Language for Today

Laineys Repertoire, flickr

Laineys Repertoire, flickr

I just read “Is Language A Window into Human Nature” on Space Collective, in which the author argues that language must be reinvented in order to address our new technological age and the obstacles of this age. I find this interesting, because I’ve been having a difficult time describing what exactly Harlot is in the minutiae. Yes, we publish articles (and mighty nifty ones, I might add), but we’re not just another journal. Heck no, we’re specifically geared toward interactivity and community–through comments, the blog, the wiki. We’re a “place” and a “space” for dialogue. So, why is it that I can’t stop using those two words?

The hesitation I have to use certain words (ie publication, journal, magazine) stems from the connotation of those words. I’m not a big fan of the word “forum” either, simply because I don’t want it confused with bboards or message boards. We are online, after all, and that could easily be misinterpreted by the web savvy.

I wonder if we require our own special word. Hmm. We’re a publication and a community, so we’re a publunity? We’re a journal and a space, so we’re a jourace? Oh, I know, we’re a mag, a blog, and a wiki, so we’re a mogi. Ha, sounds like a band name.

None of these are going to catch on. First of all, they’re terrible, and secondly, they don’t carry any context for readers. That’s what makes creating a new language so difficult. If it doesn’t happen organically, then it’s hard to force on anybody, because no one knows what you’re talking about and they don’t really care to.

Do I wish for one perfect word to encompass all that Harlot is and will be? Absolutely. It’d make my job easier, but at the same time, isn’t it my job to try and attain that–to be active in the movement that is Harlot and push for the convergence of multiple forms of contribution. To encourage the amalgamation of top-down and bottom-up voices in this community? So, what do we call it? Other than a “place” or a “space” or simply Harlot. An interactive online publication? A web-mag and community? A rhetorical realm for the populice? How do you describe all that you are in one simple, understandable word if that word has yet to exist yet?

Available Harlot Positions

Want to show Harlot some love? Think you can show us how it’s done? Ready to play?

We’re looking for new recruits and fresh ideas — not to mention skills. Work with super-cool contributors and reviewers. Enter the exciting world of HTML. Be a magnanimous zenith of greatness. Er, help keep Harlot‘s feet on the ground.

If you’re interested or want more information, shoot us an email at harlot.osu[at]gmail[dot]com.

Open positions include:

Managing Editor

  • Guide Submissions through Review Process
  • Assign and Recruit Reviewers
  • Correspond with Contributors

Layout Editor

  • Prepare Accepted Submissions for Online Publication

Editorial Assistant

  • Manage all of Harlot‘s Interactive Spaces
  • Promotion

Tech Assistant

  • Improve and Update Harlot with HTML, CSS, and working knowledge of PHP and Javascript
  • Ability to Learn and Adjust to Changing Technologies

You can also find this information in our Announcements and on our Project Page. We encourage you to forward any of these pages on to people you think would be interested. Help us out by posting it around the blogosphere and passing it on to your friends.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Harlot Symposium: Presidential Rhetoric

Check out Harlot’s latest call for contributions for a symposium on presidential rhetoric:

Presidents and Presidential Hopefuls of 2008/2009
Presidents and Presidential Hopefuls of 2008/2009

Throughout a heady election season, the conclusion of a divisive administration, and an inauguration that attracted a record 1.8 million people to Washington D.C., American presidents and presidential hopefuls have performed a flurry of persuasive acts, some stilted, some eloquent, some mangled, some unintentional, some iconic. What have been the most pivotal moments in American politics in the last year? What stood out, made you laugh, made you yell, made you think? What conversations should the nation — and the world — have as we move forward?

We welcome short contributions of 500-750 words or video/audio productions of 1-2 minutes (or any combination thereof) that explore an issue or phenomenon you think is stimulating, amusing, or uncomfortable — as long as it is insightful. Submissions are due by Monday, March 2, 2009.

Call for Submissions: Issue 2

Harlot is getting around. Our October launch issue prompted visitors from around the globe, with over 13,000 hits on our first day — from the UK to Hong Kong, Italy to Oman, Argentina to Tanzania. The first issue contained a rich and varied set of creative and critical reflections, including interactive digital collages, queer theory provocations, ekphrastic poetry, and rhetorical analyses ranging from Disney to Christmas carols. We’ve received fascinating feedback–glowing, glowering, helpful, and hilarious — that will continue to shape Harlot‘s future, with your help.

