Writing technologies: never just words, never just inscriptions, never just instruments.
Instead, they are things, that is to say, agencies that work simultaneously as processes, objects, disputes, engagements, legalities, rhetorics, complexities, emergences, disturbances. And we speak with them. Just how and what that means a conundrum of a many disciplined scholarly attention for the last four decades at least.
This book argues that we share worlds and agencies with and among the generative and protean disturbances that writing technologies are. Such an argument is oblique: it demonstrates and performs what it says and reflects. Such arguments are necessary and alive today: we are living them, and that is what this book is about.
And, to be even more counter-intuitively attentive, writing technologies are not encompassed by, but rather also encompass writing, another disturbance. All these dislocations are necessary if we are to learn how we gather together with and inhabit, that is to say enfold, living world/s undergoing alterations so complex human minds often find themselves engaging at the bare edge of their understanding.
So this book takes up as a cognitive companion a transdisciplinary object, the Andean khipu, to move among stories of complex systems in emergent adaptation, of an everending planet, and of these several recent decades of scholarly speaking with these things, writing technologies. Such an approach is brand new, yet already entangled among feminist new materialisms, object-oriented ontologies, agential realisms, various orders of cybernetics and cyberfeminisms, media ecologies, and art and game-based activisms. This approach is also one of public pedagogy because it shares how to think with complex systems in an ecological activism of great urgency today.
A design fiction: (very) roughly 5000 years ago in (at least) two segmenting ecologies on our planet humans messed around with some cognitive companions, each coordinating multiple agencies characteristically. • In Mesopotamia tiny clay token sheep were enclosed in clay envelopes with markings indicating what was inside. • In the Andes strings were wrapped around sticks and attached to a main cord. In the first case the favored sensory technology for making was molding and inscribing clay. Worlds set into motion from this sort of making eventually sustain what some consider “true writing”: that is to say, writing that companions preferentially with language. In the second case makings involved spinning plant and animal fiber and feeling, tying, and untying knots. Worlds set into motion there eventually sustain a different sort of writing, one said to be “without words,” instead preferentially coordinating actions and practices directly as their very ecologies.