The International Semiotics Institute, in its new location at Kaunas University of Technology, Lithuania, organized last 2-7 June 2014 the 1st International Congress of Numanities. The congress has been a sort of “baptism of fire”, for three reasons: firstly, the institute, in Kaunas, was opened only in January 2014, after its long experience in Finland; secondly, this was consequently the first year for this particular congress; and, finally, it was the first time ISI tried to encompass various reflections on the position and potentials of the humanities under an interdisciplinary platform called “Numanities”. Numanities is a pun between “New” and “Humanities”: the idea, of course, is to underline the need and the demand for a novel approach (but also a novel spirit) to humanities, helping them to find their way back to the core of society and academic communities.
Within this framework, the response to the call for papers has been exceptional, with 120 active participants, coming from 21 different world countries and 61 academic institutions.
Of course, this was not just a new event, but also the continuation of over 25 years of history of the International Semiotics Institute, from Toronto to Imatra and finally to Kaunas. To an extent, it was perceivable that the congress’s atmosphere was split between the feeling of attending an entirely new congress, and that of being in the “good old” Summer School that ISI used to organize in Imatra until 2013.
For the same reason, and with the same spirit, the congress presented elements of innovation and continuity alike, as compared to the Finnish experience. Among the former, logistics aside, the most important is certainly the above-mentioned establishment of the “Numanities” interdisciplinary platform, which – among other things – encouraged a genuine exchange of competences and reflections between semioticians and scholars from other fields.
Other novelties include
- the ICoN Awards, two prizes given respectively to senior and young researchers: five awards were distributed this year, to kick off the tradition (Eero Tarasti and Philip Tagg for the senior category, Miglė Bisigirskytė, Eglė Gelažiūtė and Ulrika Varankaitė for the junior one);
- A charity partnership with the NGO’s “Save the Children” and “Voices 4 Animals”;
- The “Book Fair Trade”: a free exchange of semiotic books among participants, based on the “gift economy” principle;
- The “OpLab!” workshops: an unusual form of session, where semiotic and interdisciplinary knowledge is offered in applied fashion in form of “Open Laboratory” accessible not only to congress participants. This year the OpLab! theme was the field of brand and marketing semiotics;
- A differentiated form of post-congress publication. Due to the academic institutions’ increasing requirements for refereed and indexed articles, the ICoN provided different publication outlets, rather than a single (usually non-refereed) proceedings volume;
- A differentiated system to pay the registration: instead of having a single fee, the amount changed depending on the Cost of Living index, allowing participants to correspond a fee proportioned to the living standards of their country.
- The online streaming of the whole opening ceremony and all the plenary lectures of the congress
The video of the whole opening ceremony
A TV report of the congress
Dario Martinelli gives his plenary speech on the topic of “Numanities”