Forget it Jake, its Chinatown

Thinking about Roman Polanski’s Chinatown, again. This time in preparation for a talk I’m giving in at SDNC in Cardiff next week on ‘transformation’.

In the film, ‘The Chinese’, like desert water forced into a pipe, are a euphemism for carefully controlled chaos in LA – omnipotent, unpredictable, uncontrollable forces at work somewhere ‘below’ the city, just waiting to break free.

Only it’s not the Chinese, or water that kills the heroine at the end of the film – its a cop.

A cop controlled by the equally chaotic, ‘senseless’ requirements of laissez-faire capitalism, who can kill under the guise of sense-making: creating order form chaos.

An endless need to map, model, plot and predict the unknown and the unpredictable doesn’t usually result in designers killing people, but design can sometimes feel like an exercise of power that’s been defined by as much ‘senselessness’ as the senselessness it tries to control.