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Ivan Illich - Tools for Convivality

“I choose the term “conviviality” to designate the opposite of industrial productivity.

“…Tools foster conviviality to the extent to which they can be easily used, by anybody, as often or as seldom as desired, for the accomplishment of a purpose chosen by the user.

“…The crisis can be solved only … if we give people tools that guarantee their right to work with high, independent efficiency, thus simultaneously eliminating the need for either slaves or masters and enhancing each person’s range of freedom. People need new tools to work with rather than tools that “work” for them.


Computing Convivality

Blog post by Mark Johnson.

Marked up in

Convivial design heuristics for software systems

[convivial-design-heuristics-for-software-systems] paper presented at 2020 Convivial Computing Salon

Kell, S. (2020). Convivial design heuristics for software systems. Conference Companion of the 4th International Conference on Art, Science, and Engineering of Programming, 144–148.

Convivality and “good society”


Good societies are made possible only by convivial tools which enhance both the user’s autonomy and social cohesion.

Convivial technologies and networked learning

Blog post from Peter Goodyear.

Driven in part with issues with using ICT as part of a definition of networked learning. Because ICT is now so everyday and raising awareness of hybridity. That it’s both digital and analogue, virtual and real. Better to understand “the tools and infrastructures used by people in L&T” as “assemblages or networks of people and things: material, digital and hybrid”.

The ICT focus also fails to bring to the fore the “critical and emancipatory” commitments in the NGL literature.

For Illich, tools included “all rationally designed devices, be they artifacts or rules, codes or operators… School curricula or marriage laws are no less purposely shaped social devices than road networks”

Convivial tools stand in contrast to tools produced by centrally or hierarchically managed societies filled with “obedient workers and consumers”

Convivial tools are those which give each person who uses them the greatest opportunity to enrich the environment with the fruits of his or her vision. Industrial tools deny this possibility to those who use them and they allow their designers to determine the meaning and expectations of others. Most tools today cannot be used in a convivial fashion (Illich, 1973)

People need not only to obtain things, they need above all the freedom to make things among which they can live, to give shape to them according to their own tastes, and to put them to use in caring for and about others. Prisoners in rich countries often have access to more things and services than members of their families, but they have no say in how things are to be made and cannot decide what to do with them. Their punishment consists in being deprived of what I shall call “conviviality.” They are degraded to the status of mere consumers. (Illich, 1973)

In an age of scientific technology, the convivial structure of tools is a necessity for survival in full justice which is both distributive and participatory. … Rationally designed convivial tools have become the basis for participatory justice (Illich, 1973)

And Goodyear closes with a link to [affordances]

it should be clear by now that to label a tool or technology “convivial” is to speak mainly about how it is being used, and for what kinds of purpose. It is not saying much about what one might call the intrinsic or inherent properties of the tool. Illich implies that some tools are hard to use in convivial ways.