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.