JUNE 4 : SEMIOTICS AND CULTURE OF INNOVATION

How to catalyse creativity and innovation? What are the factors of change? We’ll conclude Semiofest with our keynote – the grand old man of marketing semiotics, Dr. Malcolm Evans is looking further into the new perspectives in marketing semiotics.

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09:00-09:30   :   Registration

09:30-10:50   :   Session 7 – How to catalyse innovation

“Irritation and “innovation””
Merja Bauters, Finland
Docent of Semiotics at Helsinki University

“Maps for imaginary lands. My search for an effective innovation catalyst: the creation of Infus”
Mauricio Trentin, Brazil
Visual artist

“Neo-classical or evolutionary semiotic approach to innovation? Could semiotics provide a critical tool to analyse innovation processes and policies?”
Indrek Ibrus, Estonia
Head of TLU Centre of Excellence in Media Innovation and Digital Culture, Tallinn University

“Semiotics as a Collaborative Tool. Methodological innovation”
Andrius Grigorjevas, Lithuania
Head of Strategy at Idea Group Lithuania, lecturer at Vilnius University (Faculty of Communication)

10:50-11:10   :   Break

11:10-13:15   :   KEYNOTE SESSION

Keynote speech
“Brand Semiotics & Cultural Analysis – the next paradigm”
Malcolm Evans, UK
Principal of S-Foundation & Co-Founder of Semionaut

Open space discussion based on the keynote by Malcolm Evans

Wrap-up of the conference

13:15-14:30   :   Lunch

 
 

ABSTRACTS

09:30-10:50   :   Session 7 – How to catalyse innovation

“Irritation and “innovation””
Merja Bauters, Finland
Docent of Semiotics at Helsinki University

This paper will present how pragmatism from a semiotic point of view can provide actual theoretical foundations in designing applications of informal learning. The focus is in the moment of doubt, the moment of wavering, the moment where it is possible to find new ideas and provoke reflections. To guide and focus the design, two concepts become intriguing, namely, experience and reflection. Experiences as Dewey and Peirce defined them are the key into abduction (as such also innovation) and reflection in action. Experiences tie the parts together through meaning making. Living experiences suggest changes for practices and these may trigger reflective processing of the situations. Habit is related to the concept of belief and doubt. Bergman clarifies that beliefs can be seen to be “intellectual habits” that “might not be in the focus of our awareness but which can be easily brought up into reflection”. This easier bringing up into awareness distinguishes intellectual habits from tacit knowledge, which is related to automated routines that are hard to explicate. The point is in the intellectual habits, which can be brought into awareness through abductive reasoning.

I will bring up actual cases from work where the above becomes important for informal learning. For example, when observing construction work our team recognized that while working people enjoyed moments of doubts and inspiration. These kinds of feelings are described as irritating; feeling uncomfortable before realising from physical clues in the context what is different or needs different kind of actions. The emotional, bodily and routinized aspect of habit is tied to embodiment – being and acting in a situation.

Dewey’s concept of qualitative immediacy is essential in the sense that it provides understanding into experiencing within time and place — it belongs to the particular experience. In the paper I will also describe how the theoretical background influenced the tools our team designed for noticing the moments of doubt, the moment of qualitative immediacy and potential for the abductive weak form of reasoning.


Takeaways:

1theory applied to real practise, experiences from the field, charisma 😉

 

“Maps for imaginary lands. My search for an effective innovation catalyst: the creation of Infus”
Mauricio Trentin, Brazil
Visual artist

Is there a way to help creative minds to risk more, creating more quickly and better under unexpected constraints?

Real innovation is rare, and even the best trained and resourced creative minds tend to risk less as time passes and increases the responsibility for results, breakthroughs and profit. Beyond that, commitment to shorter deadlines and faster cycles tend to cloud the originally free and chaotic way to real innovation.

