Semiotics, University of Tartu

The Department of Semiotics at the University of Tartu. News & events.

Operating as usual


📃Call for Papers! Special issue of Punctum: The Semiotics of Humor📃

⏰Deadline for abstracts: 31 July, 2024

Punctum. is a blind peer-reviewed, on-line journal dedicated to the semiotic study of contemporary cultural texts, practices and processes, published by the Hellenic Semiotic Society, member of the International Association for Semiotic Studies (IASS).

This special issue aims to collect studies on the semiotics of humor in various genres, including (but not limited to) internet memes, online videos and websites, online chat, TV shows, sitcoms, films, animation, cartoons, sociopolitical satire, and graphic novels. In this collection, we are interested in a broad range of topics, which may address such issues as multimodality and the ensuing ambiguity of discourse intended as humorous, as well as the above-mentioned social embedding of humor and the related ideologies of humor (see, e.g., Kramer 2011, Tsakona 2017).

Prospective authors are invited to submit an abstract of 250-300 words (not counting the references) by email to the guest editors Villy Tsakona ([email protected]) and Jan Chovanec ([email protected]), including their institutional affiliation and
contact information. Acceptance of the abstract does not guarantee publication, given that all research articles will undergo peer review. After the approval of the abstract, the papers for submission should be around 6,000-7,000 words.

👉The full CfP can be found here:

Master Thesis Defenses in Semiotics 2024 27/05/2024

Our Master students are just defending their theses. Good luck to all of them! It is also possible to see the defences in Zoom.

Master Thesis Defenses in Semiotics 2024 Master Thesis Defenses in Semiotics on May 27th 2024, at Jakobi 2-306 and 305. Defences can be followed also in Zoom.


📷Call for papers: Approaches to social semiotics and social media📷

📍Deadline for proposals: ⏰14th of June⏰
(250-300 words - to be submitted to Fiona Rossette ([email protected]) and Clive Hamilton ([email protected])
📍Place: Université Paris Nanterre, France
📍Time of the conference: October 4, 2024

This conference aims to bring together scholars who integrate semiotic and multimodal analysis into their linguistic analyses, and to take as a common object of study the example of social media content. The main purpose of the conference is to compare and contrast various theoretical approaches, and to engage a conversation in terms of epistemology. One axis of enquiry will be to explore the heritage of social semiotic theory as developed within the framework of systemic functional linguistics (e.g., Kress and van Leeuwen 1996, 2005; Van Leeuwen 2005; Zhao, Djonov, Björkvall and Boeriis 2017), exploring the potential of the applications of its “grammar of visual design”, and comparing it with other approaches. The discussion will be further enriched by general digital discourse theory (e.g., Combe 2019; Jones 2020; Jones and Hafner 2021; Paveau 2017; Tagg 2015), and by studies relating to content produced in a English and/or French language context.

Proposals should explore for instance:
🔹the interplay between linguistic (text) and non-linguistic resources (e.g., image, photograph, video) engendered by social media content within a specific platform or across platforms (e.g. Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Twitter/X, etc.);
🔹the new configurations of meaning born out of new digital discourse practices;
🔹the influence of built-in technical options (captions, music, filters etc.) in social media video, and, more generally, the influence of technical constraints (e.g., algorithms);
🔹applications within the fields of literacy, visual literacy, media literacy (first and second-language learning);
🔹the impetus placed on the visual medium within contemporary (digital) communication culture.

💬Plenary speaker: Sumin Zhao, University of Edinburgh
🗣Languages of the conference: English and French

Organised by the AFLSF (Association française de linguistique systémique fonctionnelle) in association with the Centre de Recherches en Etudes Anglophones (CREA - EA 370) / Discours et Pratiques du discours : Recherches en Anglais Contemporain, with the support of CREA - EA 370

👉The full CfP can be found here:

📸: Tracy Le Blanc


Our department's PhD candidate 🌜Andrew Mark Creighton🌛 recently wrote an article for the peer-reviewed journal Biosemiotics. "The Ecosemiotics of Human-Wolf Relations in a Northern Tourist Economy: A Case Study" is an article investigating the use of wolves to enchant the rationalization of Thompson Manitoba.

