The Lightbulb Conspiracy
A Screening for Oxford Green Week

Amy Pritchard introducing the screening

In June 2017 we were delighted to host a screening of The Lightbulb Conspiracy as part of Oxford Green Week’s environmental film festival, which was organised by the City Council in partnership with the University of Oxford and Oxford Brookes University.

Lightbulb Conspiracy screening, OoU

An investigation into the issue of planned obsolescence in electrical items, the film tells the story of the emergence in the 1900s of a global cartel called Phoebus: a collective of large light bulb manufacturers who joined forces to set a self-imposed maximum burn time of no more than 1000 hours. Enforced through the imposition of hefty fines, this deliberately engineered failure ensured a continual (and highly profitable) market for their products.

Lightbulb Conspiracy screening, OoU

Offering an intriguing insight into the workings of big business, the documentary also touches on the built-in ‘end lives’ of other tech products such as mobile phones and desktop printers, as well as the commercial, social and environmental impacts of planned obsolescence as a widely-employed industry tactic.

Lightbulb Conspiracy screening, OoU Lightbulb Conspiracy screening, OoU

The film is in equal measures interesting and infuriating, and highlights how the consumer is all too often manipulated into making unnecessary purchases - a trend that only serves to further fuel a worldwide cycle of buying and upgrading that is already spiralling out of control. It prompts us to ask ourselves what we can we do to counteract this throwaway culture, beginning with the difficult task of seeking out the knowledge and components we need to fix household gadgets ourselves rather than simply accepting their needlessly limited lifespans.

Lightbulb Conspiracy screening, OoU Lightbulb Conspiracy screening, OoU

The evening was led by Oxford University’s Amy Pritchard and concluded with an innovative and inspiring demonstration from Alex Stonor of Orinoco Scrap Store, in which we were shown how to usefully extend the lives of old milk and juice cartons by transforming them into practical, functional coin purses. Alongside being great fun, the activity encouraged us to re-think our view of ‘waste’ and provided a simple example of the many ways in which we can seek to reuse, repurpose, recycle and repair in our daily lives.

Alex Stonor of Orinoco Scrap Store

The Lightbulb Conspiracy is available to watch in full here

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