B: Convivial Tools

Wendell Berry has pointed out that, in his view, any new tool should

1.be cheaper than the one it replaces.
2.It should be at least as small in scale as the one it replaces.
3. It should do work that is clearly and demonstrably better than the one it replaces.
4. It should use less energy than the one it replaces.
5. If possible, it should use some form of solar energy, such as that of the body.
6. It should be repairable by a person of ordinary intelligence, provided that he or she has the necessary tools.
7. It should be purchasable and repairable as near to home as possible.
8. It should come from a small, privately owned shop or store that will take it back for maintenance and repair.
9. It should not replace or disrupt anything good that already exists, and this includes family and community relationships.

This should apply as much to digital tools as to traditional tools. However, with digital tools we face a new and specific set of problems. Developers often create tools that serve part of a process rather than the whole, leaving users to work out which tools work best together. This kind of development privileges the solution of a technical issue over the satisfaction of a human need. We intend to begin addressing this through two practical projects.

Firstly, following a procedure developed at the turn of the century we will create virtual cafés that will each take a cultural issue and seek, through a specific form of online discussion, to grow new and imaginative solutions from the ground up. In the first of these a group will create a manifesto for a digital cultural democracy. The writing process will follow the method developed by Peter Small with which he wrote a series of books using what he termed virtual cafés. These consisted of reimagined internet discussion groups which obeyed the same formal rules as the kind of social behaviour that you might expect to operate in a café or restaurant. People sit at a specific table and discuss with the people at the same table. Meanwhile, at other tables people discuss other related issues; and from this focused process a bottom-up writing and editing process emerges.

This theme will begin with a process of theoretical reflection and then iterate tools to service Co-authorship Cafés. We intend to develop the café as a tool for other people to use.

Secondly, using Pixelache as a testbed, we will seek to develop a digital toolkit for small, mobile and independent groups. We will explore the available open-source software available for coordinating group activities and, more importantly, we will develop a set of suggested templates for how these applications might be connected together and used effectively. We will produce a suggested suite, documentation on how groups might use this toolkit, and online tutorials.