2014 Kevelson Award Winner is No “Ordinary” Student

Each year, the Semiotic Society of America (SSA) features the Roberta Kevelson Award for best student paper presented at its annual meeting (if, in the award committee’s judgment, a paper has been submitted that is worthy of this award).

John Tredinnick RoweThis year’s Kevelson Award recipient is John Tredinnick Rowe, a third-year Ph.D. student in medical studies at the University of Exeter Medical School’s European Centre for Environment and Human Health. Tredinnick Rowe delivered an outstanding presentation entitled “The Paradox of Giving: Insights into the Gift Economy”. A published version of his paper will become available in the forthcoming 2014 SSA Yearbook.

We asked Tredinnick Rowe a few questions and learned that, in addition to his being a bright, interdisciplinary thinker with great promise, his is no “ordinary” student story…

Please tell us a little about your background and what you currently do.
In addition to studying for my Ph.D., I live and work on my family farm in the west of Cornwall, UK, a region as far west and south as you can go in the British Isles. My family are mainly either involved in farming or in a medical profession – e.g. nurses, occupational therapists, a neuroscientist, etc. – so this has led me to having an interest in both medicine/biomedical issues and the natural environment and agriculture.

John Treddinick RoweThis may explain the rather circuitous route my education has taken. I started off in a bachelor’s in chemical engineering program as an undergraduate and then switched to a bachelor’s of science in environmental management, after which I started my Ph.D. in medical service innovation. Beyond academia and the farm, I enjoy trying to learn new languages and I am active in minority rights politics in Europe as well.

How did you come up with the idea for your SSA Annual Meeting paper and why does this topic interest you?
I came up with the idea in part by attending an International Semiotics Institute conference in Lithuania, which had the theme of Numanities (i.e., new humanities), which represents a drive to find new ways to use and integrate humanities into other contexts. This made me think about the integration of linguistics and socio-economics that I was working on in regard to some of my Ph.D. data. I then realised that I could extend my application of linguistics into semiotics within an socio-economic context.

Put simply, I wanted to illustrate how reviewing my observational data (ethnographic, in my case) with linguistic and semiotic analysis could deeply enrich my work on economics and innovation. This topic interests me as I was struck, when I started to study innovation science, by how much of a void there was in terms of historical authorship. Many of the problems and methods I encountered in the papers and textbooks on innovation I had read could have easily been explained through key sociological or classical scholars’ work, and yet these were absent. I found it stimulating to try to change this, albeit in a very small way.

How did you learn about semiotics?
My very first contact with semiotics was reading a book of my dad’s about Roland Barthes. My main exposure, however, came towards the end of my Ph.D. (I am very much a novice in this matter). I was searching for a framework to explain how to communicate the meaning and signification of natural environment use when I encountered eco-semiotics and, more broadly, the work of the Tartu-Moscow school. To discover the the works of Kalevi Kull, the von Uexkülls and Jesper Hoffmeyer was a moment of expansive clarity for me as it solved most of phenomena I had observed in my data that traditional social science had no meaningful way of explaining (to my limited knowledge).

…and the SSA conference? What was your experience there?
The SSA conference was wonderful. As a newcomer, it was an excellent to put faces to the papers that I had read. I feel that I made some great contacts there that can hopefully help me to continue in this line of work. It was also a joy to meet some of the people I made acquaintance with at the ISI conference in Lithuania earlier this year.

I also have a deepened respect for Farouk Seif, with regard to how much effort the conference must have taken to organise. I am eager to keep coming to the SSA conferences and hope to continue the contact with the people I met in the U.S. and also those from Europe.

John Treddinick RoweDo you see yourself continuing to pursue work in semiotics?
I sure hope so! I have an interview soon for a post-doc that will try to explain visual imagination from both an artistic and a neuroscience perspective. I submitted an application to integrate the two themes using neuro-semiotics.

Of all the academic disciplines I have undertaken, semiotics fires my brain like nothing else; it makes working a pleasure. After the SSA conference, I felt a missionary zeal to try and find a way to reintegrate semiotics back in medical studies.

Can you tell us about your other interests and hobbies?
My spare time is usually spent doing farm work (depending on the season), reading, or target shooting.

What are your career goals? Where do you see yourself in the next 5-10 years?
I have the highly pretentious and grandiose aspiration to have a career that improves people’s lives. It would be wonderful to get to that point as, prior to the Ph.D., I was working in supermarkets and frying fish for a living – which does have its merits but is not always overly stimulating. Regarding my plans for the next 5-10 years, my wife tells me that we are going to have children. So my plan is largely to try and hold onto my remaining sanity and hair.

