Any thoughts on convivial tools? I’m noding it today for Anagora node club.

"a kind of tool that is shared in common, and which expands personal creative freedom and communal interdependence"

My initial thoughts: sounds good.

The most notable critique I have come across so far is Bookchin (via Evgeny Morozov): "It didn’t make sense to speak of “convivial tools,” he argued, without taking a close look at the political and social structures in which they were embedded"


Ivan Illich coined the phrase 'tools for convivilaity' in the 70s, in a book the same name. He didn't mean tools in the current software sense: discrete apps that perform defined tech functions. He meant something more like 'institutions' - public or popular healthcare, public or popular education, civic decision making, etc etc. Such practices are typically carried out thro some alliance of the State and professionalised elites. His critique thus has a similar basis to Bookchin's

@mike_hales I read the book, and actually understood it that it *could* apply to tools as simple as a hammer (and therefore software tools too) and that we can *also* look at institutions as a form of "tool" too. This is nice in that we can apply a more coherent philosophy across the whole range.

I'm a bit rusty on the details of the book though (as inspiring as it was), and it might be I've merged in some of my thoughts with his to form this Universal Theory of Tools 😎


Yes I think that's right Nick. the concept can stretch over that scope. I think the important thing not to lose from Illich is that social relations, power relations, class relations are part of the construction and positioning and mobilising of a tool, small-and artefactual or massive-and-institutional?

@mike_hales @nicksellen Thanks both. I haven't read TfC itself, but Free, Fair and Alive discusses it a bit and suggests that infrastructures and processes can be convivial tools too, and gives both permaculture and libre software as examples. And from what I understand of Illich he for sure had a critical eye on the organisational/institutional level (e.g. religion, education).

It does seem like Bookchin's criticism (or Morozov's interpretation) that Illich was naive/tool-focused is unfair.

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