THE LAST 100 YEARS OF PUBLIC SAFETY IN CHICAGO
AND ITS FUTURE AS WELL . . .
IT'S A TALE OF TWO CITIES,
INDUSTRIAL AND DIGITAL
AND FOUR AGES
1. INDUSTRIAL > 2. TV > 3. EARLY DIGITAL > 4. DIGITAL
SHOWING HOW THE EVOLUTION
OF PUBLIC SAFETY IN CHICAGO OVER
THE PAST 100 YEARS HAS INCREASINGLY
BEEN IMPACTED BY PRE-DIGITAL MEDIA AND
HOW IN THE FUTURE CHICAGO'S SAFETY WILL
BE SECURED BY CITIZEN PARTICIPATORY,
SAFETY GENERATING USES OF
CHICAGO'S DIGITAL MEDIA
THE graphic READS IN TWO WAYS:
HORIZONTIALLY AND VERTICALLY
HORIZONTAL Each row surveys an age and the relationship between its dominant NEWS MEDIA and its PUBLIC SAFETY STRATEGY
The sub-graphic below details this relationship from the standpoint of the impact of meda (including news media) on SOCIETY AS A WHOLE (including PUBLIC SAFETY).
PUBLIC SAFETY STRATEGY, targeted violence and desired outcomes
PUBLIC SAFETY AUTHORITY: Top Down (City Hall and Law Enforcement) or Top Down and Bottom Up (citizen participation and media support)
PUBLIC SAFETY MODE, coercion (police, courts, prisons) or blended coercion and public communication (citizens and personal/mainstream mediaA.
VERTICAL Each column surveys an EVOLUTIONARY TREND
COLUMN 1 - AGE tracks the trend from PASSIVE Industrial Age (reading newspapers, listening to radio) and TV Age (watching TV) user uses of media to present day ACTIVE BUT UNNETWORKED (mobile spoken and video communicating) user uses of media to future INTERACTIVE AND NETWORKED user uses of mobile and desktop media in that address public violence in networks maintained by mainstream media, especially local network TV stations.
This column also traces the trend in journalism from reliance on top-down REPORTORIAL COVERAGE of violence towards a future when reportorial coverage will complement, critique and strengthen bottom-up, safety-generating MEDIA NETWORKS of citizens, police and City Hall.
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 will be mutually interdependent for the maintenance of public safety. Absent this interdependence, Chicago's unchecked (and media-exacerbated) downward spiral into violence is likely to continue unchecked, in no small measure given the extent to which news and entertainment programming of commercial media is geared to profit from sensationalized depictions of violence.
COLUMN 2 - PUBLIC SAFETY STRATEGY tracks the explosive growth of youth-centered, digital-age violence in Chicago from its eruption in poor, non-white neighborhoods in the 1960's to the citywide, youth-centered violence that grips Chicago in 2022.
COLUMN 3 - PUBLIC SAFETY AUTHORITY Surveys the trend away from exclusively top-down police/courts/prisons responsibility for public safety towards a sharing of responsibility for public safety between top-down and bottom up (citizen) elements.
COLUMN 4 - PUBLIC SAFETY MODE tracks the evolution of the TWO MODES (violent or non-violent) for maintaining public safety away from violence (police force) towards non-violence (public health and safety-generating citywide dialogue). In 2023, this constructive trend is poised to begin to reverse the growth of citywide violence tracked in COLUMN TWO.
CHICAGO IS AT A PUBLIC SAFETY CROSSROADS TODAY
The thrust of both graphics? It is to show that, four decades into the digital age, Chicago, like other modern cities, is stuck in the industrial age when comes to public safety. Stuck in two ways:
First, Chicago continues to use outmoded, top-down, police-centered VIOLENCE REDUCTION tactics to address the digital-age violence that since the 1960's has arising mostly from disaffected young people growing up in the city's poor, nonwhite neighborhoods.
Second, Chicago makes divisive and largely counterproductive uses its digital-age media. Limited mainly to endless steams of sensationalized, crime-story coverage of violence, these uses over the years have alienated races, generations and economic classes of Chicagoans and driven a wedge between Chicagoans and City Hall as well.
Today a seemingly impenetrable cloud of fear, anger and apathy covers the city. What's more, the constructive and safety-generating uses towards which the miracle of modern communications technology could all along have been put have never been explored or developed by any medium, any Chicago foundation or any Chicago university department of journalism or communications.
In short, Chicago made itself violent in the Age of Television. And so far it has kept itself violent in the digital age.
Sooner or later this will change. Chicago will come to terms with the transformation of public safety by PCs and cell phones, now owned by all Chicagoans. To this add security cameras, police dashboard and body cams.
Automatically the ubiquity of these devices obsolesces all traditional approaches to public safety.
Today, Chicagoans, not just the city's hopelessly overburdened police, have public safety roles to play in protecting their homes, blocks, neighborhoods and city. Digital safety public safety is matter of citizenship; a matter of belonging to a viable family, neighborhood and city.
It becomes apparent that digital-age public safety is possible only when three parties are working together to realize it: citizens owning digital devices, managers of mainstream media and City Hall. Without this teamwork, and the trust needed to sustain it, Chicago remains violent.