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Congratulations, John!

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The 2014 Kevelson Award Committee members are Gary Shank (Chair), Deborah Eicher-Catt, and Gilad Elbom.

It’s Our Anniversary. Will You Join Us?

Announcing 40th Annual Meeting

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

It’s my pleasure to announce the location of our next SSA Annual Meeting. The 40th Anniversary Annual Meeting will take place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, October 1-4, 2015. Duquesne University will host this significant event. More information and details will be provided in the weeks ahead.

Onward and upward SSA,

Farouk Seif
SSA Executive Director

39th Annual Meeting Wrap-Up

Plenary Session

After four days of memorable talks, networking, and musical and visual arts performances, topped by a breathtaking cruise to Blake Island, we adjourned our 39th Annual Meeting last Sunday.

Celebrating this year’s outcomes, Executive Director and 2014 Program Chair Farouk Seif recalled his words pronounced at last year’s Dayton annual meeting: “Success is not an option; it is a destination”. In reflecting on the Seattle experience, he concludes, “Indeed, success was not an option. It was a destination for us all.” With those words in mind, we would like to thank each and every participant for helping to make this event an extraordinary success!

This year’s conference welcomed an unprecedented number of first-time attendees and numerous international participants who traveled far to join us from over 20 countries across the globe. Among them, we would like to extend a particularly warm thank you to our distinguished plenary speakers who traveled from Europe – Søren Brier (Denmark), Paul Cobley (UK), Dario Martinelli (Lithuania), and Susan Petrilli (Italy) – as well as those who joined us from North America – Marcel Danesi, Elliot Gaines, Alexander Laszlo, Michael Shapiro, and Brooke Williams Deely.

Shana Hormann (Antioch University Seattle) gave us a gracious local welcome and Mark Hower (Antioch University Seattle) led a pre-conference Marketplace of Semiotics open space session that opened up new avenues for exchange among participants.

No less memorable were stunning visual arts performances by invited artist Silvia Barbotto, who demonstrated her “visual synchronic translation” technique during conference events; piano performances by Marcel Danesi and Robert Hatten; and tango with local dance artists Maureen Muñoz, Greg Thomsen, Michelle Badion and Richard Baxter.

Silvia Barbotto

Special Awards
This year’s SSA meeting featured two special awards:

  • Paul Cobley was officially presented with the Sebeok Fellow Award, the highest honor given by the SSA. The award was created in 1991 to honor substantial career or lifetime contributions to semiotics and service to the semiotic community. “Professor Cobley has continued Professor Sebeok’s heritage of promoting the international publication of seminal works,” says John Deely, SSA founding member who presented the award, adding that Cobley has advanced “the realization in intellectual culture of how and why ‘the doctrine of signs’ or semiotics alone provides the only inherently interdisciplinary perspective on human knowledge.”

Paul CobleyCobley, who was recently elected to the position of president of the International Association for Semiotic Studies (IASS-AIS), is professor of language and media at Middlesex University. He has edited and authored numerous publications in communication theory, semiotics and other disciplines, and holds roles as co-editor of Social Semiotics and Handbooks of Communication Sciences; co-series editor of Semiotics, Communication and Cognition; and associate editor of Cybernetics and Human Knowing, in addition to secretary of the International Society for Biosemiotic Studies. Cobley joins the ranks of other distinguished Sebeok Fellows David Savan, John Deely, Paul Bouissac, Jesper Hoffmeyer, Kalevi Kull, and Floyd Merrell, Susan Petrilli, and Irmengard Rauch. Congratulations, Paul!

  • In keeping with the SSA’s tradition of supporting young scholars, the conference also featured the annual Roberta Kevelson Award for best student paper presented. This year’s deserving recipient is John Treddinick-Rowe, a student at the University of Exeter Medical School, who delivered an outstanding presentation entitled “The Paradox of Giving: Insights into the Gift Economy”. The paper is eligible for publication in the 2014 SSA Yearbook.

According to Kevelson Award Committee member Deborah Eicher-Catt, “Treddinick-Rowe is attempting to bring semiotics into socio-economic theory” through “a well documented, sophisticated, historically-situated reading that articulates the paradox of giving within health service organizations”. Committee Chair Gary Shank explains that “Treddinick-Rowe neatly explores the paradox of how gift giving is the foundation of much economic activity, relying on semiotics as the means for bridging this paradoxical condition”, adding that his contribution is “Well done on its own terms, and well done within the theme of the conference as well.” Congratulations, John!

