Social Media? Rhetoric? We got that.

We’ve rhetoricked a lot about social media, but it’s hard to locate all the rhetoricking our authors have done. So here’s a list with all our work analyzin’, criticizin’, and, pokin’ fun at social media communication practices. Below you’ll find all our pieces on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube.

Enjoy, up your social media savvy, use for a class you’re teachin’ on rhetoric, show you’re in the know and disperse and spread our work on social media through, well, social media!

FACES of Facebook

Worlds Collide! Facebook, family, and George Costanza by Amy L. Spears and Julie Driscoll93-853-1-PB

tease: Facebook, family, George Costanza and awkward communication collisions in this cool analysis and interface about negotiatin’ different Facebook publics.





Like Me, Like Me Not by Paul Muhlhauser (@doctamuhlhauser) and Andrea Campbell (@akatecampbell)

tease: Explore the rhetoric behind “like” and the possibilities of “dislike” in this pretty darn cool interface on Facebook’s ubiquitous participation button. Includes Ryan Gosling memes!




Death: The End We All Have to Face(book) cover_article_215_en_USby Christine Martorana (@MaddoxChristine)

tease: This article describes the ways mourners turning to online spaces following the death of a loved one and notes the following: 1) Digital technologies are reconfiguring the permanence of death, inviting the living to recreate the deceased as a heavenly intermediary, and 2) this continued virtual existence of the deceased alongside the constant accessibility of digital technologies is opening a space for death-related egocentrism.

PINNING down Pinterest

Queer-the-Tech: Genderfucking and Anti-Consumer Activism in Social Media by Matthew A. Vetter (@MatthewVetter)

cover_article_195_en_UStease: Pinterest Activism! This essay, and the activism it introduces, demonstrates an appropriation of Pinterest, a “pinboard-style” social media network, for the purposes of subverting and exposing its typical heteronormative and pro-consumer practices.


Super Mom in a Box by Lindsey Harding (@linzharding)cover_article_197_en_US.png

tease: Check out how Pinterest influences identity formation in mothers who interact with the site. See how the site’s postfeminist content and interaction design create a hypermaternal identity for maternal interactors.


Encomium on the Overlord by KT Torrey (@catchclaw)resize

tease: This ode to Misha Collins and his success as an activist through Twitter is just, well, fun and darn insightful.  See how Collins’ construction of a megalomaniacal Twitter persona known as the Overlord has afforded him a particular kind of disruptive ethos, one he’s used to persuade his fans to regard both “normalcy” as a social problem and acts of art and public performance as effective means of addressing that ill.


Pleased to Tweet You by Cate Blouke (@CateBlouke)235-2028-1-PB

tease: Before you live-tweet, ya gotta read this this article that explores the ethics and rhetoric of live-tweeting.  The piece also challenges traditional argument by arguing using Twitter!

The YOU in YouTube

The Irony of YouTube: Politicking Cool by Jessie Blackburn 36-272-1-PB

tease: The rhetoric of YouTube, celebrity, and voting is explored in this piece. This article examines one of the most intriguing pieces of online political dialogue to circulate YouTube during the last few weeks of the presidential campaign. The widely circulated YouTube video known as “5 Friends” features high-profile celebrities ironically encouraging viewers to see the act of voting as a “trendy,” even “hip” behavior. In this article, I refute the assumption that youth voters lack political stamina beyond the ballot boxes…

Let’s Get Awkward: Vloggers “A Rousing Intercourse” Take on Aporia

aporia-take-2 from Paul Muhlhauser on Vimeo.
Dear Viewers,
A Rousing Intercourse is BACK. This second episode is about aporia – using uncertainty and confusion effectively as a rhetorical strategy.

You’ll chuckle, you’ll chortle, and you’ll awkward as we examine the benefits of going off-script. Pour yourself a martini if you need to take the awkward edge off, and enjoy.

Play #DefineRhetoric & win pounds of prestige

Rhetors, Technorhetors, Rhetotechnos, and Compositionists,

It’s that time again.  Our Define Rhetoric competition has begun. Help us add to the almost three million different definitions of rhetoric we’ve found. Help us flavor the world with new perspectives on what rhetoric is, isn’t, and does, doesn’t. Come up with THE best definition of rhetoric for 2013 and you’ll win a sweet trophy, a gift certificate to, and, well, between 10-20 pounds of prestige.

