Dirt Jumps are Matter Carefully Placed, Maintained, and Governed

Main Article Content

Liam Healy


This article draws on research produced with DIY bike trail and dirt jump builders to unpack the forms of repair and care that they employ in maintaining their spaces. I begin by describing the mundane practices involved in keeping bike trails running, such as shoveling, watering, and compacting, and conceptualize these activities as repairing the ‘ruins’ of the often squatted spaces that they occupy. Second, I draw from literature in feminist science and technology studies (STS) and commons to argue for a thickening of care, finding that these spaces alert me to the ways that ‘neglect’, and exclusion from participation-in, and research-on, are often a requirement of their subsistence. In conclusion, I find that in these spaces forms of repair and maintenance are multiple and layered―from mundane practices to their forms of governance—and in recent years, have involved practices to ‘repair’ the pervasive and dominating macho, heteronormative cultures of these social worlds.


Download data is not yet available.

Article Details

How to Cite
Healy, L. (2024). Dirt Jumps are Matter Carefully Placed, Maintained, and Governed. Diseña, (24), Article.6. https://doi.org/10.7764/disena.24.Article.6
Original articles
Author Biography

Liam Healy, University of Sheffield

Lecturer in Design at the University of Sheffield School of Architecture. PhD in Design from Goldsmiths, University of London. His research interests focus on situated critical and speculative design practice and research, DIY design, care, the notion of the Anthropocene, and more-than-human entanglements with design. He is currently working on an AHRC-funded research project exploring access to woodlands with Forestry England; and an ethnography of bike trail builders drawing on architecture, participatory design, and inventive methods. Some of his recent publications include ‘Everything Is a Prototype, but Not At All in the Same Way: Towards an Ecology of Prototyping’ (STS Encounters, Vol. 15, Issue 2), ‘Emergent Participation in DIY Designed Bike Trails’ (with P. G. Krogh; Proceedings of the 17th Participatory Design Conference), and ‘Exploring the Temporalities of a Tandem in the Jungle’ (Society for Social Studies of Science: 4S Annual Meeting).


Abulhawa, D. (2017). Smoothing Space in Palestine: Building a Skatepark and a Socio-political Forum with the SkatePal Charity. Journal of Urban Cultural Studies, 4(3), 417–426. https://doi.org/10.1386/jucs.4.3.417_1

Abulhawa, D. (2020). Skateboarding and Femininity: Gender, Space-making and Expressive Movement. Routledge.

Atchley, R. A., Strayer, D. L., & Atchley, P. (2012). Creativity in the Wild: Improving Creative Reasoning through Immersion in Natural Settings. PloS One, 7(12), e51474. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0051474

Beal, B. (1996). Alternative Masculinity and Its Effects on Gender Relations in the Subculture of Skateboarding. Journal of Sport Behavior, 19(3), 204–220.

Borden, I. (2001). Skateboarding, Space and the City: Architecture and the Body (1st ed.). Berg.

Borden, I. (2015). An Interview with Professor Iain Borden on the ‘Long Live Southbank’ Campaign and Skatepark Design from the 1970s to the Present. https://www.academia.edu/14302448/An_Interview_with_Professor_Iain_Borden_on_the_Long_Live_Southbank_Campaign_and_Skatepark_Design_from_the_1970s_to_the_Present

Borden, I. (2019). Skateboarding and the City: A Complete History (2nd ed.). Bloomsbury Visual Arts.

Bratman, G. N., Daily, G. C., Levy, B. J., & Gross, J. J. (2015). The Benefits of Nature Experience: Improved Affect and Cognition. Landscape and Urban Planning, 138, 41–50. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2015.02.005

Cherrington, J., & Black, J. (2020a). Mountain Bike Trail Building, ʽDirtyʼ Work, and a New Terrestrial Politics. World Futures, 76(1), 39–61. https://doi.org/10.1080/02604027.2019.1698234

Cherrington, J., & Black, J. (2020b). Spectres of Nature in the Trail Building Assemblage. International Journal of the Sociology of Leisure, 3(1), 71–93. https://doi.org/10.1007/s41978-019-00048-w

Denis, J., & Pontille, D. (2014). Maintenance Work and the Performativity of Urban Inscriptions: The Case of Paris Subway Signs. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 32(3), 404–416. https://doi.org/10.1068/d13007p

Denis, J., & Pontille, D. (2019). Why Do Maintenance and Repair Matter? In A. Blok, I. Farías, & C. Roberts (Eds.), The Routledge Companion to Actor-Network Theory (1st ed., pp. 283–293). Routledge.