SSA Leadership News
Our Annual Meeting made official a number of transitions and new roles. We would like to extend our gratitude to our outgoing officers for their service, as well as warmly welcome and congratulate our new leaders!

leadership

  • Marcel Danesi inherits the helm as President from Elliot Gaines, who now holds the role of Immediate Past President
  • Terry Prewitt takes office as Vice President and 2015 Program Chair for the SSA’s 40th Anniversary Annual Meeting. A new, 2015 Program Committee responsible for next year’s conference will be nominated in the coming months.
  • Farouk Y. Seif and Stéphanie Walsh-Matthews complete their terms as members of the executive board and are succeeded by Deborah Eicher-Catt and Richard L. Lanigan. Farouk Y. Seif continues to hold his position as Executive Director.
  • You can learn more about the SSA leadership team here.

Rising Scholars Mentorship Program
Our new initiative, the Rising Scholars Mentorship Program, aims to support young scholars by pairing interested graduate student and junior faculty attendees with a volunteer expert semiotician for one year. We’ve received requests from eight junior scholars and we would like to thank John Coletta, Elliot Gaines, Robert Hatten, Dario Martinelli, and Gary Shank for their generous support of this initiative. Mentors and mentees can expect to receive follow-up information within the coming weeks.

2015 Annual MeetingNext Year’s 40th Anniversary Annual Meeting
Please mark your calendars for next year’s 40th anniversary annual meeting, which will take place October 1-4, 2015. Stay tuned for details by following our website’s blog and our Facebook and Twitter pages.

 

SSA Yearbook Publication for 39th Annual Meeting Presenters
39th Annual Meeting participants are eligible to submit their conference papers for consideration for the peer-reviewed 2014 SSA Yearbook. The deadline for submission of final papers is November 30, 2014. Please review our detailed instructions before submitting your work.

…And More Thank Yous!
Our 39th Annual Meeting was made possible through the hard work and generous support of a number of people and organizations. We would like to extend a special thank you to the following:

  • The 2014 Program Committee – Farouk Y. Seif (Chair), Mariana Bockarova, Gilad Elbom, Robert Hatten, Karen Haworth, and Linda Nurra – who worked for the greater part of ten months to bring new energy, participation, and vision to this event.
  • The Marketplace of Semiotics invited facilitators – John Coletta, Marcel Danesi, Elliot Gaines, Richard Lanigan, Frank Macke, Gila Safran Naveh, Steven Skaggs, and Stephanie Walsh-Matthews – as well as all those who stepped into last-minute “emerging” facilitator roles.
  • The Kevelson Award Committee – Gary Shank (Chair), Deborah Eicher-Catt, and Gilad Elbom – for their excellent and thorough work in vetting award candidates.
  • Pam Swope of Philosophy Documentation Center, for ensuring a smooth and seamless conference and special event registration process.
  • The local Hosting Team – Michele Streich (Lead), Fariba Fuller, Melissa Kelii, Pauline McCharles, Leanna Mix, and Linda Nurra – for their crucial support with set up and logistical issues and welcoming participants.
  • Bill Ratcliffe of Antioch University Seattle, for generously sharing his time and audio-visual technology expertise.
  • Rubén Israel Gatica Gómez, for creating and sharing a video slideshow of our conference highlights.
  • And last but not least, we would like to thank our sponsors and supporters, who made many things possible by donating financial and other resources: ISIS Institute, Antioch University Seattle, DigiCopy N Print, TGB Architects, and OSR | Organization Systems Renewal.

Some Feedback from Participants

“Thanks so much for your work in designing and putting on such a fabulous Semiotics conference!”

“The conference was magnificent.”

“This was so different from all the other academic conferences I’ve attended. It’s not always easy to connect with new people at these events – but this felt like one big family reunion.”

“It was an amazing conference, and a turning point for the Society.”

“As I am digesting new concepts and stories from the SSA meeting, I am very grateful for the opportunity to get exposure and learn semiotics. I think it is your desire and intention to broaden the reach of SSA/semiotics that manifested the opportunity for me to attend. … I thank you for your vision and for your perseverance to see it through. I look forward to continue learning and connecting.”

“At all levels, it was a success.”

“I am very grateful for this opportunity to discover semiotics. Thank you!”