The city attempted to refocus towards a more touristic economy based around the large wolf population in the surrounding regions. The paper also examines why this attempt at a tourist economy has not produced its intended results. It is accomplished by first discussing the McDonaldization and enchantment of the city. This discussion is framed through George Ritzer and Jeffery C. Alexander’s work. It is then integrating Umwelt analysis by focusing on Timo Maran’s Umwelt mapping to create a comparative approach in which wolf Umwelts within rationalized and enchanted settings can be compared to those in situ. Then the qualitative data analysis (QDA) to code a corpus of 50 articles from a local online newspaper that discuss the development of the tourism economy is made use of. Accordingly, the theoretical perspectives mentioned to the QDA codes and themes are applyed. In the discussion section and conclusion of this paper, he notes that wolf Umwelt was largely incompatible with the rationalizing system created within the city and that the use of wolves as enchantment relied on motifs of overly hyperreal intersubjectivity between humans and wolves. Consequently, collective representation regarding the tourist initiative was not constructed by this rationalization and enchantment.

👉The article can be found here:

📸: Jonathan lajoie

Photos from Semiootika ja kultuuriteooria, Tartu Ülikool's post 17/05/2024

Visual letters from semioticians.


In the centre of Tartu, Küüni street, you can find an exhibition "Tartu - Rich in Research" by Eesti Teadusagentuur (Estonian Research Council) and Tartu 2024. The exhibition introduces 24 success stories from Tartu's rich scientific heritage that have significantly contributed to global advancements in science throughout the ages. One of those 24 is culture semiotics and Juri Lotman! The exhibition is open until 26th September.

👉More information:

Together with the poster is a semiotic performative installation "Peal kiri peal". “Peal kiri peal" is a semiotic-based performance project that uses contemporary performing arts and installation approaches to advocate for people's conventional perceptions and potential ways of entities' being. This project is a collaboration between two Japanese performing artists active in Europe: Shion Yokoo-Ruttas, based in Estonia, and Berlin-based Keisuke Sugawara. The two engage in the creation through the residency at Koidu Seltsimaja in Viljandi, a building of a former national theatre. Thereafter, the work will be performed in the same venue twice on Thursday, 12 September 2024 between 18:00 and 22:00, and Saturday, 14 September 2024 between 14:00 and 18:00.

👉More info and tickets:



⏰Regsiter until 23rd May!

🐾Conference "Traces of Extinction: Species Loss, Solastalgia, and Semiotics of Recovery"🐾

📍June 5–7 2024
📍Oecologicum at the University of Tartu, Juhan Liivi 2, Tartu

This conference focuses on cultural, subjective and semiotic approaches to extinction. A subjective approach to extinction may raise the question of how we experience extinction in the shared lifeworld or semiosphere. At the same time, artistic research seems to open fresh perspectives in combining cultural creativity with environmental decline. Extinction also reduces biocultural diversity and the resilience of ecocultures. By taking a perspective through naturecultures and cultural-ecological systems, we treat extinction as the degradation of such combined systems.

Keynote speakers:
💬David B. Rothenberg (New Jersey Institute of Technology, USA)
💬Linda Knight (RMIT University, Australia)

👉More information and registration:

📸: Tiit Maran

Photos from Semiotics, University of Tartu's post 10/05/2024

🖼The exhibition "Poetics of Survival" opened with a discussion on 9th of May in the Jakobi 2 building and will be opened till 20th of June. The student exhibition is the result of an interdisciplinary research project and a two-year master's course titled "Umwelt Analysis and Animal Representations." The course combined the umwelt theory, known in semiotics, with scientific knowledge about other species, and methods of creative inquiry. The exhibition is also a part of Prima Vista and the main programme of Tartu 2024.

⬇️Pictures from the opening!⬇️

Career conference „To new hights with a PhD degree!“ 09/05/2024

🎤Career conference „To new hights with a PhD degree!“🎤

📌16 May
📌Tallinn, TalTech main building

❗️The organisers ask you to confirm your participation by 13 May at the latest.

On 16 May, the Estonian Doctoral School Career Conference will be held in Tallinn to discuss the value of doctoral studies and the career prospects of doctoral students. All Estonian doctoral students and those interested in doctoral studies are welcome to attend. The conference will be held in Estonian with simultaneous English translation.

