Current Research Projects
Semiotic fitting as a mechanism of biocultural diversity: instability and sustainability in novel environments
1.01.2019 - 31.12.2023
Team Leader: Kalevi Kull
The impact on diversity by the survival of a new agent in a semiotic system largely depends on the fitting of its communicative relations (sign relations) into the novel environment. We call this process semiotic fitting. Our project aims to discover the general features of semiotic fitting that characterise its effect on diversity in ecological, cultural and virtual systems. To solve this task, we are going to elaborate a general conception and a model of semiotic fitting, and to study the formation of semiotic diversity (1) in urban ecosystems, (2) in social media and the environment of e-Estonia, and (3) in the processes of cultural translation. We expect to demonstrate that semiotic fitting is an important mechanism responsible for diversity in all these different cases.
Strategic Narrative as a Model for Reshaping the Security Dilemma
08.03.2019 - 31.01.2023
Team Leader: Andreas Ventsel
Participants: Mari-Liis Madisson, Sten Hansson
The project focuses on analysis of strategical narratives that are related with (cyber)security discourses. Strategic narratives is means by which political actors attempt to construct a shared meaning of the past, present, and future of international politics to shape the behavior of domestic and international actors. Strategic narratives usually establish the identity of the active actor (who we are?), a desired destination (what we want to achieve?), the obstacles related to it and the recommended way of overcoming these obstacles. Strategic narratives may include the justification of policy objectives or policy responses to economic or security crises, the formation of international alliances, or the rallying of domestic or international public opinion etc. We conceptualize our research results in the framework of security dilemma. It refers to a situation in international relations in which actions by a state intended to heighten its security (eg increasing its military strength, committing to use weapons or making alliances) can lead other states to respond with similar measures, producing increased tensions that create conflict, even when no side really desires it. Our project we will research how cybersecurity narratives shape the dynamics of policy between Russia and NATO members. We will use interdisciplinary research-methods from semiotics, discourse analysis, media studies, narrative studies, conflict- and security studies etc.
Semiotics of multispecies environments: agencies, meaning making and communication conflicts
Personal Research Funding (PUT) project 1363
January 2017 - December 2020
Team Leader: Timo Maran
The goal of this project is to study how different species use semiotic means for engaging in shared environments, how species’ Umwelten allow for relations with other species and environments, how shared sign repertoires emerge and what semiotic and cultural properties of humans influence these processes. Specifically, the project focuses on problems and potentials in multispecies urban nature, cultural representations of interspecies relations and theoretical-conceptual basis for treating multispecies semiosis.
Comparative Analysis of Conspiracy Theories. COST Action CA15101
Chair of the Action: Professor Peter Knight (University of Manchester, UK)
From the Department of Semiotics, University of Tartu: Andreas Ventsel, Mari-Liis Madisson (member of project management committee)
The increasing influence of CTs to various social processes (rising with the popularity of social networks in particular) is clearly noticeable in the present-day European security environment. CTs are not confined to the political margins as the product of a pathological mind-set: opinion polls confirm that the majority of citizens in Europe and the U.S. now believe in one or more conspiracy theories. The aim of this COST Action is to provide a comparative analysis of conspiracy theory (in terms of its different causes, manifestations and effects across countries, cultures, time periods, political systems, media regimes etc.), and to develop recommendations and strategies for stakeholders confronted with it.
Project homepage: http://www.cost.eu/COST_Actions/ca/CA15101
Semantics of Estonian verse from the perspective of cultural semiotics
Personal Research Funding (PUT) project 1231
1.01.2016 − 31.12.2019
Team leader: Mihhail Lotman
The proposed project is interdisciplinary, drawing from semiotics, verse theory, history of literature and translation studies. The project will center on the unstudied sphere in Estonian poetry: the relationship between verse rhythm and semantics. The main focuses of the project are: 1) relations between semantics and rhythm in the chronological-esthetic framework, 2) comparative analysis of semantic structure of Estonian iamb and trochee, 3) autometadescription in verse structure, 4) problems of semantics and rhythm in translations. Research will proceed from the concept that different semantical mechanisms are related to meter and rhythm. Meter is generally conventional, but may be also indexical and even iconical. Rhythm can be iconical as well, there are also symbolic signs, while iconic signs are rare in poetic rhythm. The methodological basis of the study is generative method, followed by a modified form of component analysis with the subsequent statistical data processing.
"Analysis of information operations" (follow-up project), (O-013) Estonian National Defence College, University of Tartu
1.08.2017 - 31.12.2018
Team leader: Vladimir Sazonov (Estonian National Defence College)
Participants from the department of semiotics: Andreas Ventsel, Mari-Liis Madisson
Information warfare takes place in the minds of human beings by using emotions and beliefs as weapons and it is able to produce significant damages to the security and stability, which are comparable with armed conflicts. This project focuses on different aspects of disinformation campaigns, fake news and different strategic narratives hostile to Estonia. The project includes security studies, media and communication studies, but also semiotic approach, which combines postclassical narrative theories with cultural semiotics, and analyses how narratives are connected with wider cultural values in the cultural memory.
Semiotic modelling of self-description mechanisms: Theory and applications
January 2013 - December 2018
Team Leader: Kalevi Kull
Bibliographic database of Estonian translation history 1900-1991 (PHVFI17926)
1.04.2017 - 31.03.2018
Principal investigator: Elin Sütiste
Culture and cultural identity develop in relation to other cultures, to a significant extent through literary translation among other kinds of contact. Estonian cultural history is incomplete without Estonian translation history. The primary foundation of a translation history is bibliography, which comprises both translations as well as metatexts (texts written about translations and translating). The aim of the present project is to fill a gap on the way towards the compiling of Estonian translation history: to create a bibliographic database that draws together materials pertaining to literary translation, translation theory and reception published in linguistic and literary journals (e.g. “Estonian Literature”, “Looming”, “Keel ja Kirjandus”) in the years 1900-1991.
Semiotic analysis of discourses of e-Estonia (PHVFI16937)
1.04.2016 - 31.03.2018
Principal investigator: Andreas Ventsel
The project will focus on the formation of different discourses of e-Estonia articulated viavarious formal and alternative media texts and explain the specifics of their meaningmakingas well as values on which they are based. The practical outcome of our projectwill lie in developing a more diverse understanding of e-Estonia (the perspectives of ecitizen,e-consumer, etc., will be outlined) and opening up alternative perspectives.
Animals in changing environments: Cultural mediation and semiotic analysis
September 2013 - December 2016
Team Leader: Timo Maran
The goal of this project is to study how humans perceive animals in changing environments, how human cultural mediation of animals contributes to environmental change and how environmental change influences human-animal relations. Specifically, the project focuses on problematic cases of human-animal relations (including wild, domesticated, and captive animals) and their cultural representations and analyses these from semiotic, especially from biosemiotic and zoosemiotic perspectives.