Handout: King, for "The Diseased Posthuman: Choreographies of Toxic Embodiment," 6 June 2016 -- talk website: http://newmatsf

A Posthumanities International Network (PIN) symposium at Tema Genus (Dept. of Gender Studies), Linköping University, Sweden
Worlds-becoming: diabetes, mood, gut feminisms, new materialist SF
Katie King, Women's Studies, University of Maryland, College Park / Email: katking@umd.edu
Home Page: http://katiekin.weebly.com/ ; follow on twitter @katkingumd ; pinterest talksites: http://pinterest.com/katkingumd/talksites/
“How do you entangle design, science, fact and fiction in order to create this practice called
‘design fiction’ that, hopefully, provides different, undisciplined ways of envisioning new kinds
of environments, artifacts and practices.... Design Fiction is making things that tell stories. It’s
like science-fiction in that the stories bring into focus certain matters-of-concern, such as how
life is lived, questioning how technology is used and its implications, speculating bout the course
of events; all of the unique abilities of science-fiction to incite imagination-filling conversations
about alternative futures. ...It’s meant to encourage truly undisciplined approaches to making and
circulating culture by ignoring disciplines that have invested so much in erecting boundaries
between pragmatics and imagination.” (Bleecker 2005+)
SF – scientifiction, science fiction, speculative fiction, speculative feminisms, science
communication and fabulation, wormholes & the plasticities of embedded realities –
ecological across systems and multiplicities, amid emergent self-organizing agencies

• “People often cannot see what they take for granted until they encounter someone who does not take it for granted.” (Bowker and
Star 1999: 305)
“As I delved deeper into the relations between developers and users, it became clear that a kind of communicative tangle was
occurring. I used the work of Gregory Bateson, who had studied these sorts of communicative mishaps under the heading of ‘double
binds.’ As with Bateson’s work on schizophrenics, and what he called ‘the trans-contextual syndrome,’ the messages that were
coming at level one from the systems developers were not being heard on that level by the users and vice versa. What was obvious to
one was a mystery to another. What was trivial to one was a barrier to another. Yet, clarifying this was never easy…. I began to see
this as a problem of infrastructure—and its relative nature.” (Star 2010, 610)
• phrases quoted from Bateson: "genesis of tangles," "the weave of contextual structure," and "transcontextual syndrome” • More
Bateson: “It seems that both those whose life is enriched by transcontextual gifts and those who are impoverished by transcontextual
confusions are alike in one respect: for them there is always or often a ‘double take.’ A falling leaf [or] the greeting of a friend…is not
‘just that and nothing more.’” (Star & Ruhleder 1996:127 quote Bateson 1972:276; Bateson: 272; Star 2010:610)
BOUNDARY OBJECTS (Bowker & Star 1999: 297-8)
"Boundary objects are those objects that both inhabit several communities of practice and satisfy the informational requirements of
each of them. Boundary objects are thus both plastic enough to adapt to local needs and constraints of the several parties employing
them, yet robust enough to maintain a common identity across sites. They are weakly structured in common use and become strongly
structured in individual site use. These objects may be abstract or concrete.... Such objects have different meanings in different social
worlds but their structure is common enough to more than one world to make them recognizable, a means of translation. The creation
and management of boundary objects is a key process in developing and maintaining coherence across intersecting communities.”
The “rigor” of trancontextual feminist methods comes into play when we welcome peripheral participations (robust across sites) as
well as work for an exquisite sensitivity to each horizon of possible resources and infrastructures, local exigencies, and differential
memberships (plastic and local). Transcontextual feminisms as I have come to understand them, work to remain curious, even about
and in the midst the affects of affiliation and disidentification, scoping extensively and scaling intensively among Ecologies of
Knowledge. (In memory of Susan Leigh Star and her work such as Star 1995)
• intense: needing fine discriminations between kinds of messages for urgent appropriate response as survival appears to be at stake
• contradictory: and this at two different orders of message, each of which denies the other
• unvoiced: not permitting the meta-communicative statements that check one’s choice of what kind of message is appropriate for
response, or otherwise making such checks of context impossible, inappropriate or meaningless. (See Bateson 1972)
Bateson famously said, in “the pronoun we, I of course included the starfish and the redwood forest, the segmenting egg, and the
Senate of the United States.” (Bateson 1979:4) This is one differential set reminding us that ways to speak of “we” and “us” are as
dynamically rescaling bits in systems of complexity and change. To go with and beyond human intention and systems of control we
need many ways to gather now to minimize damage and maximize flourishing. What do we need to gather? “Us” gathers
sympoietically, that is to say, in makings and beings WITH, all these boundary objects storing details and affects. (Haraway 2013) Our
“we” and “us” register too with Bateson’s living patterns, from the starfish’s invertebrate radial symmetry to redwood cloning

