SEMIOFEST is an annual marketing semiotics conference that unites scholars and practicing semioticians from all over the world. The most recent one took place on June 1-4 in Tallinn, Estonia.
Even though in my mind SEMIOFEST has been a great success, this is not going to be its review. It is more of a checklist of things this year’s SEMIOFEST proved possible to achieve within the format of a conference. It could also be a useful reminder for whoever dares to pick up the organization of the conference next year.
Despite the fact that the two (academic and practical) paradigms of semiotics exist close to each other, most of the time there is little interaction between them. Nobody would argue that each field has a lot to learn from another, but this is rarely put to practice. It is exciting to participate in a conference that is not afraid to put the hypotheses of knowledge-sharing to the test.
2. FROM PRACTICAL TO IDEOLOGICAL
Sharing practices, information and tools is great, but it is the overarching themes that bind everything together – it is questions like “what the hell are we doing here” or “where is it going to take us” that makes us engage and come back to the conference content for a longer time. This meta layer is needed not only in order to not to dabble in self-appreciation for too long, but also to face the realities of the professional field.
3. FROM KNOWLEDGE TO ACTION
Conferences rarely aim at directing participants towards concentrating on specific tasks, but when they do and when it’s done the right way, it can be a game changer. Even though usually bootcamps are separated into a stand-alone format, it doesn’t mean they don’t work within a conference scope. To be able to compare the ways you would approach the problem with the ways of others is an invaluable experience.
Boundaries created between departments, skills, professions and competences first and foremost exist in our heads. It is our decisions to act on them that create the same demarcation lines in the environment and our own work. Semiotics has been known for building high walls separating the creative faculties from structured rational thought, so it is really refreshing to see some speakers embracing a different approach. What SEMIOFEST managed to do this time is to show how creativity can reinvigorate the understanding of theory and that creativity leaps of faith are needed everywhere.
5. CONSTRUCTING A COMMON LANGUAGE
Belonging to a community is not only about exchanging personal findings every year. A community thrives when it shares a common language. And this is not an easy task. First you need to agree on it, define and redefine, strive to maintain and expand it. What Semiofest has managed to achieve is to start a discussion around the language that we are using.
6. SCANNING THE FUTURE
Learning from each other would be just perpetuating the present state of things – looking for a path what would drive the discipline into the future is something else entirely. It is a conscious effort not to be just shaped by constantly changing market reality and perceptions, but to consciously build the desired future.