From Michael's Internet Database
Ivan Illich's ideas about Convivial Tools could be applied to the design of appliances, in order to give them the characteristics of convivial tools, notably reparability. Designing appliances to be easily repaired by their owners would give consumers more control over the tools they use, and would reduce waste by making appliances more durable.
While this project is about making tools more reparable, it could also involve designing tools that are easy to construct, dissassemble, recycle, and reassemble in new combinations. Thus reparability is the basic characteristic, starting from which a broader range of convivial characteristics could be developed for the appliances.
This project is ambitious, since it involves the design, manufacture and distribution of appliances, which is a capital-intensive industrial activity. The project could thus be divided into phases, as follows:
- Communicate via blog and website
- Build the reparable tools community
- Develop reparable tools activities
- Create a reparable tools company
Communicate via blog and website
I've also just created a Reparable Tools blog, but it is as yet empty
Build the reparable tools community
The next step would be to create a community around this theme - or find and join an existing community. Some activities that could help develop the community might be:
- Establish a social website (a forum or a social network) on the theme of reparable tools
- Set up a wiki on the theme of reparable tools
Develop reparable tools activities
Once a community has been formed around the theme of reparable tools, the community could undertake group actions, such as:
- Identify the best available existing reparable products, and publish the information via a consumer-reports type of website
- Write typical specifications that reparable tools should conform to, and encourage manufacturers to create products conforming to them
- Commission a pilot appliance to be manufactured by a contractor according to reparable specifications
Create a reparable tools company
The most difficult step would be to create a company to design and sell reparable tools.
With proper specifications, the actual design and manufacture could be sub-contracted. A good place to start might be to develop a reparable computer. For example, the blogger Michael Arrington almost succeeded in developing a tablet computer, a few months before Apple introduced the iPad, by subcontracting the fabrication to an Asian firm.
The key to developing a reparable tools product line would be to develop convivial customer service. This would include the following services:
- Provide online a set of highly usable maintenance manuals, including full instructions for trouble-shooting and repair
- Provide garanteed online availability of all necessary spare parts over the expected life of the product
- Develop a complete customer-relations service, including help services and collection of customer feedback
An additional customer-service function could be to provide a service for recycling of broken parts or appliances, whereby the customers could mail critical dissassembled components back to the company to be recycled.