Douglas, M. (2002). Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concept of Pollution and Taboo. Psychology Press.

Fisher, B., & Tronto, J. (1990). Towards a Feminist Theory of Caring. In E. K. Abel & M. K. Nelson (Eds.), Circles of Care: Work and Identity in Women’s Lives (pp. 35-60). SUNY Press.

Forest Research. (n.d.). Ramorum Disease (Phytophthora ramorum). https://www.forestresearch.gov.uk/tools-and-resources/fthr/pest-and-disease-resources/ramorum-disease-phytophthora-ramorum/

Gomart, E., & Hennion, A. (1999). A Sociology of Attachment: Music Amateurs, Drug Users. The Sociological Review, 47(S1), 220–247. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-954X.1999.tb03490.x

Grahn, P., Ottosson, J., & Uvnäs-Moberg, K. (2021). The Oxytocinergic System as a Mediator of Anti-stress and Instorative Effects Induced by Nature: The Calm and Connection Theory. Frontiers in Psychology, 12, 617814. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.617814

Hagen, S., & Boyes, M. (2016). Affective Ride Experiences on Mountain Bike Terrain. Journal of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism, 15, 89–98. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jort.2016.07.006

Hamilton, J. M., & Neimanis, A. (2018). Composting Feminisms and Environmental Humanities. Environmental Humanities, 10(2), 501–527. https://doi.org/10.1215/22011919-7156859

Haraway, D. (2019). It Matters What Stories Tell Stories; It Matters Whose Stories Tell Stories. a/b: Auto/Biography Studies, 34(3), 565–575. https://doi.org/10.1080/08989575.2019.1664163

Hardin, G. (1968). The Tragedy of the Commons: The Population Problem Has No Technical Solution; It Requires a Fundamental Extension in Morality. Science, 162(3859), 1243–1248.

Harrison, A. K. (2013). Black Skiing, Everyday Racism, and the Racial Spatiality of Whiteness. Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 37(4), 315–339. https://doi.org/10.1177/0193723513498607

Healy, L. (in press). No Dig, No Ride: Repairing and Caring for DIY-designed Mountain Bike and BMX Trails. In J. Cherrington (Ed.), Mountain Biking, Culture and Society. Routledge.

Healy, L., & Krogh, P. G. (2022). Emergent Participation in DIY Designed Bike Trails. Proceedings of the 17th Participatory Design Conference: Embracing Cosmologies: Expanding Worlds of Participatory Design, 2, 76–83. https://doi.org/10.1145/3537797.3537814

King, K. (2019). Soils for Making Kin: Compost, Saudade, Com-Bios. a/b: Auto/Biography Studies, 34(3), 555–563. https://doi.org/10.1080/08989575.2019.1664174

Latimer, J. (2000). The Conduct of Care: Understanding Nursing Practice. Wiley–Blackwell.

Latour, B. (1993). We Have Never Been Modern (C. Porter, Trans.). Harvard University Press.

Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Oxford University Press.

Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge University Press.

Law, J. (2004). After Method: Mess in Social Science Research. Routledge.

Lindén, L., & Lydahl, D. (2021). Editorial: Care in STS. Nordic Journal of Science and Technology Studies, 9(1), 3–12. https://doi.org/10.5324/njsts.v9i1.4000

Lindström, K., & Ståhl, Å. (2019). Caring Design Experiments in the Aftermath. NORDES 2019: Who Cares?, 8.

Linebaugh, P. (2008). The Magna Carta Manifesto: Liberties and Commons for All. University of California Press.

Linebaugh, P. (2010). Enclosures from the Bottom Up. Radical History Review, 2010(108), 11–27. https://doi.org/10.1215/01636545-2010-007

Marcus, G. E. (1998). Ethnography Through Thick and Thin. Princeton University Press.

Massey, D. B. (1994). Space, Place, and Gender. University of Minnesota Press.