“What a wonderful meeting you and your team have designed! It’s a gracious thing you did by weaving art and design into the conference. The high attendance rate is testament to your collective skill.”

“This is an amazing meeting. I got so much important experience and [would like to] establish an academic relationship between both Chinese and American semiotic societies. Hopefully, my effort will greatly promote our deep collaboration in the future. Thanks a lot again for your hard work.”

“It was a great experience. … Thank you!”

2014 SSA Yearbook

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Many thanks to those who participated in and made the 39th SSA Annual Meeting in Seattle a very successful event.

In order to be considered for publication in the SSA Yearbook, please submit your final paper by November 30, 2014. The submission guidelines and SSA Style Sheet will assist you in finalizing your submissions.

All inquiries and submissions should be directed to the Editor, Jamin Pelkey, at jpelkey@ryerson.ca.

I wish you all the best.

Farouk Seif
SSA Executive Director

Preparing for Your Trip to Seattle

Dear 39th Annual Meeting Participants,

We hope that you are as excited as we are about what’s in store for us next week. We even have a few surprises that we know you’ll enjoy!

In the meantime, please take note of some important information and reminders:

Media Information for Presenters

  • The SSA will provide projectors for those using a PowerPoint or other slide presentation. Please bring a USB device (and, if possible, a laptop) with your presentation saved on it. A number of SSA members have volunteered the use of their laptops, but it would be helpful if some presenters brought their own.
  • The Westin Hotel offers free wifi access throughout the premises.

The Weather in Seattle

  • The current weather in Seattle is around 61 degrees F (16 C) and few showers. The ten-day forecast is between 63 and 68 degrees F (17-20 C), with mostly sunny days. Bring an umbrella just in case!
  • The Westin Hotel conference rooms default temperature is set between 68 and 70 degrees F (20-21 C).

Fitness Facilities

  • The Westin Hotel offers free use of its fitness facilities to hotel guests. If you would like to work out during your stay, you may even pack light and leave your sneakers behind! The Westin will provide New Balance shoes and workout clothing for a nominal fee of $5 for the entire duration of your stay.

Post-Conference Tour and Local Attractions

  • Those of you who have not signed up yet will still have the opportunity to join us for a wonderful tour of Tillicum Village on Blake Island on Sunday, right after the conference closing ceremonies. You may sign up at the registration desk when you arrive.
  • Many of Seattle’s most famous attractions are within walking distance of the Westin, including the Space Needle, the Seattle Art Museum, the Seattle Symphony (Benaroya Hall), the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum, Pike Place Market, and the beautiful waterfront. Here is an easy-to-use map and listing.

Transportation Options from SeaTac Airport to the Westin Seattle Hotel

  • Sound Transit Light Rail – The cost of the ticket is $2.75 one way and train travel time is approx. 40 minutes. You can buy the ticket at the vending machine at the station. Be sure to purchase your ticket before boarding the Light Rail to avoid the $124 fine. Directions: From Baggage Claim (Lower Level), take the escalator up to Skybridge No. 6 to the Sound Transit Light Rail Station (approximately 10 minutes). Take the train and exit at Westlake Station. At the station, either (1) take the elevator and exit to the right to find the Westin in front of you, or (2) take the escalator, exit right towards 5th Avenue, and walk one block down 5th Avenue.
  • Shuttle Express – The cost is $18 one way and travel time is approximately 30 minutes. Shuttle Express will take you directly to the Westin Seattle Hotel. To make reservations, visit www.shuttleexpress.com or call +1-425-881-7000. Directions: Take Skybridge No. 4 from the Terminal Building to Level 4 and use the elevator or escalator to Level 3. Shuttle Express is located on Level 3.
  • For driving directions from the airport to the Westin Seattle Hotel, visit the hotel’s driving directions page.
  • A listing of additional transportation options between the airport and the Westin Seattle Hotel can be found here.

For our latest program information, please visit this page.

We are looking forward to seeing you soon!

Farouk Seif
SSA Executive Director
2014 Program Chair

Semiotics Book Exhibit at 39th Annual Meeting

Book Exhibit 1

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

The countdown continues for the 39th SSA Annual Meeting in Seattle!

The Program Committee would like to extend an invitation for you to bring sample copies of your published books for display at the Book Exhibit and Gallery in the Westin Hotel.  If you have any questions about our book exhibit, please direct them to Gilad Elbom at gilad.elbom@oregonstate.edu.