To play:

  1. You’ve gotta tweet. If you don’t have a Twitter account, ya gotta make one.
  2. Tweet your brand new definition of rhetoric, your tweaked or remixed definition of rhetoric, one you’ve liked from a theorist, or even a visual or audio definition. You can play or define as many times as ya’d like.
  3. Put the hashtag #DefineRhetoric somewhere in your definition because we find the definitions using that hashtag.
  4. DUE DATE– September 15th 2013.

We encourage you to have fun and play with what rhetoric can mean. Be your own Plato, Aristotle, Aspasia. Be your own Burke, Richards, Perelman. Be your own Villanueva, Glenn, Lanham. And in the spirit of givin’ cred where cred is due, we ask you to try to cite your sources as best ya can when ya tweak or remix or quote a definition.

Here are a few we’ve gotten so far.  Check out how last year’s champ @RhetRock is already defending his title:

  • #definerhetoric Rhetoric is how your persuade yourself that you can get ONE MORE DAY out of that empty tube of toothpaste.
    by @RhetRock

And, if ya getta chance, follow us on Twitter (@HarlotTweets) for competition updates and tweets that will make your wildest dreams come true!

Good luck and good rhetoricking!

Sweet Trophy!
Sweet trophy
#DefineRhetoric Champion 2012
Rhetoric is a bag of Halloween candy, sometimes you get the good stuff and sometimes you get apples with razor blades.
by @TheOriginalRock (now @RhetRock)

ink & interpretation

Harlot O tattoo

design by my friend James Thornburg!

I have a Harlot tattoo. Yup. That fancy O from the logo? It’s on the inside of my left ankle. It is, nearly needless to say, awesome. I got it the day before my dissertation defense; it offered a great physical distraction from mental strain. It also felt good to literally mark the end of that era, the final, long-time-coming accomplishment of the degree — and it made sense to mark it with Harlot. The visibility of the tattoo, its placement where people would see it all the time, was something I struggled with. Not just because my mother hates it, but because it felt like a rather public statement.

I went to a cool talk at a conference recently, and one of the presenters–the delightful folklorist Martha Sims–was talking about the rhetoric of tattoos, particularly verbal ones. The most interesting part, for me, was that several of the people she’d interviewed said that they don’t think about their tattoos as having an audience other than themselves. Their choices are meaningful and in some cases private; the fact that many people will see and interpret these texts was not a significant contributor. So this got me thinking about my own.

I have another tattoo, one I got in my 20s, that has personal significance but is otherwise, as first tattoos will be, a bit silly. Thankfully, that one is on my lower back — which means it gets mocking names like “tramp stamp,” but it’s also conveniently out of sight almost all the time. (Thank god I aged out of those super-low-rise jeans.) So that’s like my personal tat, whereas the Harlot one is my public tat.

I’m not sure what it communicates, of course. For most viewers, it would just be some fancy black design, without significance itself — but significant in its presence alone. I am a person with a visible tattoo. Different audiences will see this differently: I might be the cool professor or the trying-too-hard-to-be-cool professor or the edgy junior faculty or the trite gen-x-er… or, as in reality, some combination of all. I like that people don’t know what it is, because they’re less likely to have an immediate response to the content (and I might get to tell them about Harlot). But inevitably, it will be read, as will my body and therefore me. This, I realize, is not particularly novel: our bodies are read as texts all day long, whether based on elements under our control or not…

Perhaps that’s what a tattoo communicates: that we’ve chosen to textualize our bodies, to have a say in what they say. Even if what they say is incomprehensible…? Even when we’re/they’re only talking to ourselves…? Even when others overhear and understand — or not?

I should do some research on this, but we have an issue to put out. So… what do you guys think?

What’s in a (candidate’s) name?

Every campaign season, I become a bit fixated on all of the lawn signs (bumper stickers, etc.) proudly broadcasting candidates’ names. Not their accomplishments, not their credentials, just their names. And maybe even a schnazzy design!

Sometimes it’s because they’re hilarious: a personal favorite from Columbus, OH in 2008 said simply “Serritt [Sherrit?] has Merit.” For whatever reason, that cracked me up; it seemed to say simply, “S/He’s okay. Worth considering, anyway.” Then again, I just checked “merit” the Oxford English Dictionary, and it turns out s/he was actually making a pretty good claim to excellence, entitlement to gratitude or reward… and/or “quality (in actions or persons) of being entitled to reward from God.” Impressive. I take back my mockery.