McCormack, K. M. (2017). Inclusion and Identity in the Mountain Biking Community: Can Subcultural Identity and Inclusivity Coexist? Sociology of Sport Journal, 34(4), 344–353. https://doi.org/10.1123/ssj.2016-0160

Midol, N. (1993). Cultural Dissents and Technical Innovations in the ʽWhizʼ Sports. International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 28(1), 23–32. https://doi.org/10.1177/101269029302800102

Midol, N., & Broyer, G. (1995). Toward an Anthropological Analysis of New Sport Cultures: The Case of Whiz Sports in France. Sociology of Sport Journal, 12(2), 204–212. https://doi.org/10.1123/ssj.12.2.204

Mol, A. (1999). Ontological Politics. A Word and Some Questions. The Sociological Review, 47(S1), 74–89. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-954X.1999.tb03483.x

Mol, A. (2008). The Logic of Care: Health and the Problem of Patient Choice. Routledge.

Mol, A., Moser, I., & Pols, J. (2015). Care in Practice: On Tinkering in Clinics, Homes and Farms. Transcript Verlag.

O’Connor, P., Evers, C., Glenney, B., & Willing, I. (2023). Skateboarding in the Anthropocene: Grey Spaces of Polluted Leisure. Leisure Studies, 42(6), 897–907. https://doi.org/10.1080/02614367.2022.2153906

Olafsdottir, G., Cloke, P., Schulz, A., Dyck, Z., Eysteinsson, T., Thorleifsdottir, B., & Vögele, C. (2018). Health Benefits of Walking in Nature: A Randomized Controlled Study Under Conditions of Real-Life Stress. Environment and Behavior, 52(3), 001391651880079. https://doi.org/10.1177/0013916518800798

Ostrom, E. (1990). Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action (1st ed.). Cambridge University Press.

Pennington, S. (2022). Care-politics in Design: Towards an Inventive Feminist Research Practice [PhD Dissertation, Goldsmiths, University of London]. https://research.gold.ac.uk/id/eprint/32797/

Puig de la Bellacasa, M. (2011). Matters of Care in Technoscience: Assembling Neglected Things. Social Studies of Science, 41(1), 85–106. https://doi.org/10.1177/0306312710380301

Puig de la Bellacasa, M. (2015). Making Time for Soil: Technoscientific Futurity and the Pace of Care. Social Studies of Science, 45(5), 691–716. https://doi.org/10.1177/0306312715599851

Puig de la Bellacasa, M. (2017). Matters of Care: Speculative Ethics in More than Human Worlds (3rd ed.). University of Minnesota Press.

Revolution Bike Park Announcement. (2022). https://www.revolutionbikepark.co.uk/revolution-bike-park-announcement

Rinehart, R. (2005). “Babes” & Boards: Opportunities in New Millennium Sport? Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 29(3), 232–255. https://doi.org/10.1177/0193723505277909

Robinson, V. (2008). Everyday Masculinities and Extreme Sport: Male Identity and Rock Climbing. Berg.

Rodgers, P. A., Bremner, C., & Innella, G. (2018). The Lancaster Care Charter. Design Issues, 35(1), 73–77. https://doi.org/10.1162/desi_a_00522

Shoard, M. (2000). Edgelands of Promise. Landscapes, 1(2), 74–93. https://doi.org/10.1179/lan.2000.1.2.74

Sollfrank, C., Stalder, F., & Niederberger, S. (Eds.). (2021). Aesthetics of the Commons. Diaphanes.

Thorpe, H. (2012). Snowboarding: The Ultimate Guide. Greenwood.

Trash Free Trails. (2020). Impact Report 2020. https://www.trashfreetrails.org/research

Trash Free Trails. (2021). The State of our Trails Report. https://trashfreetrails.org/

Tronto, J. (1993). Moral Boundaries: A Political Argument for an Ethic of Care. Routledge.

Tsing, A. (2013). More-Than-Human Sociality: A Call for Critical Description. In K. Hastrup (Ed.), Anthropology and Nature (pp. 37–52). Routledge.

Tsing, A. L. (2015). The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins.‎ Princeton University Press.

Von Trier, L., & Vinterberg, T. (2005). Dogme 95. In A. Utterson (Ed.), Technology and Culture, the Film Reader (pp. 87-88). Psychology Press.

Wheaton, B. (2013). The Cultural Politics of Lifestyle Sports. Routledge.