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Scientific paper


The Matrix of Convivial Technology?Assessing technologies for degrowth

Andrea Vetter

Entry type:
Scientific paper

Year of publication:

Journal of Cleaner Production


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Keywords: Conviviality; Ethics of technology; Ethnography; Degrowth; Open Source; Ivan Illich

Abstract: This article introduces the notion of convivial technology as a conceptual framework for technologies suitable for degrowth societies. This paper is inspired by Ivan Illich's notion of convivial tools but reconsiders it in the light of current practices and discussions. Looking for a definition of convivial technologies it uses qualitative empirical research conducted with degrowth-oriented groups developing or adapting grassroots technologies like Open Source cargo bikes or composting toilets in Germany. The basic ethical values and design criteria that guide these different groups in relation to technology are summed up into five dimensions: relatedness, adaptability, accessibility, bio-interaction and appropriateness. These dimensions can be correlated with the four life-cycle levels material, production, use and infrastructure to form the Matrix for Convivial Technology (MCT). The MCT is a 20-field schema that can be filled in. Experiences with the tool in different fields are presented. The MCT is itself a convivial tool as it allows for degrowth-oriented groups to self-assess their work and products in a qualitative, context-sensitive and independent way. It is a normative schema that fosters discussion concerning degrowth technologies in contexts of political education. And it is a research method as it helps collecting data about underlying ethical assumptions and aspirations of individuals and groups engaged in developing technology.

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