But still (and apologies for the Seinfeld-ism): What is the deal with all of these names plastered all over every neighborhood? Has anyone ever seen one of these signs and thought, “You know, that’s really persuasive. I’m going to vote for that guy.” or “That name sounds trustworthy and intelligent — and look at that innovative use of red, white, and blue! She’s got my vote.” or even “Well, if all of these strangers who live around here think that’s the right choice…”?

I guess there’s some hope that familiarity breeds comfort or that perceptions of popularity breed actual popularity. In theory, that makes sense… though I remain skeptical. Especially when opposing candidates’ names appear alongside each other’s…

But then again, name recognition might backfire when people are fed up with all of the campaign materials — someone’s name plastered all around town can seem pretty invasive and obnoxious. While waiting (for hours) to vote early this morning, I chatted with other voters about whether the campaign supporters waving signs and shouting their candidates’ names would actually alienate people right before they step into the polls. If I’m standing online (for hours) to vote, chances are I’ve already made up my mind. And that you’re annoying me.

I’m genuinely curious: Does anyone know whether this name-inundation “works”? And at accomplishing what, exactly? Generating awareness and conversation? Accumulating actual votes?

It’s probably very lucrative for sign-makers. Otherwise, it just seems wasteful in so many ways.

Water Snake is related to Water Fish.

I present Common Sense from Chet Tiffany. Common sense-you know, sound judgment, prudence, or wisdom. Try reading it aloud because it’s fun and sort of flows poetically. And then think about “common sense” and how a lotta times it depends on audience and values to be common and/or sense. I like Chet, but his/her sense ain’t really common…to me. What I mean is I imagine Chet Tiffany is like me and suffered a lot with regards to “common sense.” What I mean is “common sense” is a big assumption that’s rarely common and not always the only sense.

My dad often asked me if I had “common sense” or would strongly suggest I use my “common sense.”  It got me worried about what he meant and I felt like I was under common-sense surveillance a lot. Before acting I would think, “is this common sense?” or “would this be common sense?” An audience of Dad meant I’d rarely get it right or be common sensical.

Anyway here are some examples of “common” and “uncommon” sense that are in no way like Chet’s. I don’t know how to imitate his artistry.

  1. Common sense: Turn off the air conditioner in your car to get more power—it’s common sense. Value=speed
    Uncommon sense: Use air conditioner and feel cool and get less power—it’s common sense. Value=comfort
  2. Common sense: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it—it’s common sense.
    Uncommon sense: It ain’t broke, but it ain’t pretty. So I’m gonna fix it—it’s common sense.  Value=visual aesthetics
  3. Common sense: If there’s snow on the ground wear your shoes to class—it’s common sense. Value=comfort
    Uncommon sense: If there’s snow on the ground don’t wear your shoes to class—it’s common sense. Value=coolness…I mean fashionable in reckless behavior.
  4. Common sense: If a chicken doesn’t fit into a microwave to be defrosted, rig the microwave so it’ll operate with the door open—it’s common sense.
    Value=problem solving to make squares pegs fit round holes.
    Uncommon sense: If a chicken doesn’t fit into a microwave to be defrosted, defrost it in the sink with warm water—it’s common sense.
    Value=problem solving to try a different mode. Thanks for some of the great examples, Mary Bendel-Simso!

Water Snake is related to Water Fish.

It’s common sense people!

A Competition! #DefineRhetoric @HarlotTweets

Here at Harlot we’ve determined there have been about 2.24 million total different definitions of rhetoric created throughout human history. Because this just doesn’t seem like enough, we’d like you to play with us and add to that total.

Before our next issue comes out (September 15, 2012), we’ll have collected and taken a look at the definitions and decide on one to be THE definition of rhetoric of the year! Oh, the fame and recognition you can receive!


TWEET your submission now or later but definitely by 11:59 pm on September 8, 2012 to participate! That’s the last day we’ll check Tweets.

To participate, you’ve gotta tweet. If you don’t have a Twitter account, ya gotta make one. Then tweet your brand new definition of rhetoric, your tweaked or remixed definition of rhetoric, or one you’ve liked from a theorist and categorize it with #DefineRhetoric at the end. We encourage you to have fun and play with what rhetoric can mean. Be your own Plato, Aristotle, Aspasia. Be your own Burke, Richards, Perelman. Be your own Villanueva, Glenn, Lanham. And in the spirit of givin’ cred where cred is due, we ask you to try to cite your sources as best ya can when ya tweak or remix or quote directly.

