Convivial Design Heuristics for Software Systems

Paper by stephenrkell (2020)

Consider how many web applications contain their own embedded ‘rich text’ editing widget. If linking were truly at the heart of the web’s design, a user (not just a developer) could supply their own preferred editor easily, but such a feat is almost always impossible. A convivial system should not contain multitudes; it should permit linking to them.

The battle for convivial software in this sense appears similar to other modern struggles, such as the battle to avert climate disaster. Relying on local, individual rationality alone is a losing game: humans lack the collective consciousness that collective rationality would imply, and much human activity happens as the default result of ‘normal behaviour’. To shift this means to shift what is normal. Local incentives will play their part, but social doctrines, whether relatively transactional notions such as intergenerational contract, or quasi-spiritual notions of our evolved bond with the planet, also seem essential if there is to be hope of steering humans away from collective destruction.


  • suggesters: jryans
  • curators: jryans