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!


  • 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!”