Katie King, “Living in enough worlds at the same time: speculative feminisms amid boundary objects” ~ KN2

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Review by Crystal VanKooten

Read more about Keynote 2 on the C&W conference site.
Consult handouts, slides, and other materials related to this keynote at the living in enough worlds website.

“Computers & writing make up a series of spatial-temporal eco-zones, object ecologies, that keep on re-teaching me what I partially learned in the past, and now can begin to enfold trans-contextually.”
– Katie King  

June 15
It’s Saturday morning, and I lean in toward my laptop screen, still in my pajamas. I’ve just uploaded video of several sessions to the Computers and Writing conference website, and while there, I click on video of Kyle Stedman’s presentation on sound that I had to miss on the last afternoon of the conference. On the screen, I see Kyle’s image, and I also hear his voice, along with light saber sound effects, music, the audience’s laughter, and the clicking of the buttons on Kyle’s computer as he presents. I smile, sip my tea, and shift in my seat as I watch, listen, laugh, and…write.

“I am newly interested in those dynamics through which we participate in, are ENFOLDED among such complex systems, and WHY it matters to share with each other and students how we OURSELVES become one sort of thing among those self-organizing in our environment, our ecologies.”

June 7
I’m eating salmon and listening to Katie King talk about media ecologies, writing (I think), nepantleras, khipu, pastpresents, agency, collaboration, and transcontextuality. I’m also taking notes on my laptop, trying desperately not to drop food on the keyboard. And King is telling me about khipu (a Quechua word for “knot”): age-old Andean textile artifacts made of cotton or fibers used for record-keeping. Khipu make meaning without words in seven-bit binary code, she says, and to do so they use a primary chord with pendant chords and attached subsidiary chords. Khipu communicate multimodally with strings and knots—they write—using materials, colors, relationships, attachments, directionality, number class, and information type. I chew on this information (and my salmon) as plates and silverware scrape and tinkle at the tables around me. My neighbor is on her phone, tweeting or perhaps checking something online. And I type, look, taste, listen…and write.

“Khipu possibilities in speculative play today consider how writing might operate as a system or perhaps several interacting systems, each with alternate layers of semiosis mapped onto or perhaps better, mapping themselves together with other objects and features of the world than words, indeed some never verbalized.”

June 5
I am packing for the Computers and Writing conference, and I have a lot of stuff to pack and bring. And it’s all writing stuff. While I’m charging both battery packs for my video camera, I make sure its case and my tripod are ready to go. I pack headphones, and extra speakers in case the sound in my presentation room doesn’t work or is bad. I find an extension cord, my audio recorder, some spare AAA batteries, and my digital camera. And I realize I need another bag for all this stuff, so I root around in my closet for one. I pack my laptop, its power cord, printed copies of my presentation transcript, my USB clicker, and my external hard drives. Oh yeah, and pens. I need pens and paper, too. So I pile all this stuff into folders and bags as I double check my lists, organize, recharge, plan, think, and…write.

“it is to our own advantage to come to terms with our own practices of semiotic heterogeny […], with our own needs to collaborate in emergent knowledges of complex systems and to inhabit responsibly a range of ecologies that matter.”

June 17
I’m drafting this review of Katie King’s keynote, and I open up the notes I took while she was speaking. They are partial, fragmented, incomplete. Some of my sentences trail off into nothing: I wrote, for example, “Necessary practices for participation in one’s world. Collaborations – projects of a feminist humanities. Open to eco-understandings in which media are      ” So I click through the conference website to the keynote website that King has constructed, where I read information about context for the talk and definitions of terms like transcontextual. I look at pictures of khipu (there are lots!), and I google khipu and read about Peru. I follow an Internet trail that leads me to read about Anzaldúa and nepantla (which means “tierra en medio,”  I learn), I remember reading Borderlands and I hunt for my copy on my book shelf, I re-view King’s slides and re-read the text of her talk. Then I go to Twitter, and I look up the tweets that were sent during King’s talk. I get lost for a while looking at Melanie Kill’s conversation explorer and searchable Twitter archive, looking for myself and my friends in the complex web of interactions represented there. And even though I’m sitting here alone in my office, again leaning in toward my laptop screen, I collaborate, I converse, I search and I find. I weave cords, tie and untie knots, attach, and count, and assemble. I….well, I write.

“Khipu, design fictions, boundary objects, all these participate with nepantleras, not just to facilitate moving among worlds, but to augment their realities: to learn and demonstrate how to be affected or moved, how to open up unexpected elements of one’s own embodiments in lively and re-sensitizing worlds.” 


Crystal VanKooten
is a Ph.D. candidate in the Joint Program in English and Education at the University of Michigan.  Her current research explores teaching and learning through audio-visual composition in the writing classroom.

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