What is The Convivial Society?

The Convivial Society is a newsletter exploring the relationship between technology and society. It’s grounded in the history and philosophy of technology, with more than a sprinkling of media ecology. No hot takes, only shamelessly deliberate considerations of the meaning of technology for human experience.

The newsletter’s title pays homage to two older books—Jacques Ellul’s The Technological Society and Ivan Illich’s Tools for Conviviality—and it is written by Michael Sacasas, an independent scholar of technology and culture whose bylines include The New Atlantis, Real Life, Comment Magazine, The New Inquiry, the American, and Second Nature Journal and whose work has been cited in The Atlantic and The New York Times.

Don’t Take My Word For It

“For more than ten years, Michael Sacasas has been one of the most penetrating and stimulating critics of digital technology, probing its social, personal, and moral consequences.” — Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows and The Glass Cage

“L.M. Sacasas’s ‘The Convivial Society’ is one of the newsletters I most look forward to getting.” — Ezra Klein, New York Times columnist and host of The Ezra Klein Show

“While so much online commentary oozes outrage and snark, Sacasas chose to follow a different path. Motivated by curiosity, tempered by reverence for the value of history, and committed to patiently unpacking nuanced issues concerning aesthetic, moral, political, and religious values, Sacasas established himself as the public philosopher of technology.” — Evan Selinger, Prof. Philosophy, Rochester Institute of Technology

“There has been many a philosophical full court press on the character of technology. I’m not sure they have done much to change a culture that is urgently in need of transformation. Michael’s persistent and unassuming explorations will have a better chance—that’s my hope.” — Albert Borgmann, Regents Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, University of Montana  

“For ten years, L.M. Sacasas’ The Frailest Thing offered us many of the most powerful, nuanced, and profound ruminations to be found on the relationship between technology and our moral and political lives — the acute frailty of which both history and the present moment urgently remind us.” — Shannon Vallor, Baillie Gifford Chair in the Ethics of Data and Artificial Intelligence, University of Edinburgh

“He writes in the tradition of Marshall McLuhan, Neil Postman, Jacques Ellul, and the Bill McKibben of Age of Missing Information (1992), a little-remembered, brilliant book for which McKibben watched an entire day’s worth of cable TV – every channel. Sacasas is a worthy heir to these writers; his analyses of the ways that social media fails us, the way it warps our political conversation, convict and convince.” — Phil Christman, Plough

What to Expect

The main newsletter goes out three to four times monthly. It includes an essay and, periodically, links to an eclectic array of resources for making sense of our time with varying degrees of accompanying commentary. Additional posts include occasional discussion threads and reading groups, the latter for paid subscribers only.

Why Should I Subscribe?

The Convivial Society runs on a patronage model. The vast majority of what is published will arrive in your inbox if you sign up for the free emails. If you value the work, I encourage you to consider a paid subscription. In doing so you will be supporting the writer and his work, no small thing in these times.

A yearly subscription for $45 amounts to $3.75 per month. You also have the option to subscribe on a monthly basis at $5 per month. And should you have wealth to burn, you can subscribe as a Supporting Member at a higher rate of your choosing.

Alternatively, you can support the Convivial Society through the options available via Gumroad.