Making Things Last

As part of his Sociology Masters at Lancaster University, Owen Dowsett chose to investigate the work that goes into repairing broken bicycles. Frustrated by various problems with his own bike, he wished to confront the challenges that are presented by the breakdown of an everyday technology. Using Freewheelers Bicycle Workshop (Lancaster) and Bristol Bike Project (Bristol) as examples, he found that such challenges can be reframed as opportunities for empowerment, skill-sharing and the building of communities. The broken bicycle proves to be an excellent channel for learning and, with the right support, the cyclist can learn to bring their two-wheeled accomplice into the future. The broken bicycle also becomes a resource through which people are brought together in the common act of repair. It becomes a focus for collective action. At a broader level, the repair of broken bicycles represents the production and consumption of an everyday object coming together. There is much value to be found in such a process.

 

Perhaps the real value of an object can be found through engaging with its on-going production and making it last. There is a sense of empowerment that comes with taking an object into the future, and taking ownership of its changing form. There is a sense of achievement in finding creative solutions to problems. If we know how things work, if we know about the objects of our world, then we can strive to make them work better.

A copy of Owen’s dissertation is available via the following link