Farouk Seif
SSA Executive Director
Chair, Program Committee

 

Book Exhibit 2

Pictured above: Some of the latest publications in semiotics (2013-forthcoming in 2015), including works by SSA members and 39th Annual Meeting presenters.

Opportunity Knocks Again…!

Based on several requests, we are very pleased to announce that we have secured an extension for reduced-rate bookings at the Westin Seattle Hotel, for those of you who have not yet made your reservations. Please take note of the new – but absolutely final – deadline: Tuesday, September 9. Shall we take advantage of this opportunity?

To reserve your room at this discounted rate, visit Westin Hotel Seattle Reservations or call +01-888-627-8513.

We look forward to enjoying this wonderful venue with you!

Farouk Y. Seif
SSA Executive Director
Chair, Program Committee

Marketplace of Semiotics: Seminars/Workshops

Are you planning on attending our 39th Annual Meeting? Our Marketplace of Semiotics pre-conference activities are not to be missed!

Marketplace of Semiotics Facilitators

What it is: The Marketplace of Semiotics includes a plenary open space session followed by concurrent workshops or seminars taught by expert semioticians from across the disciplines. The sessions will focus on topics proposed and collaboratively developed by the participants themselves.

When: Thursday, October 2, 2014, at 9 a.m. (immediately preceding our conference Opening Ceremonies)
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Where: The Westin Seattle hotel venue.

Who can attend: All conference presenters and attendees are invited to participate! The sessions will be of interest to both students and scholars new to semiotics and to experienced scholars.

How to register: When registering for the conference here, under “Optional Activities” select “Pre-Conference Open Space Session”. If you have already registered for the conference, you can return to our registration page to add this option.

More about the pre-conference Marketplace of Semiotics

Inspired by the idea of Pike Street Market of Seattle, the Marketplace of Semiotics is an extraordinary opportunity to experience the self-organizing, collaborative Open Space format with a leading expert in the field, Mark Hower (Antioch University Seattle). It is an excellent avenue for professional development and expanding your network and sense of a larger community of practice.

Because session topics are collaboratively generated, the Open Space process allows participants to examine and make meaning around what is important to them and, in so doing, deepens our shared community and impact.

Open Space TechnologyActivities will begin with an engaging plenary session led by Mark Hower, in which participants will be invited to explore the conference theme and propose topics for the workshops or seminars that immediately follow.

Participants will then join a session on a topic of their own choosing. These sessions will be facilitated by experienced semiotics scholars.

Plenary Session Facilitator

Mark HowerMark Hower, Ph.D. is a faculty member at Antioch University Seattle, and served as chair of Graduate Management and Leadership and the interim President for the Seattle campus. Dr. Hower was a founding member of the Graduate Programs in Leadership and Change, and developed its integrated curriculum and cohort learning model. He directed several U.N. programs, held several Peace Corps leadership positions in Ukraine, Baltic States, Russia, West Africa, and the Kingdom of Tonga in the Pacific. Mark has integrated these international experiences with his passion for collaborative learning, facilitation skills in organizations dynamics, and open space technology.

Workshop and Seminar Facilitators

Pre-Conference Facilitators

Our workshop facilitators are distinguished scholars in the field of semiotics from all across the disciplines:

(Pictured from left to right)
John Coletta, Professor of English, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
Marcel Danesi, Professor of Semiotics and Linguistic Anthropology, University of Toronto
Elliot Gaines, Professor of Communication, Wright State University
Richard Lanigan, Director and Fellow, International Communicology Institute, and Professor of Communicology (Emeritus), Southern Illinois University
Frank Macke, Professor of Communication and Theater Arts, Mercer University
Gila Safran Naveh, Professor of Judaic Studies, University of Cincinnati
Steven Skaggs, Professor of Design, University of Louisville
Stephanie Walsh Matthews, Professor of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, Ryerson University

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If you’re curious to see what an Open Space workshop can look like, watch this:

Deadline Extended for Reduced-Rate Hotel Reservations

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

The Westin Seattle Hotel has extended the cut-off date for reserving rooms to 5:00 pm local time on September 2, 2014. Please make your reservation ASAP. After September 2, it will be at the Westin’s discretion whether to accept reservations, which will be subject to prevailing rates and availability. The SSA special rate for a single or double room is $195.00 per night, including complimentary guest-room wireless Internet access and other amenities.

To make your room reservations, please visit Westin Seattle Hotel Reservations or call +01-888-627-8513. Don’t miss out on this special rate!

My very best to all,
Farouk Seif
SSA Executive Director