We have now the tools, software and hardware, to accelerate the outcomes of our creative processes. But we still do not deal properly with the mental process of ideation itself. It remains, even in design thinking methods, a “talent only” category, without specific learning and real improvement other than the natural learning curve from experience itself.

A semiotic approach to creative processes can profoundly change the pace of innovation in a wide range of creative fields.

For the last 22 years I’ve been working for the creative industry, in many areas, as a designer, working on digital, graphic, and industrial design and as a creator for narratives. And I’ve been creating artwork, images, intersemiotic devices and art installations for the last 10 years.

I saw the process of innovation from a very specific point of view, being part of it in many different fields. After a masters degree in semiotics, I developed a logic innovation catalyst. I call it Infuse.

Infuse is a logic, a framework and a process to foster innovation and insight. It is my conceptual tool, and may be a contribution to creative people everywhere.

Infuse is about speech, physicality and interaction. Specific categories are used like a game, and the framework functions create random constraints.

My talk is about how creative insight can be improved and accelerated. In any creative area. At any creative level.

It would be very nice to share and contribute to a deeper discussion of creative processes and innovation.

Takeaways:

1. A notion that their creative process can be improved, with a semiotic process and a deeper understanding of innovation as viewed from the inside. No matter how experienced, professional, trained or ingenious, any creative process can be enhanced with a conceptual tool that adds random but meaningful components to the process.

2. The critical difference between Poiesis and Praxis. A clear diagrammatic structure that helps to understand creative action, not taken from the classic theories of innovation, but from a look to the ideation stage of the process, and the importance of different types of abductive processes when searching for different desired outcomes.

3. A brief but clear contact with Infuse framework itself, my innovation catalyst tool, the process methodology of it and some examples of how Infuse could be used. I’ll present the categories, the symbols, when and how I use it today.

 

“Neo-classical or evolutionary semiotic approach to innovation? Could semiotics provide a critical tool to analyse innovation processes and policies?”
Indrek Ibrus, Estonia
Head of TLU Centre of Excellence in Media Innovation and Digital Culture, Tallinn University

Although the Call for Papers for Semiofest in Tallinn suggests a rather uncritical approach to the role of innovation in a society and culture, ‘innovation studies proper’, the economic studies relying on evolutionary or institutionalist approaches to innovation, have over the last decades developed a rich set of perspectives to problematise the societal effects of various kinds of innovation processes in market economies. This has been in contrast to neo-classical economics that has always seen innovation as exogeneous to economy, to which market equilibration forces then have had to accommodate. The neo-classical discourse does not question how the emergence of innovation is conditioned, where it is coming from, when an innovation is ‘good’, or when and how its potential negative effects should be ameliorated by policy means. The neo-classical approach with its neoliberal implications in general does not see the need for policy interventions, as this would undermine the ability of markets to equilibrate themselves. In contrast to this approach evolutionary studies of innovation see innovation as endogeneous – conditioned by the society and culture in very complex ways – i.e. there are complex histories for all innovations and therefore also complex effects. The suggestion I make is that there could be a fruitful dialogue between versions of cultural semiotics and evolutionary approaches to innovation. Both of these broad academic domains study the complex dynamics of change in either culture or economy, but are effectively interdisciplinary, i.e. genuinely interested in the perspectives of other disciplines to understand the full complexities of historical processes of change.

The ‘application value’ of evolutionary economics is the critical analysis of policy frameworks to understand how societal setups – the networks of institutions, the technological design of information exchange in a society, etc. – are made to generate innovations and what is then the ‘value’ of these innovations. In relation to this, the question this paper poses is the following: could semiotics as a tool contribute to such analytical endeavours? I discuss this potential by analysing the cases of two different large-scale innovation processes/policies evolving in Europe – the Digital Single Market strategy of the EU and the work on digitising and making accessible of European audiovisual heritage content. In both cases my paper will propose semiotic insights on the historically contextual emergence of these processes, on the societal power struggles affecting their evolution and on the cultural effects of the eventual designs of the particular solutions. Altogether the paper will discuss the semiotic analysis as a tool to understand broader innovation processes in the economy/society/culture.

