'Convivial Tools' are tools, technologies & infrastructures for enacting the commons in open, enlivening ways. They foster relations within and beyond the human world and bring about small, slow and beautifully simple energy-efficient solutions. They are accessible to everybody and easy to use. They invite for creative adaptation to one's own context.
Our use of the concept is inspired by the Croatian-Austrian philosopher Ivan Illich (wiki ). In 1973 he published 'Tools for Conviviality', with a strong focus on spotting the thresholds where [industrial]
"productivity backfires into counter-productivity." (Vetter 2016:4)
We use Illich's term but refer to a framework developed by Andrea Vetter in her PhD research between 2011 and 2017. Vetter speaks about "convivial technologies," a term Illich did not use.
For Ivan Illich the word 'tool' ...
”was not restricted to technology in a narrow sense ... but referred to all kinds of rationally designed institutions like schools and bureaucracies." (Illich,1973).
The idea of interdependence is central to both: - interdependence between human beings - interdependence between human beings and technology
We conclude from the "conviviality literature" inspired by Illich that there is a need for creativity and autonomy *for and through* the use of convivial tools & technologies. Using convivial tools helps making a given commons structurally independent from proprietarian "closed" tools and contributes to commoning as a creatively adaptive process.
# The Five Core Dimensions of Convivial Tools
Below, the five dimensions of convivial tools are named, explained and illustrated by examples. The complete framework assesses each dimension based on the level of material, production, uses or infrastructure.
"be part of an ecological cycle and to be able to directly see this relatedness on their own ground, in their own garden."The central question for the dimension of relatedness is then: what does it bring about between people?
- Relatedness Convivialists assume that human beings are not just capable of relating to others, but dependent on relationships to others. Tools, technologies and infrastructures are crucial for enacting and maintaining these relations. Therefore, developing and using convivial technology implies the activation and expansion of human relationships and capacities. -> For example, building composting toilet systems or kitchen waste bokashi are convivial technologies because they are driven by the desire to
- Accessibility Do people have access to the design and knowledge needed to create convivial technologies? This could be a matter of open source licenses, adequate documentation and standards, and cultural barriers (such as gender norms or discrimination). Ownership of a technology can matter as well in terms of long-term control, access and use. Vetter: "The central question is: who can build or use it where and how?"
- Adaptability Refers to the independence from state-owned infrastructures allowing for the use of everyday tools in order to follow own purposes, train skills and empower people. It also refers to the need to be able to decide whether one wants to be independet or linked. The central question is therefor: How independent and linkable is a tool? The slogan would be: Use small, slow and energy-efficient solutions!
An example is Open Source Ecology in Germany which cares for several aspects of adaptability on a technological level, most importantly [[modularity], scalability and suitability for D.I.Y (see OSEG, 2015) According to Andrea Vetter, the
smallest possible scale can also be rather big, as in the use of currently over 200 composting toilets for the 70.000 guests of the annual 5-day Fusion Festival, which makes clear that the composting of a big amount of stuff coming in a very short time requires different measures than the usual composting toilet used all year round by a more or less constant amount of family members.“
- Bio-interaction Refers to the idea to not only be less harmful to the environment, but to be useful in an ecological cycle. Examples are Permaculture or Terra Preta do Indío, a very fertile human made soil, produced since about 1000 years by the indigenous population in the Amazonian region. Bio-interaction is a Care-Honouring notion aiming at co-productivity. The central question is: How does it interact with living organisms?
Care in this sense means to contribute beneficially to ecosystems, not only to “produce no waste”, but also to “obtain a yield” (David Holmgren, 2013)
Andrea Vetter points to the emerging community of bio-hackers, (see bio-hacking) who want to produce Open Source materials that are useful and degradable, but this movement is still in its very beginnings and its basic ethics to open source DNA as “code of life” could also lead to hazardous developments (Meyer, 2012)
- Appropriateness A convivial technology must take account of the entire context, local circumstances (are suitable materials and skills available?) Efficiency and tim-saving features must be balanced against the need for time for socially enlivening activity ("Allow joyful time").
# Realms of Implementation
- CONSTITUTING TOOLS: foundational structures of state power vs foundational structures of commoning - Tools for KNOWLEDGE CREATION: - SOCIALIZING TOOLS: national vs commons narratives, rituals, ethics, norms - INFRASTRUCTURES: "natural monopolies" vs. collaborative infrastructures - FINANCE: State Treasury vs collaborative finance - Legal Tools or simply LAW: State Laws vs Vernacular Law
# Sources Andrea Vetter (2017): The Matrix of Convivial Technologies. pdf Ivan Illich (1973): Tools for Conviviality Marianne Gronemeyer, "Conviviality," in Bollier & Helfrich, Patterns of Commoning html (Off the Common Books, 2015). html
# Notes for Discussion "Disposal is not listed as a separate level, because in the concept of convivial technologies disposal is already closely linked to materials and production and can be dealt within these levels" (Vetter) [DB: ??]
- I like the „suitability for D.I.Y“ formula; could also be „suitability for D.I.Y and D.I.T“ - I am not sure the dimension of „adaptability“ is properly conceptualized in Andrea's work: I'd rather say that she points to an idea of „structural independency from dominating infrastructures“ and a kind of „tool-soverignty“