Convivial Mechanics: an introduction

woodcut

This project began many years ago and came to fruition in Sheffield in November 2015 and June 2016, when I made two presentations at Access Space. I realised that I could draw an interestingly wiggly line between my work as a community artist in the 1980s, my arts research, and my work with online media now. As of October 2016 this website exists and the project can start to become public. I can start to become we.

Convivial

In 1971 Ivan Illich, the activist philosopher, suggested that to

formulate a theory about a future society both very modern and not dominated by industry, it will be necessary to recognize natural scales and limits. Once these limits are recognized, it becomes possible to articulate the triadic relationship between persons, tools, and a new collectivity. Such a society, in which modern technologies serve politically interrelated individuals rather than managers, I will call “convivial.”

He wrote that he chose

the term “conviviality” to designate the opposite of industrial productivity. I intend it to mean autonomous and creative intercourse among persons, and the intercourse of persons with their environment; and this in contrast with the conditioned response of persons to the demands made upon them by others, and by a man-made environment.

The concept of conviviality gives us a clear goal to aim at. We do not intend to “make the world better” (because inevitably that means something different to each of us) but rather to work towards a jointly understood goal of conviviality.

Mechanics

We use the word mechanics in all three senses proposed in the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

1 : a branch of physical science that deals with energy and forces and their effect on bodies
2: the practical application of mechanics to the design, construction, or operation of machines or tools
3: mechanical or functional details or procedure

Convivial Mechanics

Convivial mechanics, therefore, names a hypothetical branch of science and artistic research that explores the existence of natural limits on human behaviour, both material and social; researches the implications of conviviality for cultural democracy; and applies this to the design, construction and operation of digital tools that will serve the aims of a reborn and convivial sufficiency.