Here’s our challenge to you for the next issue: take it to the streets. Harlot is looking for submissions that take a smart and savvy look at everyday persuasions. Mess with the mundane. Question the quotidian. What messages do your shoes send? How does that graffiti mess with your mind? Do you find guilt trips compelling? What makes you stop and stare (or fight or flee) on your way to work? Do you like rhetorical questions?

We welcome contributions of all sorts — no observation too pointed, no style too random. Submissions for the spring issue are due February 2. So, get out there and analyze the everyday, critique the common, and bring the banal to Harlot.

The Essential Part of Running a Website

Let’s say you’re playing around on the Harlot site. You’re enjoying yourself–reading some mad good works of writing, writing comments, adding content to the wiki, having discussions–and, oh no, there’s something you don’t like. The comments are not intuitive to what the reader needs. The design is hard on your eyes. The logo’s too big. Or a number of other issues.

Well, well. Do I have a post for you. Because this site is meant to be a space for you and your needs, we want to make the best space that we can for you. It’s kinda like your favorite coffee shop, but cooler. This is your opportunity to help tailor Harlot to you. So, hit me with the feedback. Good, bad, totally apathetic. You can email us at or leave a comment. Here if you like or under the Editors’ Letter.

Tell me what you think, what you want, what you like, what you think doesn’t work.

Now, realize that I may only be able to do so much for ya, and if you ask for a Thoroughbred, you might end up with a Tennessee Walker. Jus’ Sayin’. There is a limited amount of time and support.

To preempt some of the things that do come up, know that our first priority is to create a single login session for all of our systems. That means instead of signing in for all the separate entities: Blog, Wiki, and the home page, you will only need to sign in once for all three. Useful, eh? We think so. Of course, we have been working on it (or I should say that our amazing PHP Programmer, Jason, has been working on it), but you may just have to bear with us as we go through the technical woes.

I mean, we have a whole list of things we’d like to see, but I know that y’all will have concerns that we never even thought about. So, please, tell us what you want. Tell us how to make the site better for you.

And We’re Launched!

Exciting times.

We’ve now unveiled our (temporary) home for Harlot. It contains our call for submissions, information about the origins of this project, the pilot issue and sample texts we presented at the Feminism(s) and Rhetoric(s) conference, and a link to this blog. If you haven’t already seen it, take a look: We always welcome and very much appreciate feedback of any sort.

And now we’re moving toward the next phase: solidifying our editorial process and producing a tech platform (content management system) to streamline that process. It’s interesting how the conceptual and technological are working hand in hand for us. As we make decisions about what the editorial process will entail, we are customizing the back-end system to allow such a process to take place with ease. And, yet, at the same time the existing technology is showing us how a version of how this process can work and is thus affecting the details of the editorial process.

A symbiotic relationship it is.

It’s cool that we’ve come to this juncture with two solid frameworks – one a publication process and the other an existing and powerful software – that must adjust in other to accommodate and complement each other all while preserving the mission of Harlot.

If anyone is curious, we are looking at Open Journal Systems (OJS), an open source software we hope to customize. The system itself is already quite advanced and complex enough to handle general editorial processes for journals, but as it is geared toward print publications, we need to work out what may be the limitations of its setup and how we can make it friendlier toward multimedia and multiple-file submissions. We will also have to adjust the default front-end (interface), which means we will be designing and building our website all over again. Our current site, then, will eventually be an artifact of our journey, but it has been a big stepping stone for all of us: We can all understand tech-speak better than we ever imagined, and we’ve all become a bit more savvy at matters of design and Web publishing. We hope with the publishing of our debut issue will come our best design yet.

We’ll keep you tuned in on how our progress is going. In the meantime, we’d like to give a heartfelt thanks to Kaitlin, who’s worked endlessly and tirelessly with us in producing the current and pilot sites for Harlot. We are grateful for all the time, work, and heart she’s put into this effort with us. And as the pendulum swings from techy to even more techy with the customization of our back-end system, we’re putting our faith in Warren and Shilpa, who are fluent in languages we’ve never heard spoken before. They are certainly the next generation of computer whisperers.