The aim of the conference is to raise awareness of the value of doctoral studies and to show doctoral students how to develop influential, diverse and rewarding careers. Inspiring presentations will be given both by Doctors and current doctoral students. Discussions will explore how the skills and knowledge acquired during doctoral studies are useful in different areas of life and in various fields, including the advantages in the labour market.

👉You can find the agenda and the link for registering here:

Career conference „To new hights with a PhD degree!“ On 16 May, the Estonian Doctoral School Career Conference will be held in Tallinn to discuss the value of doctoral studies and the career prospects of doctoral students. All Estonian doctoral students and those interested in doctoral studies are welcome to attend.

The exhibition "Poetics of Survival" opens with the discussion on 9 May 04/05/2024

🎀 The exhibition "Poetics of Survival" opens on 📌May 9th at 3:00 PM with an English-language panel discussion focusing on the poetics of survival, endangered species, the intersection of science and creative culture, as well as inclusive methods in education.

The discussion will feature students:
💭Marta Kucza
💭Robertho Paredes
💭Oscar Miyamoto
with Professors:
💭Timo Maran
💭Jane Remm.

The panel takes place in 📌Jakobi 2-114 (Tartu).

On the following day, 10 May at 1:00 PM, there will be a curator's tour of the exhibition at the Philosophicum Hall Gallery (foyer of Jakobi 2).

👉Read more here:

The exhibition "Poetics of Survival" opens with the discussion on 9 May The exhibition "Poetics of Survival" opens on May 9th at 3:00 PM with an English-language panel discussion focusing on the poetics of survival, endangered species, the intersection of science and creative culture, as well as inclusive methods in education. The discussion will feature students Marta....


NordPhil is inviting BA and MA students of philosophy at Nordic universities to submit extended abstracts for NordPhil 2024 and present their works in Tartu, Estonia.

NordPhil is a philosophy conference series for students at a Nordic university. It has previously been held at the University of Oslo, Uppsala University, Lund University, the University of Copenhagen, Stockholm University, Tampere University, and University of Tartu.

The eighth edition of NordPhil will be held at the University of Tartu on September 13 and 14. This is the second year in a row of this conference being hosted by University of Tartu.

⏰The submission deadline is 31st May 2024

⬇️More info below!⬇️

Dear friends,

Yes, we are happy to announce that the glorious NordPhil will happen again in 2024! 🎉 And it will stay in Tartu for one more year 🇪🇪😃!.

Please help us to circulate the information😊.

We are looking forward to all the upcoming abstracts and hope to see you in Tartu this fall!

NordPhil Tartu Team

Tartu as a Semiotic Resort on the Outskirts of Empire 29/04/2024

🎓 We are so delighted that our renowned alumnus, Prof. Jan Levchenko will introduce Tartu as a semiotic resort today at Princeton University!

Dr. Levchenko, a PhD graduate, previously served as a professor at the Higher School of Economics, Moscow, specializing in visual studies, film analysis, and the history of ideas from 2009 to 2021. Since 2021, he's taken on the role of editor-in-chief for the Kinoteksty book series at the New Literary Observer publishing house. He is also a professor at Briva University in Latvia, and a journalist within the Postimees Publishing Group in Estonia.

Tartu as a Semiotic Resort on the Outskirts of Empire Jan Levchenko, PhD (University of Tartu, Estonia) was a professor at Higher School of Economics, Moscow (2009-2021) specialized in visual studies, film analysis and history of ideas. Since 2021 he's been an editor-in-chief of the Kinoteksty book series at the New Literary Observer publishing house.....


An Estonian zoosemiotician Laura Kiiroja, together with the Dalhouse University researchers, have found evidence that service dogs might be able to sniff out an oncoming post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) flashback by teaching them to alert the breath of people.

🔸"PTSD service dogs are already trained to assist people during episodes of distress."
🔸"However, dogs are currently trained to respond to behavioral and physical cues. Our study showed that at least some dogs can also detect these episodes via breath."
🔸"We speculated that Ivy was attuned to sympathetic-adreno-medullar axis hormones (like adrenaline) and Callie was oriented to the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis hormones (like cortisol). This is important knowledge for training service dogs, as alerting to early-onset PTSD symptoms requires sensitivity to sympathetic-adreno-medullar axis hormones."

