Cyborg Composition Proposal: The Modern First Responder: Technology’s Effect on the Culture of Emergency Services

Prior to the age of emergency phone numbers, public safety dispatchers, and computer-aided dispatch, government servants were dependent upon more tangible forms of warning communication. These delivery techniques ranged from a designated town crier to a deafening Klaxon bell (school bell); however, each option required the shared responsibility of vigilance from the community’s volunteer firefighters. Since the creation of the telegraph, technological advancements in incident notification has resulted in volunteer fire departments to face the problem of a waning culture traditionally associated with the service. One-on-one communication has fallen victim to traveling wires while once bustling firehouses now stand empty until called upon. Unfortunately, the positives associated with technology have left irreversible consequences to the deep-rooted volunteer fire service of the United States.

Thanks to the United State’s founding father and inventor, Benjamin Franklin, the nation’s volunteer fire service has kept vigilance for citizens for almost 300 years. In the early years of organized fire fighting, citizens undertook a nightly watch referred to as the rattle watch. In the event of a fire, the designated individual would sound the rattle (a noisy, rotating piece of wood) alarming the neighborhood to join in a bucket brigade. In time, the demands for the emergency services expanded, thus resulting in an effort to advance the equipment and techniques used in response efforts. The para-military style of the nation’s fire departments aided in maintaining structure to the organization in addition to making fire departments the focal point of communities. However, with the advanced communications of the 21st century, individuals barely recognize the existence of this volunteer occupation.

Clearly, the fire service has changed drastically since the mid-1600s, and leaders of the emergency service are only now seeing the repercussions of these transformations due to technology. The importance of camaraderie shared amongst volunteers has gone wayside in exchange for fast and simple, yet unemotional, emergency notification. Jim Spell, a 33-year veteran and contributing writer to Fire Chief magazine, emphasizes the importance of fire departments recognizing “these new labor saving and safety driven devices” as a possible “risk of drifting further away from the rudiments of firefighting and basic fire ground principles” (Spell 2013). The rudiments he speaks of include the foundation of the fire service’s culture now lost in the separation of communication from victim to emergency responder. The levels of disconnect seen in fire service culture has only increased since the introduction of direct-messaging services like IAmResponding and Active911.

The numerous developments within the framework of the volunteer emergency service will only continue to mold its culture into the future. How firefighters, as a society of individuals dedicated to the preservation of life and property, choose to reserve the tight-knit, personable culture of the fire service depends on today’s members. The allowance of overpowering technologies within its rich tradition should be avoided. Departments must educate their members on responsible technology usage in order to sustain a service survived by humankind. Without this mindset, the possibility of robotic fire fighting will not be farfetched.


Works Cited

Andrews, Rhys, and Gene A. Brewer. “Social Capital and Fire Service Performance: Evidence from the U.S. States*.” Social Science Quarterly 91.2 (2010): 576-91. Southwestern Social Science Association. Web. 28 Oct. 2015.

Furey, B. “Emergency Communications. Picture This: The Increasing Role Of Graphics In Fire Service Communications.” Firehouse 33.2 (2008): 70-71 2p. CINAHL Complete. Web. 28 Oct. 2015.

Jim Spell. “The Negative Effects of Technology Dependence on Fundamental Firefighting Skills.” Fire Chief (2013): n. pag. Penton Business Media, Inc., 20 June 2013. Web. 26 Oct. 2015.

Khafizov, F. Sh., A. A. Kudrjavzev, R. R. Karimov, and A. A. Sharafutdinov. “The Use of Automated Communication System and Operational Management of Fire Departments of the State Fire Service when Fighting Large Fires.” The Electronic Scientific Journal: Oil and Gas Business 1 (2015): 345-63. 1 Feb. 2015. Web. 26 Oct. 2015.

McNamee, Ronald. The Benefits of Using a Gentler Notification Systems in the Fire Station. Eastern Michigan University School of Fire Staff and Command, Sept. 2001. Web. 26 Oct. 2015.

Cyborg Composition Proposal: The Modern First Responder: Technology’s Effect on the Culture of Emergency Services

Text-based Response: “Taxonomies to Tags: From Trees to Piles of Leaves” by David Weinberger

David Weinberger, author of “Taxonomies to Tags: From Trees to Piles of Leaves,” introduces the topic of hierarchal taxonomies from it’s birth with the Syrian philosopher Porphyry with the notion of a tree shaped hierarchy to Wikipedia’s detachment from the idea of company employees and top-down categorizing. Readers are opened up to the transformation our once simple tree cataloguing has become in wake of technology. Weinberger’s biggest message in the article focuses on a solution to the fear some designers and end-users may feel towards an internet stripped of true taxonomy”: Create the tags and experiment.” (31) Yet, his push for this motto is still filled with anxiety.

From Yahoo! To Corbis, an overwhelming push for trees and faceted systems seemed to be their primary concern. On the other hand, websites powered by few employees or mainly volunteers embraced tags as the choice of categorizing online objects. Undeniably, each side had it’s own reason for choosing a top-down approach or a bottom-up approach: Who is in control, or better yet, what is in control. Companies like Yahoo! believe their “job is to know the Web, know what searchers want, and marry the two” (Weinberger 9) while the creator of del.icio.us looks down upon such systems since it “trumps [the user’s] intuition, and that’s the most powerful thing you have going for you” (21). The chaos associated with tags may seem intimidating; but I believe the bigger fear behind folksonomies is that end-users are creating an enormously unpredictable organism within the Internet.

Since this class focuses on the idea of cyborgs, I can’t help but look at this article as if those in favor of hierarchies are embracing a basic robotic concept, and on the other side, more of the creators of the organic websites are developing programs in between the organic and machine. Folksonomies allow for Haraway’s cyborg to exist within this concept, at least that’s the notion I’m getting. Folksonomies are tags that are controlled and manipulated by the end-user and built into larger connections inside the worldwide web. While hierarchal trees allow for a greater separation between designer and user, folksonomies give all the power to the end user. For companies looking to make a profit from the habits of online consumers this is a frightening concept. An uncontainable beast has been created by tags and large websites like Yahoo! and Corbis are dependent upon the fast-pace work of the bottom-up concept. As I looked at their current websites, I can tell they gave into the monster that is tags.

Weinberger had written this article in 2005, and the descriptions of certain websites seemed quite alien since now, in 2015, they have completely transformed their layouts to compete with other powerful tag websites. One in particular comes to mind: Pinterest. Somewhat similar to the bookmarking of del.icio.us, Pinterest was founded by a small group of individuals meant as a “catalog of ideas” (Fortune Magazine 2015). Clearly, like many before them, they embraced tags and experimented. No one could predict the success of their work just like the next-big-thing is left to complete mystery.

Text-based Response: “Taxonomies to Tags: From Trees to Piles of Leaves” by David Weinberger