Semiotix 15 Supplement

2009 IASS congress: most successful event since Milan in 1974

The 10th Congress of the International Association for Semiotic Studies that was held in A Coruña (Spain) from September 22 to 26 attracted more than nine hundred participants and featured forty-five sessions and round tables in addition to a slate of international plenary speakers. In spite of the challenges created by the global financial crisis, organizer Professor José María Paz Gago and his team produced an impressive program which unfolded smoothly from beginning to end. A host of personable and courteous students, all smartly dressed in black, ensured that information was readily available and that IT devices were operational in the classrooms and auditoriums. Sessions were on schedule and blue bottles of fresh water were provided in abundance to the speakers.

The congress was held on the Elviña Campus of the University of A Coruña, in the twin buildings of the Department of Sociology and the Faculty of Law. This venue offered two clusters of spacious rooms that made it easy to move from one session to another. On the whole, the organization was marked by efficiency, fluidity, and conviviality. The two restaurants that were located in the premises offered ample opportunities for informal encounters and lunch conversations. The monumental lobby of the Faculty of Law displayed information panels and art installations, and was at times the locus of creative musical events such as the holofractal electronic music by Brazilian composer Eufrasio Prates (see below). This was emblematic of a meeting in which semiotics in the digital age was foregrounded. In this respect, this 10th congress can be considered the first international IASS congress of the 21st century.

Excerpts from the performance "Omnijective essay: holofractal impromptu n.8" by Eufrasio Prates; (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6as1eoVygE)

A truly global and multidisciplinary congress: round tables, thematic sessions and number of participants

The program included 45 sessions and roundtables of various lengths which are listed below in their order of appearance with the number of papers indicated between brackets. There was a total of 650 presentations some of which with several authors. Although some scheduled speakers did not show up, as it is often the case in large scale conferences, there was never a sense of deserted sessions because there was no lack of enthusiasm for discussing the issues addressed in the papers. If any complaints were heard, it was about the tightness of the schedule, a rather good measure of the success of the congress. In addition to this rich program, there were two plenary speakers every day. Most papers were given in English but there were a fairly large number of papers in Spanish and some in French. The titles of the sessions were as follows [number of papers listed in the program]:

Urban imaginaries [18]

Global semiotics [13]

Unfolding the semiotic web in urban discourse [9]

Semiotics of archaeological behavior [11]

Gestures: praxis and semiosis [8]

Semiotics of “Japan cool” [8]

Subject, dialogue, value – avenues for existential semiotics [10]

Semiotics heritage [5]

Semiotics and arts of spectacle [15]

Chinese semiotics [11]

Cultures in action: methodological pluralities for a semiotics of practices [7]

International graduate programs in semiotics [7]

Semiotics of translation [8]

Trans- as a semiosis [5]

Philosophies of performance [14]

Semiotic construction of history [42]

Communication and culture: old and new rituals / old and new mythologies [32]

Semiotic and cognitive science [4]

Greimas semiotics nowadays [10]

Biosemiotics [15]

Semiotics and cultural studies [15]

Discourse generation and transmutations [13]

Cognitive semiotics [23]

Semiotics and architecture [19]

Semiotics of space: life of signs in the middle of the city [12]

Semiotics and fashion [19]

Semiotics and communicology around the world [28]

First names as signs of personal identity: an intercultural comparison [10]

Musical semiotics [12]

Semiotics and design [12]

Peirce semiotics nowadays [26]

Visual semiotics (IAVS) [26]

Multimodal semiotics in the digital age [11]

Semiotics of culture 1 and 2 [31]

Semiotics of literature 1 and 2 [26]

Semiotics and textual analysis [16]

Semiotics of film and TV [30]

Efficient images: interculturality. Socioanthropology, iconism [6]

Transmediatic narrative [13]

Representation, discourse, semiotics [23]

Semiotics of minifiction [4]

Semiotics, philosophy and technology [12]

Semiotics, theory, aesthetics [8]

Literature in digital age [5]

Semiotics of film and television [19]

The current state of semiotic research can be tentatively mapped in view of the general topics of the sessions. Approximately a third of the presentations concerned new developments that have emerged during the last decades: cognitive semiotics at the interface of semiotics and the cognitive sciences; biosemiotics, a field which straddles cellular biology, zoology, ethology, ecology, medicine, and evolution theories; the semiotics of new information technologies and their impact on multimodal communication in the digital age. Two specialized associations had chosen to embed their annual meetings in the IASS congress: the International Association for Visual Semiotics and the Communicology Institute. Many of their papers were highly relevant to the above strands of contemporary semiotics.

The second group of thematic sessions was formed by the various specialties which have branched out and acquired some kind of epistemological autonomy with respect to general semiotics: cultural semiotics; literary semiotics; textual and discourse analysis; the semiotic study of gestures; urban semiotics; the semiotics of architecture; the semiotics of music; the semiotics of fashion; the semiotics of translation.

The third set that could be identified was formed by sessions that continued the exploration of the historical significance of various theories of the sign: the semiotics of C.S. Peirce; Greimas semiotics; and, more generally, the “semiotic heritage”, a label which covers various endeavors to excavate the philosophical roots of today’s semiotic.

Two sessions focused on specific cultural areas: “Chinese semiotics” and “Semiotics of ‘Japan cool’”. Most of the other sessions, however, were intercultural and multicultural in terms of both their presenters and their topics. Indeed, an impressive array of nations were represented at the congress: Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Hungary, India, Italia, Japan, Latvia, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, Russia, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, Uruguay, USA, Venezuela.

Some highlights of the congress

Whatever form may take the selective publication in print of the congress proceedings, the effectiveness of the numerous power point presentations is bound to be lost. It is true that the traditional print media offer some advantages but budgetary considerations considerably limit the possibility of conveying the full richness of a presentation with abundant visual data. This is why this Supplement to Semiotix 15 offers a selection of highlights in power point (or otherwise) for the benefit of those who could not attend the particular sessions in which they were scheduled or who simply could not afford the costs of attending the congress. The generous willingness of the authors to have their presentations made accessible online in an Open Source website is gratefully acknowledged.

Election of the new Board Members

The following were elected or re-elected to serve for a period of five year on the Board of the International Association for Semiotic Studies:

President: Eero Tarasti (Finland)

Vice-Presidents:

  1. Paul Cobley (UK)

  2. José Enrique Finol (Venezuela)

  3. Anne Hénault (France)

  4. Youzheng Li (China)

  5. Jean-Claude Mbarga (Cameroon)

General Secretary: José María Paz Gago (Spain)

Vice-General Secretary: Priscilla Borges (Brazil)

Treasurer: Susan Petrilli (Italy)

Vice-Treasurer: John Deely (USA)

Editor of Semiotica: Marcel Danesi (Canada)

Plans for future meetings include an international conference in Nanjing (P. R. China).

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