According to the release, researchers plan to carry out experiments to confirm the involvement of the sympathetic-adreno-medullar axis.

👉Read the article here:

📸: Laura Kiiroja

Eurovision 2024 Estonia: 5miinust & Puuluup - "(nendest) narkootikumidest ei tea me (küll) midagi" 20/04/2024

🇪🇺Competition "The Dance of Signs in Estonian Eurovision Song"🇪🇺

When the song by 5MIINUST and Puuluup won the Estonian Eurovision Song Contest, President Karis wished the good luck also to semioticians - perhaps because a student of the semiotics department is also a member of the musical group, but perhaps he withed that semioticians would help to interpret our Eurovision song.

Thus, we invite you to delve into the depths of our winning song and provide your unique, creative interpretations.

Whether you prefer to:
🔸craft a written analysis (around 300-500 words);
🔸create a captivating drawing or poster;
🔸produce an engaging video or podcast (2–4 min);
🔸or explore other innovative formats,
we welcome your contribution!

👉You can listen to our Eurovision-winning song here: (video with lyrics, translated as well)

And the best part? Not only will your insights be acknowledged and celebrated, but there are also fantastic prizes:
🔸including an autographed T-shirt from the talented artists of 5MIINUST and Puuluup;
🔸a stylish upcycled T-shirt from R**t Aus' collection;
🔸Socks of Genius;
🔸and more!

Furthermore, Your submissions could even be featured in the Hortus blog, UT social media channels, and shared with the bands themselves, ensuring they're aware of the profound meaning and impact of their song.

❗Please send your entries to Margot at [email protected] before midnight on ⏰May 5th⏰.

The evaluation committee consists the members from the Department of Semiotics and Margot Must.

Should you have any inquiries or require further information, don't hesitate to reach out.

Best of luck!

Eurovision 2024 Estonia: 5miinust & Puuluup - "(nendest) narkootikumidest ei tea me (küll) midagi" "(nendest) narkootikumidest ei tea me (küll) midagi" by 5miinust & Puuluup from Estonia at the Eurovision Song Contest 2024. Videos and lyrics in Estonian, English, Arabic, Catalan, Dutch, Finnish, French, German and 9 other languages


Earlier this year, the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and a number of eminent European scholars published a manifesto titled ⭐️'Reclaiming Europe'⭐️ that calls for a new and better understanding of Europe and for greater attention and support for the development of knowledge in those parts of Europe that have hitherto been grouped together under the misleading label "Eastern Europe".

The Manifesto carries a vision of a united Europe. It is prompted by the war in Ukraine and the keenly felt need in the scientific community to, more than ever, understand and connect researchers across Europe. By choosing the title 'Reclaiming Europe', the authors emphasise the need to protect Europe from autocratic regimes and to put the European regions that have "for too long been seen as its periphery back into the centre of attention, making their many voices heard."

👉The Manifesto is open for signatures:

As a step towards bringing the ideas of the Manifesto to life, the BBAW and the Junge Akademie are preparing the launch of a new organisation of ambitious early- and mid-career scholars who combine excellence in research, passion for delivering impact and who strive for a further European rapprochement. The foundation of Young Network TransEurope aims to transcend borders (geographical, cultural, scientific, disciplinary, etc.) and enable projects that promise to do so.

The organisation will be officially founded at a high-level conference dedicated to the Manifesto in mid-October 2024 at the European Solidarity Centre in Gdansk.

Please consider joining the organisation and contributing with your insights.

👉You can find the information on membership here:

❗️The call for applications is open until Thursday, 18 April 2024, but as the selection process is thorough, one may also request a short extension.


⏪Throwback Tuesday! Tagasivaate teisipäev!⏪

As Springer has just published „Explorations in Dynamic Semiosis“, edited by Elli Marie Tragel, which is inspired by a popular course by Jaan Valsiner; it is fitting to look back to our 10th issue where Elli Marie Tragel interviewed Jaan Valsiner before he left Tartu.

