online: 25 february 2013
modified: 15 to 25, 28 february 2013

15 february 2013 on a flood plain

riverside parkland at Abingdon close to Oxford

...this piece of land has been lived on by people for many centuries (though but a moment of geological time)... and this river has been flowing and over-flowing and freezing and evaporating... until (as today) much of its former length is under the North Sea...

...and here it is flooding again... what is now called the river Thames... calmly widening as a silvery lake that is flowing quite quickly above its usual channel... and barely moving over the grassy fields where it is quite shallow...

...a seagull...carried downstream at about twice the speed it would normally swim... turns to face upstream... and swims just fast enough to be stationary relative to the surrounding land... while public notices on posts are half submerged... and the messages they carry are suddenly not relevant...

...close to the flooded meadow is a lawn in which sunken bricks mark the rectangular foundations of a monastery (now dismantled)... it seems that religious life continued for centuries so close to this frequently flooding river... in this town of many ancient buildings (among many others that were built in recent years)...

inside a supermarket

...resting in a supermarket (not far above the present flood) i sit by the checkouts... looking at the absorbed faces of both customers and workers as they share the process of shifting the location and ownership of food products from open shelves to cars and kitchens... a same essential process as occurs in any of the supermarkets now spread about the earth...

days later

...and as i wrote that abstract description of what a supermarket is doing i was reminded of a similar description in Design Methods (second edition, John Wiley & Sons, New York 1992, ISBN 0-442-01182-2, pages 333 to 334) when i was trying to explain to myself the changes in function that make a supermarket so different from an old-fashioned grocery shop...

i was also describing the functional basis of other innovations:

from cut-throat razor to disposable safety razor
from piston engine and propellor to jet engine
from pedal cycle to hover-seat (an as yet unrealised invention)

...and now (as i re-read the book about 45 years later) i realise that those new design processes of the 1960s and 70s are still only half used... as we await the widening of functions and processes and human activity... from the darkness of specialisation and reductionist jobs that prevent us seeing the perhaps natural perhaps sublime possibilities of automatic production and the enhancement of life... (by means of computernets... no less...)


© 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 john chris jones

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