|click for Urton & Brezine's Harvard website|
It was in the context of research on historical and cross-cultural writing technologies that I first learned about the khipu, this Andean recording device made from strings and knots, once considered "counting" and not "writing." What counts as writing? as counting? as connecting or disconnecting them? Restructuring knowledge systems in the nineties and after create contexts -- economies, critical design, speculative feminisms, technology infrastructures, excavations, new historical knowledges -- for cascading • forms of attention and • frames of analysis for alternative khipu speculations at different •grains of detail. The khipu is both something to think WITH and something to think ABOUT.
|Fiber & ethnocategories in Lechtman's MIT course for engineers; interactive demo for Bongen & Karahoalios' Photo Khipu; click image for King's Pinterest KHIPU board with other transdiscplinary khipu links|
Khipu knowledges today are created, shared, demonstrated, used, and stored in many writing technological forms: not only monographs, books, conference talks, but also websites, databases, images, exhibitions, reenactments, television documentaries, tourist and heritage tours, sites and festivals, as well as village and kinship ritual work processes. Gender and nationality, ethnicity and race, indigenous politics and university restructuring, all play roles in such systems entangled as current processes of globalization. We could call this plethora a kind of "transmedia storytelling" involving transdisciplinary knowledge makings: both extensive inspections and intensive collaborations, across platforms and knowledge worlds. (King 2010 ; Anderson et al. 2009; Beynon-Davies 2007; 2009; 2012; Lechtman 2010; Bongen & Karahalios 2009; and others linked on my Pinterest site)
Thus khipu are things in the sense joked about by Bruno Latour: "Facts are no longer the mouth-shuting alternative to politics, but what has to be stabilized instead. To use another etymology, 'objects' which had been conceived as wholly exterior to the social and political realm, have become 'things' again, that is, in the sense of the mixture of assemblies, issues, causes for concerns, data, law suits, contoversies which the words res, causa, chose, aitia, ding have designated in all the European languages." (Latour 2002:21)