timelines to recursive epigenesis, mechanism and structure in a segmenting egg to those human affiliations of power and state and
love that we could wish for in the Senate of the United States. Sometimes people say if it’s about everything it is about nothing. Not
today. Dive into living paradox: systems justice means sharpening focus without narrowing it.
Bateson taught that as animals and children learn to play they come to know that there are some ways a play self can and must be
separated from an everyday self, and they learn to perform this separation in interactive cognitive and social communication forms of
“not”: they amuse themselves by performing the communication “this is not it.” The puppy nips, but not hard enough to injure.
(Violence? Not.) The teen kisses in spin the bottle, but not necessarily the person they like the most. (Sex? Not.) Yet at the same time
there are also other ways in which these selves simply are not separated, in certain physiological processes and psychological
equivalences. The nip actually hurts a bit, the kissing blush and stammer. A double consciousness of being in both these states at the
same time is possible, as Bateson puts it in formal terms, because play creates its own commentary in itself about itself as an intense
and pleasurable interactive dynamism — communicatively social, as well as neurological and hormonal. Such metacommunications
— or communications about communication — are performed by embodied selves at multiple “levels” of organic and social system,
some sequentially, some simultaneously. (Bateson 1972, 1979)
When a set of feminist educators wanted to come up with an alternative to privatizing MOOC platforms they companioned with the
web, partner and workshop, making FemTechNet, a Distributed Open Collaborative Course or DOCC. They inhabited their DOCC
with what Alex Juhasz and Anne Balsamo, media designers and technologists, called caringly “boundary objects that learn.” All of
these feminist specialists in emergent learning processes wanted to enable companionships in which such an object “participates in the
creation of meanings: of identity, or usefulness, of function, of possibilities.” Juhasz and Balsamo reminded us that Susan Leigh Star
(and her various collaborators) came up with the concept of a boundary object “to assert that objects (material, digital, discursive,
conceptual) participate in the co-production of reality. At base, the notion asserts that objects perform important communication
‘work’ among people: they are defined enough to enable people to form common understandings, but weakly determined so that
participants can modify them to express emergent thinking.” (Juhasz & Balsamo 2012) Boundary objects that learn are always up for
redesign, up for speculative feminisms.
• Being inside and moved around literally by the very material and conceptual structures you are analyzing and writing about is a kind
of self-consciousness only partially available for explicit, or direct discussion
• Under global academic restructuring we are obliged to network among all these lively agencies, as we look to see things as they exist
for others, in different degrees of resolution, of grain of detail. (See King 2011)
The “rigor” of transcontextual feminist methods comes into play when we welcome peripheral participations (robust across sites) as
well as work for an exquisite sensitivity to each horizon of possible resources and infrastructures, local exigencies, and differential
memberships (plastic and local). Transcontextual feminisms as I have come to understand them, work to remain curious, even about
and in the midst the affects of affiliation and disidentification, scoping extensively and scaling intensively among Ecologies of
Knowledge. (In memory of Susan Leigh Star and her work such as Star 1995)
INTENSIVE PRACTICES, knowledges, definitions, boundary work: closely negotiated among relatively bounded communities of
practice; such as disciplines-in-the-making, local alliances, threatened units, long-lived organizations; emphasis on rigor and
EXTENSIVE PRACTICES, knowledges, definitions, boundary work: speculative connections, practical coalitions, trial and error
learning; such as transdisciplinary projects, transmedia storytelling, alternative practices-in-the-making; emphasis on peripheral
participation and the edges of standardized practices
• EXTENSIVE investigations perpendicularly analyze relative and relational shifts across authoritative and alternative knowledges
• EXTENSIVE displays can work without displacing INTENSIVE work of specific communities of practice
Some references [more online]: With appreciation and wonder always from inspirations from SF feminisms….

Bateson, G. 1972. "Double Bind, 1969.” In Steps to an Ecology of Mind. Chandler, 276, 272.
Bleecker, J. 2005+. “Design Fiction: A Short Essay on Design, Science, Fact and Fiction.” http://nearfuturelaboratory.com/2009/03/17/design-fiction-a-shortessay-on-design-science-fact-and-fiction/
Bowker, G.C., & Star, S.L. 1999. Sorting things out: classification and its consequences. MIT.
Haraway, D. 2016. Staying with the Trouble: Making kin in the Chthulucene. Duke.
Juhasz, A. and Balsamo, A. 2012. An Idea Whose Time is Here: FemTechNet — A Distributed Online Collaborative Course (DOCC). Ada, a journal of Gender,
New Media & Technology, No.1. http://adanewmedia.org/2012/11/issue1-juhasz/
King, K. 2011. Networked Reenactments: stories transdisciplinary knowledges tell. Duke.
Nadir, L. & Peppermint, C. Ecoarttech: we make art in the biological, cultural, digital wilderness. Online. http://www.ecoarttech.net/
Star, S.L. 2010. “This is Not a Boundary Object.” Science, Technology & Human Values, 35/5: 601-617.
Star, S.L. & Ruhleder, K. 1996. ”Steps toward an ecology of infrastructure.” Information Systems Research 7(1), 127.
Star, S.L., ed. 1995. Ecologies of Knowledge: Work and politics in science and technology. SUNY.