5 Great Reasons to come to Semiofest, Toronto

I’m just booking my flight to Toronto for Semiofest. Semiofest, a Celebration of Semiotic Thinking is the world’s only applied semiotics conference. It’s a unique annual event (held in a new location every year) that provides a space for sharing ideas, mutual learning and networking about brands, culture communication and communication.

Here’s why you should consider coming:

1. Toronto is one of the world’s great cities with fantastic nightlife and eating. Canada is one of the most friendly and welcoming countries in the world. Don’t just come for the conference, many Semiofest delegates fitting the trip into a holiday in order to sample some of the great Canadian wilderness in the form of Algonquin national park, other parts of Ontario or even a trip up to Quebec. All hosted by our uber organised and very hospitable T.O. local organizing team of Sarah, Jeff, Charles, Jamin and Stephanie. And shout outs to our recently added assistants, Olivia and Michael!

2. We are privileged to have the cream of semiotic talent in North America. Professor Marcel Danesi Professor of Semiotics and Anthropology at University of Toronto, author of over 100 books on everything from Mafia symbolism to his latest offering on the semiotics of Emoticons and with a specialism in the history of brands, advertising and consumerism will kick off the conference. Our final Keynote will by Laura Oswald a veteran of semiotics and consumer research in the USA, and author of Marketing Semiotics and her recent publication Creating Value . We also have eminent Toronto based academics Paul Bouissac on memes and Paul Manning on brand animation.

3. We have a smorgasbord of great presentations from the world’s top semiotic talent. This year our theme is the Marshall McLuhan’s Medium is the Message, so it is a focus on how semiotics helps us better understand new media. In this vein we have everything from the semiotics of Donald Trump, layers of Instagram and the Attention Economy. As it’s Semiofest we have case studies by practitioners showing the practical usefulness of Semiofest in creating children’s book, coffee machine, healthcare and in brand strategy in beauty and fashion. We go beyond the visual with semiotics of sound, touch and of sensing. For those looking to upskill, we also have a training session on triangulating semiotics with qualitative research and ethnography plus a client panel on showing how semiotics can do a better job of selling itself as a methodology in the US.

4. The atmosphere is great at Semiofest. We build in loads of time for networking and give people opportunities to meet through group exercises. We strive to create a unique ambience with a focus on sharing and learning rather than academic posturing. We ask all speakers to condense their talks down to the bare minimum and focus on the take away points rather than theoretical jargon. We have a great social programme including ethnographic tours of vibrant Kensington Market performances from the Semiotones, University of Toronto’s very own semiotic theme jazz band, and creative inspiration slots from Thierry Mortier and myself (an animated 3D film using semiotics). Have a look at the video from last year’s event at Tallinn for a flavour of an annual Semiofest.

5. You don’t need to be an expert in semiotics to come. Our presentation guidelines for Semiofest nudge speakers towards less theory and more visual examples. We want to make Semiofest a forum for those who are interested in learning more about semiotics as well as those who are looking to build a capability in doing semiotics effectively (rather than just a talking shop for geeks). A lot of our attendees are brand consultants, qualitative researchers or other interested professional looking to add ‘another string to their bow’. So if you want a stimulating critical perspective on visual culture, then come.

I recorded a video recently (slightly awkwardly) sharing my thoughts on the upcoming Semiofest and I begin by showcasing my 2012 ‘Time of the Signs’ Semiofest T-shirt.

Chris Arning is Co-Founder of Semiofest, A Celebration of Semiotic Thinking.

He runs boutique communication problem solving consultancy, Creative Semiotics.

This post was originally published by Chris Arning on LinkedIn.