I'm off to Bursa to give a presentation on Tools for Internet Conviviality. The question is still, how convivial is the Internet?
Ivan Illich adopted the word conviviality to mean the autonomous and creative intercourse among persons. He describes conviviality as a state of individual and social well being where persons are once again in control of the tools that fulfill their physical emotional and spiritual needs.
These tools are not just physical objects; they include language, administrative structures, and other "soft technologies" that are work implements. Illich believed that modern technology that is developed chiefly for the sake of efficiency and that economies of scale can be used out of proportion to the good that is added to a person's life, with the result that men work for machines instead of the other way around.
The Internet is a good example of sophisticated technology that, until recently, has reinforced the dominant-dependent relationship between those who control technology and those who consume its products. However, new tools on the Internet (often referred to collectively as Web 2.0) are reversing the situation: there are many technologies available now that allow users to personalize their Internet intake and actually create their own content. Millions of individuals (yes, mostly Western, but that's changing) create their own content in their own voice (as if a million amateur writers had their own publishing companies) and these same "amateurs" are also the audience, critics, fans and collaborators of other amateurs.
The distinction between content creator and content consumer are beginning to vanish as individuals seize these new tools to make the Internet into what they want it to be. Firefox, the open source web browser that is designed for such creator-consumers, expresses this in the clever slogan "take back the web."
To read some excerpts from Ivan Illich's Tools for Conviviality and Deschooling Society, click here to visit our workshop wiki. One of my favorite lines was first published in 1970:
What are needed are new networks, readily available to the public and designed to spread equal opportunity for learning and teaching.
Perhaps we're getting there.