Timo Maran
Timo Maran
Professor of Ecosemiotics and Environmental Humanities, University of Tartu

Meanings for the degrowth society: the semiosis of the living and collateral beauty

In the recent decade, the degrowth movement has opposed the human progress narrative by advocating a simplified society and decreased human use of energy and natural resources. In this talk, I will analyze the semiotic aspects of great acceleration and argue that transformation to the degrowth society needs to be accompanied by the restructuration of human semiotic systems towards more coherence and better connectivity with ecological processes. From a semiotic perspective, the Anthropocene is manifested as a massive multiplication and spread of abstract signs and information content that is detached from the biological and material processes and lacks value-based organization. The mass of symbols separated from their object domains cause hasty and superficial interpretation. I propose the view of the semiosis of the living as an understanding that significance arises foremost from the semiotic participation in the specific lived (cultural, social, and natural) ecologies. The semiosis of the living approach sees semiosis as a flow-like participatory process that unfolds at its own pace, event by event and connection by connection. We can find support for the degrowth transformation from the biosemiotics aesthetics. If diverse organisms aim towards better fitting, perfection, and beauty, then aesthetics rises in ecosystems occasionally but recurringly. Perceiving such collateral beauty becomes an effective means to create new semiotic connections and associations, thereby contributing to the integrity and coherence of the semiotic system.

Timo Maran is a Professor of Ecosemiotics and Environmental Humanities at the Department of Semiotics, University of Tartu, Estonia. Maran’s research interests include theory and history of eco semiotics; ecocriticism, Estonian nature writing and semiotic relations of nature and culture; and theory and semiotics of biological mimicry. His publications include Mimicry and Meaning: Semiotics of Biological Mimicry (2017) and Ecosemiotics. The Study of Signs in Changing Ecologies (2020). Maran has also authored several poetry collections.