In the 2021/2022 academic year, the expatriate Estonian visiting professorship of the University of Tartu was held by Jaan Valsiner, Professor of Cultural Psychology at Aalborg University. He is one of the world’s leading cultural psychologists, whose research focuses on the intersections and interconnections of psychology and semiotics, and who has helped to promote Estonian research throughout the world. During his professorship in Tartu, Jaan taught a course “Semiosis in Irreversible Time”, which Elli Marie assisted in.


„In the theoretical sense, upconscious means effectively overgeneralised sign-fields––that are linked with semiotics. The only thing I do differently [from general semiotics] is to make signs into sign-fields. I make them hyper-generalised at two moments, nothing more. I then consider that these sign-fields that we all carry with us in our lives come from our experience, we’ve set up certain expectations for the next moment of arrival or departure from a particular place.“

„Maybe the central way to educate is to propagate doubt. That is, every time when somebody makes a statement which is claimed to be very, very true and very, very important, use specific ways of doubting it. Rational dialogue through doubt.“

„All in all, if you look at what I have done, I think I have maybe two or three relevant ideas. Hyper-generalization is probably the most important one. The second one is the notion of a hierarchy of signs, and making it flexible and demolishable: not just a hierarchy in order to fix it. We build a hierarchy in order to unfix it.“

„What semiotics would do, ideally, is to keep the mind open in the direction of interdisciplinary real applications of ideas to phenomena, whatever they are. That is something that you don’t get almost anywhere else. In this sense, semiotics is really a mind-opening possibility. But the mind-opening has to be taken, not just expected to be given.“


👉Read the interview here:

Springeri kirjastus on just välja andnud Elli Marie Trageli poolt toimetatud kogumiku „Explorations in Dynamic Semiosis“, mis põhineb Jaan Valsineri kunagi loetud kursusel „Semiosis in Irreversible Time“. Seega on kohane vaadata tagasi meie 10ndale väljaandele, kus Elli Marie teeb intervjuu Jaaniga enne tema Tartust lahkumist.

Jaan Valsiner, Aalborgi ülikooli kultuuripsühholoogia professor, külastas Tartut 2021/22 õppeaastal. Ta on populariseerinud Eesti teadust välismaal ja on üks maailma juhtivamaid kultuuripsühholoogia teadureid.

👉Loe intervjuud siit:

📸: Andres Tennus


The deadline for the IASS/AIS 16th World Congress Signs and Realities has been extended to ⏰15th of April⏰!

👉Send your abstract submission here:


🎉We are happy to announce that our institute's Ecosemiotics and Environmental Humanities professor🔹Timo Maran🔹 has been nominated to the Estonian Academy of Sciences for the place of global changes academic with 7 others. The chosen academic will be announced on 17th April!

📸: Andres Tennus


Springer has published a long-awaited anthology 📚“Explorations in Dynamic Semiosis”📚, edited by our Ph.D. student Elli Marie Tragel! The anthology is inspired by a popular course by Jaan Valsiner which was read in our department a few years ago.

This anthology is a manifold combining semiotics and psychology. Chapters in the book are authored by young scholars making sense of semiosis in irreversible time from a multitude of perspectives. The central focus on the dynamics of meaning-making comes together in a variety of topics that align in the core idea of dynamic nature of human making and use of signs.

👉Find the book here:

Explorations in Dynamic Semiosis This anthology is a manifold combining semiotics and psychology with a central focus on the dynamics of meaning-making and the use of signs.


Take part of the 16th World Congress of the IASS/AIS: 🔣Signs and Realities🔣; involving the experiential and inferential phenomena that make up the basis of semiotic interpretation and communication. The conference takes place in Warsaw, Poland from 2nd to 6th September.

Abstract submissions are open till ⏰31st of March⏰!

University of Tartu is already represented by two topics: Unresolved Problems in Biosemiotics (Donald Favareau, Kalevi Kull) and Semiotics of Political and Strategic Communication: Unpacking Semiotic Processes, Conflict, and Security in Modern Society (Andreas Ventsel, Ott Puumeister).

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Videos (show all)

Mini-lecture on Sociosemiotics (Tiit Remm)
Mini-lecture on Semiotics of Culture (Maarja Ojamaa)
Mini-lecture on Semiotics of Nature (Nelly Mäekivi)
10 questions with an international student
Birdhouse as New Nature, Birdhouse as New Nature




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