The Ecosemiosphere is a Grounded Semiosphere. A Lotmanian Conceptualization of Cultural-Ecological Systems

Biosemiotics 14 (2):519-530 (2021)
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Abstract

Growing ecological problems have raised the need for conceptual tools dedicated to studying semiotic processes in cultural-ecological systems. Departing from both ecosemiotics and cultural semiotics, the concept of an ecosemiosphere is proposed to denote the entire complex of semiosis in an ecosystem, including the involvement of human cultural semiosis. More specifically, the ecosemiosphere is a semiotic system comprising all species and their umwelts, alongside the diverse semiotic relations (including humans with their culture) that they have in the given ecosystem, and also the material supporting structures that enable the ecosemiosphere to thrive. Drawing parallels with Juri Lotman’s semiosphere concept, the ecosemiosphere is characterized by its heterogeneity, asymmetry, and boundedness. But unlike Lotman’s concept, the ecosemiosphere is not characterized by an overall boundedness, that is, by the presence of external binary boundaries and the shared identity arising from this unity. The involvement of human culture in the ecosemiosphere manifests in interspecies dialogues and semiotic engagements. We need to scrutinize what affordances and semiotic resources culture could offer to nonhuman species and how culture could, by semiotic means, raise the integrity, stability, and resiliency of the ecosystem. The ecosemiosphere is a grounded semiosphere.

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