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1. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 51 > Issue: 1
Merit Rickberg From avoiding uncertainty to accepting it: Semiotic modelling of history education at the limits of knowledge
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This article explicates how different approaches to teaching history can enforce diverse strategies for dealing with uncertainty. Descriptions of three types of historical pedagogy are analysed as three kinds of modelling systems derived from Juri Lotman’s theory of semiotics of culture: myth-type modelling, scientific modelling, and play-type modelling. The paper argues that the connection between pedagogical approaches and uncertainty, as an experience that occurs at the limits of knowledge, can be modelled as the relation between a semiotic system and its boundary. The nature of this relation can differ depending on how the division between the internal and external space of the semiotic entity is perceived. Different types of modelling systems establish distinct patterns in order to deal with the indeterminacy of the borderland area. In the process of learning, these patterns can be viewed as semiotic strategies that various pedagogical approaches enforce when arriving at the limits of knowledge and facing the situation of indeterminacy that can cause students to experience uncertainty. Three different strategies are discussed in the context of history education: avoiding uncertainty in the case of the collective memory approach, addressing uncertainty in the case of the disciplinary approach, and accepting uncertainty in the case of the post-modern approach to teaching history.
2. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 51 > Issue: 1
Katarina Damčević “Ready for the Homeland” in Croatian media: Commemorations, victory, and foundation
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This article analyses the media discourse surrounding the WWII fascist salute Za dom spremni (ZDS) in the aftermath of two national commemorations that took place in Croatia in spring 2020: Jasenovac and Operation Flash (Bljesak). In spring 2020 Zoran Milanović, the newly elected President of Croatia, adamantly criticized the presence of the salute, associated with the collaborationist Ustaša regime, at the two commemorations, calling for its removal and ban. This led to heated reactions from war veterans and politicians who considered Milanović’s actions unacceptable and offensive towards the memory and legacy of the 1990s war, which triggered a wider debate regarding Croatia’s post-war national identity. The object of the analysis is the discourse surrounding the salute as it emerges in opinion pieces published in weekly and daily newspapers in April, May, and June 2020. With the salute becoming an increasingly prominent part of negotiating national identity and tailoring political agendas, investigating how it is justified, disapproved or otherwise challenged in the media is an aspect that deserves more attention. Relying on insights from discourse studies, the article sheds light on various statements that (de)legitimize the salute and consequently particular actors and actions associated with it. With the help of semiotics of culture wider signification tendencies and dominant discourse(s) upon which the national self-description has been built are identified. The article contributes to scholarship on hate speech and contested symbols in the post-Yugoslav space and their (mis)uses in societies struggling with traumatic legacies.
3. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 51 > Issue: 1
Alec Kozicki Umwelt in an umwelt: Co-developing within immersive virtual environments and the paradoxical nature of reality and hyperreality
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This paper examines how to model immersive virtual environments using Kalevi Kull’s ecosemiotic model of four degrees of nature. Using this theoretical model allows for an investigation into the paradoxical nature of reality and hyperreality, which is a novel approach to understanding how a user co-develops with both their physical and immersive virtual environments. Analysis for the four degrees of nature within the virtual space reveals that an immersive virtual environment emerges from an imaginative void, contains milieu that users can recognize and interact with, offers the action-potentiality (affordances) for altering and changing materials within the virtual space, and the reproductive nature which converges the boundaries of reality and hyperreality during the meaning-making process for users. Additionally, this paper elaborates how technological household goods in the past century have integrated texts into the cultural construct of a home. The paper identifies how immersive virtual environments alter an inhabitant’s perception and interactions within the home and explains how to model immersion, which is important for future research of user behaviour in the digital age of new media.
4. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 51 > Issue: 1
Silver Rattasepp The ontological primacy of umwelt
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Where do the basic composite parts of an umwelt – the organism and the environment – come from? Customarily, in umwelt theory, the emphasis is on their mutual co-construction or constitution through functional cycles. But another question could be added to this inquiry: what is the origin, the genesis of organisms and their environments which are now to be indivisibly united once again? On the basis of the transactional conception of relations proposed by John Dewey, the concept of schismogenesis as described by Gregory Bateson, and the process of individuation as explicated by Gilbert Simondon, it is proposed that it is the umwelt which is ontologically primary, and that it is its internal division, separation and individuation, which results in the appearance of organisms with their environments.
5. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 51 > Issue: 1
Pauline Delahaye Exploring the nature and strength of the semiotic relation: A case study about liminal species in Tartu
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The case study described in this paper is part of an emerging cultural context in both its scientific as well as societal aspects, where animals are seen more and more as social and ethical subjects and their presence in the vicinity of humans is seen less and less as a nuisance to be eradicated. It aims to understand the different aspects (material inconveniences, emotional relationships, symbolic value, biodiversity perception, etc.) that hold sway in the relationship between humans and other species in an environment still symbolically seen as separate from any natural process, containing very little biodiversity, and belonging exclusively to humans. This study aims to map out the shared urban ecosystem and show that many of the relationships, coexistence issues, and failures in urban management are connected to semiotic processes that can be transformed. One of the major results of this case study is the emergence of the concept of ‘resistance of the semiotic relation’: the fact that some semiotic relationships, especially symbolic ones, seem to resist any element or piece of evidence that could be proposed to contradict them. This concept postulates that not all semiotic relations have the same strength or the same resistance to exterior attempts to modify them, and that potential semiotic solutions proposed to improve semiotic relationships, for example in cohabitation situations, need to address this reality and the variety of resistance – or resilience – of different semiotic relations.
6. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 51 > Issue: 1
Muzayin Nazaruddin, Riin Magnus The post-disaster transformation of interspecies dependencies: From talkative buffalo to desemiotized cows on the slope of Mt. Merapi
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This paper suggests how natural disasters may serve as the final propulsion for changes already taking place within a society. While focusing on shifts in human–non-human animal relations, this text also discusses their embedding in broader transformations of human–environment relations and the underlying economic and cultural change. It carves out interspecific dependencies that constitute an agro-ecosystem and follows their demise as the agricultural species are switched to market economic production in a post-disaster context. It thereby suggests that the human-facilitated semiotic fitting of the agricultural species is replaced by human-imposed fitting in which the species composition is largely determined by the market prices. At the same time, the paper draws attention to the cessation and transformation of human–non-human communication as a marker, but also an experiential corollary, of modernization and market economy. As a case study, it focuses on the 2010 Mt. Merapi eruption in Indonesia and its aftermath in the villages on its slope. The study analyses how the shift from using plough buffalo to utilizing market economic cattle farming reflects not just an economic, but also an affective and semiotic change stemming from a shift in the intensity and kind of human–animal relations.
7. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 51 > Issue: 1
Timo Maran Meanings for the degrowth society: From the Great Acceleration to the semiosis of the living
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The global ecological crisis has often been related to the so-called Great Acceleration, i.e. the rapid growth of many social metrics (population size, gross domestic product, energy usage, etc.) from the mid-20th century onwards. The degrowth movement has opposed the great economic expansion by advocating for a simplified society and decreased human use of energy and natural resources. In this paper, I will analyse the semiotic aspects of this process as a semiotic acceleration, and argue that transformation into the degrowth society can be supported by the restructuration of human semiotic systems towards more coherence and better connectivity with ecological processes. The semiotic acceleration manifests as a massive multiplication and spread of abstract signs and information content that is detached from ecological and material processes, and lacks value-based organization. To support the degrowth transformation, I propose the semiosis of the living as an understanding that significance arises first and foremost from semiotic participation in specific lived ecologies (cultural, ecological, and material), placement and rootedness of the given act of semiosis in the particular semiotic fabric and the unfolding of the world. The semiosis of the living re-grounds the human semiotic processes in the patterns of iconic and indexical relations shared by humans and non-human species alike.
8. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 51 > Issue: 1
Kalevi Kull Further considerations on semiosis in evolution: Arbitrarity plus semiotic fitting, and/or mutability plus natural selection
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This essay attempts to combine some recent theoretical results in (bio)semiotics on arbitrariness, semiotic fitting, umwelt, choice, and extended theory of evolution into a more coherent whole. The proposed model describes a living being through its subjectivity and the ability to create meaning, which are often overlooked in models based on replicability. The concept of the umwelt is divided into two – the synchronic umwelt and the distributed or diachronic umwelt. For the latter, a new term ‘umweb’ is introduced. A mechanism of evolution is described in which arbitrary relating followed by semiotic fitting is somewhat analogous to the neo-Darwinian mechanism of random mutations followed by natural selection. The paper proceeds to discuss the alternativity and coexistence of these two radically different ways of evolution and learning.
9. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 51 > Issue: 1
Kalevi Kull, Ekaterina Velmezova How to develop semiotics: Paul Cobley
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10. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 50 > Issue: 4
Ott Puumeister, Kalevi Kull Editors’ preface: Lotmaniana and semiotic publications from Tartu
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11. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 50 > Issue: 4
Pietro Restaneo Semiotics and dialectics: Notes on the paper “Literary criticism must be scientific” by Juri Lotman
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The present paper is an introduction to and analysis of the article “Literary criticism must be scientific”, presented here for the first time in English translation. The original was published by Lotman in 1967 in the journal Voprosy Literatury. The article by Lotman is a part of a wider debate, started in 1963, that saw structuralists and their opponents dispute the validity and heuristic value of structuralist methodology in literary criticism. The aim of the introduction is to explore Lotman’s engagements with his intellectual context as they emerge in his 1967 article. The first part of the paper discusses the wider context of the debate, and explores the positions of the opponents of structuralism and the ways in which Lotman relates to them. The second part of the paper analyses how Lotman and his structuralist colleagues related to the official Soviet ideology, the diamat. In both cases, it will be seen how Lotman engaged certain aspects of his opponents’ ideas, as well as the official ideology, in order to further his goal of reconciling structuralism and historicism.
12. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 50 > Issue: 4
Juri Lotman, Pietro Restaneo Literary criticism must be scientific
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13. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 50 > Issue: 4
Daniele Monticelli Lotman in the Anglophone world: General trends, two new anthologies and a Companion
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This article reconstructs the main foci and changes in the reception of Juri Lotman’s work and Lotman-related scholarship in the Anglophone world. The first part of the article presents a brief critical overview of the history of the translations of Juri Lotman’s works into English and of Anglophone scholarship on Lotman from 1973 to the present. The second part of the article considers more closely three volumes entirely dedicated to Lotman’s work which have most recently been published in English: the anthologies of translated texts by Lotman Culture, Memory and History: Essays in Cultural Semiotics (2019, ed. Marek Tamm) and Culture and Communication: Signs in Flux. An Anthology of Major and Lesser-Known Works by Juri Lotman (2020, ed. Andreas Schonle) as well as The Companion to Juri Lotman: A Semiotic Theory of Culture (2022, eds. Marek Tamm and Peeter Torop).
14. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 50 > Issue: 4
Silvi Salupere Acta Semiotica Estica
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Acta Semiotica Estica is an annually published peer-reviewed Estonian-language journal of semiotics based in Tartu, that has been published since 2001. This article gives a brief overview of the history and development of the journal.
15. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 50 > Issue: 4
Eleni Alexandri, Tuuli Pern Hortus Semioticus
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The article takes a retrospective look on the history of the online periodical Hortus Semioticus from its inception in 2005 to the present day as the journal celebrates the publication of its tenth issue. We draw on the editorial staff members’ reflections on their experiences while contributing to the publishing of Hortus Semioticus, as well as their hopes and aspirations for the journal’s future.
16. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 50 > Issue: 4
Kalevi Kull Dissertationes Semioticae Universitatis Tartuensis
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Doctoral dissertations in semiotics have been defended at the University of Tartu since 1999; since the year 2000, these theses have been published as the series Dissertationes Semioticae Universitatis Tartuensis. The present paper provides an up-to-date bibliography of the dissertations.
17. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 50 > Issue: 4
Kalevi Kull, Silvi Salupere, Eva Lepik Book series on semiotics in the world and Tartu Semiotics Library
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We publish a worldwide list of 33 recent semiotics book series, and describe the volumes published in the Tartu Semiotics Library series that was established in 1998.
18. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 50 > Issue: 4
Kalevi Kull, Ott Puumeister Fifty volumes of Sign Systems Studies
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The article gives a brief overview of the publication of the journal Sign Systems Studies. Throughout its publication period that started in 1964 the journal has been edited by a group of Tartu semioticians; the publisher has been the University of Tartu Press. While the first 25 volumes mainly contained articles in Russian, the next 25 volumes have predominantly been given out in English. We provide a list of thematic issues and a complete bibliography of the articles that have appeared in the journal during its entire publication period from 1964 to 2022.
19. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 50 > Issue: 2/3
Lona Päll An ecosemiotic dimension of folklore: Reframing the concept of place-lore
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Place-lore, which has been systematically collected and archived in Estonia since the 19th century, is a part of various national, communal and institutional practices. Until now, Estonian researchers have resorted to conceptualizing place-lore from the perspective of archival texts, and the focus has been on collecting and archiving the material. At the same time, theoretical study of place-lore has remained in the background. In the article I approach place-lore from the perspective of ecosemiotics and suggest a new definition of place-lore that is based on semiotic relations these narratives have with the environment they represent. Outlining different ways of how vernacular tradition and the environment it represents are semiotically related, and analysing the ways in which these relations are expressed in place-related folklore allows seeing how place-lore can be defined through (1) localizability, (2) representation of the characteristics of a place, and (3) manifestation of place experience. Defining place-lore and presenting the preliminary conceptual tools is much needed in practical collection work and archiving and serves as an important prerequisite for studying the place-related folklore in the context of contemporary challenges, such as changing textual practices, cultural disruptions, and environmental crisis. Examples are drawn from folklore associated with mires, specifically from narratives about the Kakerdaja Bog in northern Estonia.
20. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 50 > Issue: 2/3
Raquel Aparicio Cid Perspectives, dimensions, and references that shape the notion of nature: A semiotic model based on socioecological relations
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If the significance of nature is a crucial phenomenon in understanding the forms of relations societies establish with the environment, in what way is this significance built? This paper presents the results of a case study focused on exploring how the meanings of nature and socioecological relationships relate to each other in an indigenous population. The first part of the article explains the theoretical scaffolding used to collect and analyse data, based on ecological anthropology and Ogden and Richards’ semiotic scheme. The second part describes the methodological procedures and the first findings, that is, the elements and dimensions that integrate the meanings of nature and land for the inhabitants of this population. It is also explained how those meanings are built and how they are fused to local socioecological relationships in an ontological way. The findings reveal that the inhabitants of this community configure their meanings of ‘nature’ from multiple references of biological, spiritual, axiological, and cultural character, often represented by its referent ‘land’. The notion of ‘nature’ (as land) is created from subjective and social experiences with the environment and the territory, and in turn provides meaning to the biocultural identity of the population. However, historical learning, worldview, and social organization also emerge as the main structuring elements of the social meanings of nature and land.