The Production of Knowledge — And the Harlot of the Arts

An excerpt from the introduction to “The Birth of Understanding: Chaste Science and the Harlot of the Arts”

Celeste Michelle Condit

Two metaphors dominate our discussions of knowledge. The “old” metaphor sees knowledge as something discovered. Through this looking glass, great individuals like Newton, Columbus, and Einstein have added to the treasury of knowledge, whether by apples dropped on their heads, misguided efforts to get to the Orient, or true genius. Today another metaphor is widely employed to describe the augmentation of the international human treasure—that of production. In spite of the Nobel prize’s obduracy in spotlighting individuals, most of us know that knowledge is produced by anonymous groups relying less on apples, genius, and missed directions and ever more upon inhumanly clever computers, research teams of aspiring academics, and public funding.

What, however, if we refuse to see knowledge as “discovered” or even as “produced”? What if knowledge is reproduced? “Born” of human interactions, ways of understanding grow or fail to grow to maturity (or paradigmatic status if you will). They either pass on their genetic structure to new generations or pass on. In such a metaphor we might find the capacity for exploring the intercourse between rhetoric and science.

After all, rhetoric (the harlot of the arts) and the social science of communication (the sanctimoniously chaste youth) have been pressed up against each other for something around forty years now. Each has experienced a different torment, locked in a tiny compartment of the university, scrapping for crumbs of academic prestige (fulfilling the destiny Henry Kissinger noted for academics, by fighting so viciously because there is so little at stake). Each denies any hanky-panky, protesting respectively, that “the youth won’t pay” and “she’s no lady.” There are signs, however of offspring; there are increasing numbers of lines of study that borrow from the scholarly traditions of both rhetoric and social scientific communication research. Are these offspring legitimate? Do they give us true “knowledge”? Examining the family traits may lead us toward a genealogical conclusion.

Communication Monographs, Vol 57, Dec. 1990.

Unveiling Harlot

Whew! It’s been a crazy few weeks (months, actually), and the unveiling of this project (ok, yes, pun intended) has gone about as smoothly as we could hope. In the process, we got a first-hand look at the ancient rhetorical concept of audience when our two presentations — first at our university as part of the LiteracyStudies@OSU initiative and then at the FemRhet conference in Little Rock — sparked substantially different discussions.

At OSU, a rather energetic debate followed over the word, harlot. I’d love to map out the evolution of the conversation (perhaps we should post a synopsis of it at some point), but I’ll just mention some details here. Concern was raised over whether the name is worth the potential amount of people who may be offended and turned away, worth the amount of rethinking we hope to spark with the OED definitions of harlot, the subtitle (a persuasive look at the arts of persuasion), the url (, a description of the term’s relationship to rhetorical studies, and so on. How much are we willing to risk turning people away from this space before they even put effort into figuring out the philosophy behind the name?

Several people jumped in with responses in our favor — to the point where we nearly didn’t have to answer. My favorite response came from Jim Fredal (and I hope I paraphrase well enough): If in five years Harlot is still doing the work it seeks, the meanings (denotations and connotations) currently affiliated with the word will shift. The space of Harlot has the ability not only to question but also to write the ways in which symbols (words) are understood. And with this, we were momentarily struck silent with the grandeur of the idea. If only. . . .

An overwhelming topic that arose at the FemRhet conference revolved around issues of academic publishing. It was quite a shame that Tim, our resident student of academic publishing, couldn’t attend since he hadn’t yet been a member of our team when our conference proposal was submitted. His part of the presentation would have been very valuable for this crowd. Many voiced a desire to publish in a space like Harlot for reasons of philosophy and service. The problem, however, is that many scholars cannot put aside time to produce work that doesn’t directly apply toward tenure requirements. Many of the digital productions teachers spend time, energy, and thought producing are not recognized by current standards, and yet these productions are what bring scholarly work into the digital age, allowing networks and information streams to form and flow among professional scholars, students, and areas of study.

This discussion is probably what weighs heaviest on me right now. What standards must we put into effect to give academic authors a tangible reason for submitting to Harlot? In other words, if Harlot is supposed to be a space in which academic and public audiences come together on equal footing to discuss matters of persuasion in today’s culture, to what extent do we have an obligation toward scholars to produce submission criteria that would enable them to face their tenure and promotion committees and proudly present their accepted Harlot publications? Will we lose this part of our community if we don’t somehow oblige? When will the practicing of one’s scholarly philosophy in an online space finally become an aspect of academic work that is accepted, respected, and appreciated?

As always, for those of you who attended either presentation or who are reading our thoughts-in-progress in this blog, we welcome and urge your input. Establishing criteria for submitting to Harlot should be communally agreed upon . . . as in line with the philosophy of Harlot.