From Signing Practice to Semiotic Theory – and Back

The University of Potsdam and its ‚Virtual Centre for Cultural Semiotics‘ will be hosting a truly interesting event from 3 to 7 February 2020 that they decided to call ‚Signs of Our Time‘. It comes as a ’semiotics week‘ bringing together M.A.-students in ‚Applied Cultural Studies & Semiotics‘, practitioners from diverse professions and experts from various domains of Cultural Semiotics. Lead organizer Prof. Dr. E. KIMMINICH put together an exciting program full of different formats – from talks to discussions and from film screenings to bar camps. It covers the domains of exhibition design, marketing, multimodal story telling, and film making.

I feel flattered to have been asked as an expert on semiotics and linguistic/visual analysis to give a keynote on ‚What can a Semiotics of Advertising be good for? Glimpses from the text-analytical lab‘. Besides introducing a few central concepts of semiotic analysis, the lecture will present two empirical projects. The first looks at the multimodal design and argumentation of Social Advertising (for health, safety, equality, environmental issues). The second explores rhetorical operations in ‚doctored‘ advertising images, i.e. visual compositing and digital art.

„The keynote illustrates that – beneath its glitteringly magic surface – advertising is based on cleverly and lucidly conceived sign structures, which come in recurring patterns. Text-semiotic analysis can be an effective tool for uncovering and understanding advertising design.“ (Abstract Keynote H. STÖCKL)

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the event at Potsdam will be the great opportunity to air and explain some of my research to practicing professionals. Not only do I hope to receive stimulating feedback, I also look forward to gauging the current state of the relations between advertising practice and theory, an issue I have always found very much worth exploring (cf. STÖCKL 2011, Multimodale Werbekommunikation – Theorie und Praxis, in: ZfAL Zeitschrift für Angewandte Linguistik vol. 2011/issue 54, 5-32).

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