1 Why an Encyclopedia of Convivial Tools?

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This "Convivial Tools" website was originally created to promote Ivan Illich’s idea of convivial tools. The site is currently evolving into an on-line encyclopedia on the subject of convivial tools.

This project of building an on-line encyclopedia raises the following questions:

  • Why build an on-line encyclopedia of convivial tools?
  • Can a single person write an Encyclopedia?
  • If much of the information provided herein is already available on Wikipedia, why make a separate encyclopedia?

The above questions are addressed in this article.

A related question concerns how well this website conforms to the definition of a true encyclopedia? This related question is addressed in the separate article "Is this Website an Encyclopedia?."

Why Develop an Encyclopedia of Convivial Tools?

The original intention of this website was to present the ideas developed by Ivan Illich in his book "Tools for Conviviality", as well as to describe current trends in the area of convivial tools.

The set-up of the website in "articles" organized under "headings" rapidly led to an accumulation of numerous articles on various aspects of convivial tools. In light of this steady expansion of content, it seemed advisable to create a separate website to host detailed articles concerning specific technical tools. Moreover, it seemed preferable to create this separate website as a collaborative wiki, in order to share with a community the work of writing detailed articles about specific technical tools.

A separate website was therefore set up in order to host the foreseen articles about specific technical tools. In the meantime, however, it was realised that the accumulating texts relating to convivial tools should instead be distributed among several separate websites in the following manner:

  • A site for factual encyclopedia articles: the present Convival Tools Encyclopedia
  • A site for practical how-to articles: the Convivial Tools User Guide
  • A collaborative site for work on projects relating to convivial tools: the Convivial Projects Wiki
  • A site for original research: since an encyclopedia should be free of "original research," it may be necessary to create a site to host articles that come under this category

The above distribution of article among websites reflects that practiced by the collaborative encyclopedia Wikipedia. The administrators of Wikipedia created a series of separate sites to host material that is potentially of interest but should by nature be excluded from an encyclopedia. For example, an encyclopedia article should avoid speculative originality and simply describe the past and existing state of knowledge and thinking on the covered topic.

Is is Feasible for a Single Person to Write an Encyclopedia?

Unlike Wikipedia, which is a collaborative on-line encyclopedia, this Convivial Tools Encyclopedia is the work of a single individual. Maintaining individual editorial control procures certain advantages, including the ability to present a strong unified vision, and the capacity to edit in order to obtain the desired result with relative concision.

But is it feasible for one person to write such an encyclopedia? The answer is that such a project is rendered possible by the existence of Wikipedia. The on-line availability of an extensive, collaborative, peer-controlled source of pre-digested data is what makes it possible even to conceive of a single-handed encyclopedia project, no matter how small.

However, this immediately raises the following question: if most of the information provided herein is already available on Wikipedia, why make a separate encyclopedia? This is addressed in the following section.

If most of the information provided herein is already available on Wikipedia, why make a separate encyclopedia?

Since Wikipedia is a vast and exhaustive website, it can be difficult to obtain a concise overview of any given topic. Even if one develops the habit of systematically consulting the "Category" sections (which most users probably fail to do) it is easy to miss relevant articles.

The present website thus serves a number of functions that make it a complement to the Wikipedia site, including:

  • all of the articles herein have some direct relation to convivial tools, a pertinent focus which is lost in the corresonding articles on the Wikipedia site
  • many of the articles herein present a condensation of material that is spread over many articles on the Wikipedia site

Many of the articles on the present site in fact function as guides to finding more detailed information in the labyrinth of Wikipedia.