Here are a few obscure definitions we’ve found and added to that total:
Rhetoric is when u got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away and know when to run—K. Rogers. #DefineRhetoric

Rhetoric is based on one thing: happiness. And do you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car–D. Draper. #DefineRhetoric

Rhetoric is hockey. If you don’t have ice you’re just standing in a puddle wearing skates and pads–Sam Boni. #DefineRhetoric

Rhetoric is ice-cream. If you don’t have 31 flavors, it’s coercion–Baskn Robnz. #DefineRhetoric

And if you get a chance, check out our Tweets @HarlotTweets for journal updates, news and play in the world of rhetoric. Oh yeah—you know, we have some pretty excellent articles about rhetoric too!


The Rhetoric of Eco-Terrorism

Here are some selections from Will Potter’s book, Green is the New Red, that chart the genealogy of eco-terrorist rhetoric.  Regardless of where you stand with regard to environmentalism or monkey-wrenching, it’s nevertheless important to understand how the  term terror is being specifically deployed in an age increasingly defined by such a label.

The mainstreaming of animal and environmental concerns, combined with tiers of lawful and unlawful groups, was undeniably a threat to the corporations [they] targeted.  [Corporations] needed to displace activists from their moral high ground.  A key development in orchestrating this fall from grace was the decision to wield the power of language.

“Whoever defines the issue controls the debate,” says Timothy Cummings, a clinical professor and poultry veterinarian at Mississippi State University.  Instead of saying “bled to death,” Cummings advises farmers to say “exsanguinated”; rather than “killer,” say “knife operator.” For those who break the law in the name of animal rights or the environment, industry groups would change the language from “monkey wrencher,” “saboteur,” or just plain “criminal” to the much more powerful “terrorist.”

Indeed, it’s a far more powerful phrase, but the difference is that now such a label has salient consequences for law enforcement, governmental policy, and judicial proceedings.  So when I read, say, Rick Santorum’s recent sweeping claims about environmentalism, I get anxious on a whole lot of levels.  At a campaign stop in Oklahoma City, Santorum argued that environmentalists are using fracking as “the new boogey man” to needlessly scare you about a perfectly safe practice.  But what’s really happening here, Santorum claims, is that “they will use this [fear] to raise money for the radical environmental groups so they can go out and continue to try to purvey their reign of environmental terror on the United States of America.”

(The irony of Santorum scaring potential voters and donors with phrases like “reign of environmental terror” and denouncing those seeking to implement a radical agenda is so rich I’m going to use it to ice this cake I just made.)

Here’s some history on the use of “eco-terrorism” from Potter:

Government official slowly incorporated the term into their lexicon and change how they spoke of sabotage [toward the end of the ’80s].  After a 1987 arson at the University of California at Davis, the FBI labeled an animal rights crime “domestic terrorism” for the first time.  The next year, Senator James McClure introduced the term eco-terrorist into the Congressional record (oddly enough, by comparing the tactics of drug lords to those of environmentalists).

Despite these linguistic victories, eco-terrorism was not a top governmental priority.  Ron Arnold’s organization [the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise] and the anti-environmental “Wise Use” movement operated on the fringes; the eco-terror meme remained loosely confined to this niche of free-market true believers, and sympathetic media portrayals continued through the late eighties […] This began to change when politicians got involved in the issue.

Use of the “eco-terrorist” label picks up substantially throughout the nineties, especially following the well-reported arson of a Vail ski resort in 1998.  It was 9/11, however, as the phrase goes, that changed everything.  Greg Walden, a Republican Representative from Oregon said on September 12 that the Earth Liberation Front was a threat “no less heinous than what we saw occur yesterday here in Washington and New York.”  Before the steel of the towers had even stopped smoldering, “Industry groups hired PR firms to insert eco-terrorism into the national security dialogue,” writes Potter.  Since 9/11, “the eco-terror language went viral, replicating by spreading from host to host.”

But this is not a conspiracy, Potter is right to point out.  It’s framing.  It’s the introduction of and normalizing of key terms that shape attitudes and perspectives.  “The shift was gradual,” he writes, “slowly merging the rhetoric of industry groups with that of politicians and law enforcement.  Eventually, what was once a fringe argument became official government policy.”

