Semiotic Space of Audiovisual Culture Research Group (CNPq - ECA - USP)


semiotics of

October 26, 27 and 28, 2022
Presential and Online Conference

International Seminar to Celebrate
Yuri Lotman´s Centennial


Semiotics of unpredictability is a proposition for the study of Semiotics of culture that aims to examine Yuri Lotman’s work concerned on the understanding of the mechanisms of culture in its dynamic processes of generating new meanings, new messages, new information.

Since his early works published in the late 1960s Lotman had dedicated himself to understanding the generation of the signification process that takes place through the renewal of its languages in culture. The emergence of the new information and the unpredictable events had become an indispensable condition for new perceptions and ways of seeing the world in the very functioning of culture. 


The Seminar proposed here aims to achieve the field of the study of unpredictability that Lotman has scrutinized throughout his life and always in good company. Very early on he recognized the fundamental role of art in the transforming experiences of culture and, above all, in the modeling of cultural processes that developed the consciousness of the sensitive as a way to destabilize consecrated patterns according to its capacity for intervention and transgression. He also realized that it was up to 20th century science to introduce metasemiotic mechanisms of behavior transformation, establishing imbalances amidst processes of apparent historical normality.

Theoretical perspectives of this nature fed Lotman's understanding of cultural dynamism as a system open to change and contingency, which brought him closer to the findings of the Russian-Belgian scientist, Ilya R. Prigogine. While Prigogine worked in the field of thermodynamics of irreversible processes systematized in the theory of dissipative structures, Lotman focused on human conduct whose actions are guided by decisions of consciousness capable of choosing paths over which it has no control. With this he understood that human behavior is also subject to irreversible processes and that unpredictability contributes to the emergence of unusual possibilities of meaning, ultimately ensuring the preservation of the dynamism of culture.


The Semiotics of Unpredictability responds to the investigative line that has been constituted from such artistic and scientific metalanguages of cultural processes in human history. Semiotic communication itself starts to be re-dimensioned according to the interactive dynamics between art, science, technology, and many other metacultural mechanisms in development.


A significant landmark in this sense was the works developed from the study of the Semiosphere (1984). Asymmetries, heterogeneities, irregularities of semiotic border spaces occupy the foreground of Lotman's formulations on the dynamics of culture, articulating studies conducted before the 1970s. Such dynamics were the subject of his last two books Culture and Explosion (1992) and The Unpredictable Mechanisms of Culture (1994).

The studies about the modeling processes of culture, the multiplication of codes and languages in different texts, and even memory as a renovation device, were enriched when examined from the perspective of cultural encounters in space-time boundaries. It was also possible to dimension the problems of communication and conflict in contexts of alterities and otherness (ethnic, racial, geopolitical) that only increase the combustion of asymmetries. And the framework of intercultural interactions makes explicit confrontations of untranslatability in the various hybridisms of ever-increasing intermediality.


These are some of the possible thematic viewpoins of the Semiotics of Unpredictability proposed here as an object of semiotic reflection of culture from the legacy of Lotman. We hope to celebrate the coherence of the semiotic thought that never hesitated in accepting the suspension of causality and the establishment of unpredictability as part of the historical process that, once interrupted, does not change the vector of irreversibility and makes it impossible to return to the previous stage. Adopting the perspective of unpredictability is a demand of non-deterministic historical consciousness - the great epistemological challenge of the Lotmanian legacy, as he himself formulated in the quotation taken as leitmotiv to the proposed seminar.


This is yet another reason to celebrate the centennial of the one who was a visionary of the movements that he saw advancing at the end of the 20th century and that now haunts the survivors of the 21st century.


The Seminar proposed here hopes to reap fruit from the seeds sown by the semiotic cunning of Yuri Lotman's thought. Therefore, the communications and works of the event will be related to debates that include the following topics:

∙   Critical Transformations of Lotman's Semiotic Thought

∙   Political context of Lotman's translation and reception in the West


∙   Lotman's concept of unpredictability in dialogue with schollars and other theoretical systems


∙   Unpredictability in the causal movement of the historical process


∙   Culture as a system of complexity


∙   Cultural meeting on spatiotemporal boundaries


∙   Cultural and artistic processes according to the logic of explosion


∙   Technological progress as an agent of destabilization


∙   Semiosis of fear and historical processes of irrationality


∙   Chaos and order at the limits of the semiosphere

∙   Unpredictability and explosion in technological-digital culture


∙   Memory of culture as an informational mechanism


∙   Confrontations of untranslatability in hybridisms of intermediality


∙   Indeterminism of communication in contexts of socio-cultural "otherness"


∙   Causality and irreversibility of explosive processes


Irene Machado


Semiotics of Unpredictability

International Seminar to Celebrate Yuri Lotman´s Centennial (1922-2022)

University of São Paulo - School of Communications and Arts

Semiotic Space of Audiovisual Culture Research Group

Date: October, 26, 27 and 28, 2022