Friday, December 30, 2005

Convivial Systems: Broadband, Ivan Illich, and Architecture

I've been writing and reading a lot about wireless broadband (one project) and also Economic Development (another project).

I remembered a wonderful book - Deschooling Society, by Ivan Illich.

    At the opposite extreme of the spectrum lie institutions distinguished by spontaneous use-the "convivial" institutions.

    Telephone link-ups, subway lines, mail routes, public markets and exchanges do not require hard or soft sells to induce their clients to use them. Sewage systems, drinking water, parks, and sidewalks are institutions men use without having to be institutionally convinced that it is to their advantage to do so.

    Of course, all institutions require some regulation. But the operation of institutions which exist to be used rather than to produce something requires rules of an entirely different nature from those required by treatment-institutions, which are manipulative.

    The rules which govern institutions for use have mainly the purpose of avoiding abuses which would frustrate their general accessibility. Sidewalks must be kept free of obstructions, the industrial use of drinking water must be held within limits, and ball playing must be restricted to special areas within a park. At present we need legislation to limit the abuse of our telephone lines by computers, the abuse of mail service by advertisers, and the pollution of our sewage systems by industrial wastes.

    The regulation of convivial institutions sets limits to their use; as one moves from the convivial to the manipulative end of the spectrum, the rules progressively call for unwilling consumption or participation. The different cost of acquiring clients is just one of the characteristics which distinguish convivial from manipulative institutions.

    From Deschooling Society

    I went to the school he founded (CIDOC) in the 70s. Although I learned a language, the real "take-away" were Illich's ideas.

    Happy New Year

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