other. Jointly they worked over the years to create in Chicago the mindset that holds Chicagoans and their leaders in its grip today: namely, violence is inherently insolvable, a problem whose impact can be diminished by means of violence reduction tactics but that can never be solved.
In this turbulent, media-exacerbated environment Digital-age public safety rests with all citizens and with their ability, enabled by the digital media that comprise a city's public communications system, to interact with city leaders to address public violence effectively.
Only when cities recognize this core fact of digital-age life can they devise public safety strategies needed to understand and address the phenomenon of urban violence and its challenge to citizens and leaders in all modern cities. Understanding is critical.