If that isn’t enough to boggle the rational mind and quicken the passionate heart, there’s this:

Examining top-tier newspaper articles from 1984 through 2006, [Travis Wagner, professor of environmental science and policy at the University of Southern Maine] found that terrorism rhetoric appeared throughout the timeline, but its frequency increased dramatically after September 11th and has continued climbing since then.  Wagner notes that this increase in ecotage-related stories accompanied a decline in actual crimes.  According to the North American [Animal Liberation Front] Press Office–not one to downplay ALF and ELF attacks–crimes decreased by 47 percent after 9/11.  As warning of eco-terrorism made headlines, the threat itself waned.


Why Beyonce is Perfect for Rhetorical Analysis

My students and I were recently discussing context and how context can impact our analysis of a text, so I, of course, was scouring for the best materials to discuss context in the various ways we can interpret that. This led me to Beyonce. Or, more precisely, Beyonce’s video for “Move Your Body.”

We can, of course, analyze this video independently. Based on the setting of a school cafeteria and population of younger backup dancers, it seems natural to surmise that this video is aimed at the youngun’s of America, for instance. However,  a lot of these elements gain deeper meaning when we place the video in context.

Actually, in the interest of full disclosure, I first saw this video posted on a friend’s facebook and I could see that there was something going on that didn’t conform to all the typical moves of the music video genre. Usually, there would be more time spent on glamorous close-ups of Beyonce, cut-aways to other scenes, or some austere, artsy move (e.g. lighting, quick editing, black and white). So, I went in search of this greater context that must’ve been fueling the decision to approach this video differently. And, yes, there was a reason for all these things.

This video is connected to First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign. No, really. You can see Mrs. Obama herself doing the dougie (and the running man!):

If nothing else, it takes a brave woman to dougie for all of youtube. But, I digress.

This campaign is intended to teach children how to eat healthier and become active so that they grow up creating a healthier America. This is important context for the Beyonce video. “Waving the American flag” actually makes sense now. As does the emphasis on apples, bananas, and other fresh foods that show up in the Beyonce video. And, of course, the campaign is in direct reaction to the increase in child obesity and diabetes that have occurred in recent years. That is a specific surrounding context as well.

Above all else, the long shots of everyone dancing together rather than a video that is cut up so you can only see portions of the choreography is important and related to this campaign. They want us to copy this dance. And they enable us to do that. Not only is the Beyonce video shot so that we, the audience, can see the specific choreography, but there are subsequent videos detailing the choreography steps.

A still shot of the entire dance:

An instruction of the steps:

And, you know what? My students dug it. I dig it. I find this to be one of the most persuasive music videos I’ve seen and I say it’s partially because it’s so connected to this greater context. They’re so focused on the purpose they want to achieve and, because of that, they’re able to appeal to their audience in a creative, yet ingenious way. (Oh, and the fact that she can dance in those heels just blows my mind.)

They know it too:

Present Tense: Issue #2

Present Tense: A Journal of Rhetoric in Society has released its second issue.  (Thanks goes to David Beard over at The Blogora for the tip.)  Of special note is the piece, “Methodological Dwellings: A Search for Feminisms in Rhetoric & Composition,” which features a performance by OSU’s very own Nan Johnson:

Methodological Dwellings: A Search for Feminisms in Rhetoric & Composition

"Methodological Dwellings: A Search for Feminisms in Rhetoric & Composition"

On a more personal note (or at least professionally-selfish), I’d like to offer thanks to Gae Lyn Henderson, Assistant Professor at Utah Valley University, for her review of the recently published Activism and Rhetoric, a simply stellar collection of essays curated by Seth Kahn and JongHwa Lee.  I’ve been fortunate enough to pursue this volume over the past few weeks and am energized by what Kahn, Lee, and the various contributors have accomplished.

For those also interested in affective/non-rational elements of rhetoric, check out Nathaniel Rivers’s, “In Defense of Gut Feelings: Rhetorics of Decision-Making,” which is an insightful and deftly managed piece on a notoriously difficult topic.  (And if any of you Harlot readers out there will be joining me at this summer’s “Non-rational Rhetorics” workshop led by Diane Davis and Debra Hawhee, be sure to head over to the latest issue of Philosophy and Rhetoric, which has fresh essays by both.)

Thanks to all in the rhetoric community who keep exploring new realms of rhetoric with their research —