 

“Semiotics as a Collaborative Tool. Methodological innovation”
Andrius Grigorjevas, Lithuania
Head of Strategy at Idea Group Lithuania, lecturer at Vilnius University (Faculty of Communication)

For a long time, semiotics as a discipline has been regarded as an analytical and more importantly private endeavor. But it is worth considering taking semiotics in the opposite direction – i.e. using it for group collaborative efforts.

Semiotic principles (especially the ones derived from Algirdas Julien Greimas’ semiotic theory) are undeniably strategic in their essence. By strategic I mean that semiotic principles a) allow one to determine relationships between elements and determine the value these elements hold within a structure, and b) allow one to go from complex surface structures and phenomena to deep meaning and logical relations. These principles not only can be applied to analysis of a textual corpus, but also can act as guiding principles for collaborative action, e. g. in a context of an innovation workshop. By thinking of semiotics as of a group-work tool, it is possible to move the semiotic project from being an analytical tool to one that functions as a springboard to innovation.

The purpose of the presentation is to outline the main semiotic principles that are converted into specific innovation workshop tools and practices:

  • analytical trajectory as a tool for understanding context and environment;
  • generative trajectory as a tool for structuring strategic direction and strategic initiatives;
  • semiotic concepts (such as the principle of difference and continuity, isotopy, and categories) as workshop techniques;
  • semiotic square as a tool for building future scenarios.

The audience will be presented with semiotic concepts that foster strategic thinking, given semiotics-based workshop tools and provided with application examples.

15:20-17:30   :   KEYNOTE SESSION

Keynote speech
“Brand Semiotics & Cultural Analysis – the next paradigm”
Malcolm Evans, UK
Principal of S-Foundation & Co-Founder of Semionaut

This started life as a plea for a collaborative review of where we are up to in the evolution of applied brand semiotics and, with the benefit of dialogue with our academic specialist colleagues, a push to innovate and move forward to the next paradigm of what semiotics can offer brand owners – along with NGOs, policy-making bodies and other organisations. This keynote is designed to get the ball rolling for such a conversation, blowing the whistle and kicking off with some possible directions of change and innovation themes.

The introduction will be informed by a) abduction, b) the luxury of hypothesis around emergent perspectives not yet fully available in empirically verifiable form c) a desire provisionally to identify ideation areas for incremental and disruptive innovation and d) an engaging humility and diplomatic avoidance of offence (in the great Semiofest heritage of five friction-free years of co-creation).

Following a quick sketch of the historical context and one interpretation of current ‘business as usual’ brand semiotics, the presentation will move on to the first pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that show us what tomorrow’s core applied methodology, its toolkit and outputs might look like. Then we will look at some evolving semiotic, and cross-disciplinary, ‘push’ factors that could help move these trajectories of change in the direction of a new paradigm – along with the corresponding ‘pull’ factors in the emerging market place.

The presentation aims to throw down some conceptual dots, invite the addition of others, and help us move forward together to join them and build four of five practical areas for innovation – and start putting some flesh on the bones. Which categories? which potential clients? how will this differ from what’s already being done? what may we be able to do that we haven’t even dreamed about yet (the unknown unknowns)?

No teasers about where the presentation thinks the new paradigm may lie. But we are hoping to persuade the philosopher Jean-Claude d’Iquède to contribute, with his theory of an emerging post-narrative society. And his insight that “every time a brand semiotician talks about story-telling a kitten dies”.

Takeaways:

1. A sense of the historical development and discourse(s) of applied brand semiotics.

2. Where are we now? What is emergent – identifying new energies, opportunities, where the excitement is.

3. Research and practical innovation agendas – academics and commercial players collaborating to move forward. How do we do it? What do we need? What are the knowledge and resource gaps and opportunities?

 

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