It is only since global media and digital communications became accessible to ordinary populations – with Telstar, jumbo jets, the pc and mobile devices – that humans have been able to experience their own world as planetary in extent. What does it mean to be one species on one planet, rather than a patchwork of scattered, combative and mutually untranslatable cultures? One of the most original and prescient thinkers to tackle cultural globalisation was Juri Lotman (1922-93). On the Digital Semiosphere shows how his general model of the semiosphere provides a unique and compelling key to the dynamics and functions of today’s globalised digital media systems and, in turn, their interactions and impact on planetary systems.

Developing their own reworked and updated model of Lotman’s evolutionary and dynamic approach to the semiosphere or cultural universe, the authors offer a unique account of the world-scale mechanisms that shape media, meanings, creativity and change – both productive and destructive. In so doing, they re-examine the relations among the contributing sciences and disciplines that have emerged to explain these phenomena, seeking to close the gap between biosciences and humanities in an integrated ‘cultural science’ approach.

Endorsements and reviews

"In this book, John Hartley, Indrek Ibrus, and Maarja Ojamaa pass on the shining torch of Lotman's 20th century vision of cultural semiospheres that still had centers and peripheries to the generations of the Anthropocene facing new digital and global realities, which the authors illuminate with their advanced semiotic instrumentarium."

Winfried Nöth, Professor of Cognitive Semiotics, Catholic University of São Paulo, Brazil

"The book On the Digital Semiosphere by John Hartley, Indrek Ibrus, and Maarja Ojamaa is a highly original work that aims to develop a multi-dimensional method of analyzing culture and understanding the relationships among humanity, other living beings, and the planet. The authors offer a holistic method of analyzing complex interconnections between personal sense-making and global ‘big data’, whose trajectories of development appear to be mutually reinforcing. Such a ‘systematic approach to the creation of meaning and thence knowledge, by the whole species across the whole planet, is the analytical minimum needed to understand “what’s occurring”."

Olga Baysha, Associate Professor at HSE University, Moscow, Russia (Read more here)

"The leading position here is occupied by the recently published monograph of Hartley, Ibrus and Ojamaa On the Digital Semio- sphere. Culture, Media and Science for the Anthropocene (2020). This work is almost manual in nature insofar as it is a mature attempt at a systematic summary of the research programme which Hartley and Ibrus have been developing over the past two decades. In my opinion, the exceptional merit of these authors is to open the semiotic science of culture up to the economic/commercial dimension of digital culture. This had been completely ignored by previous contributions and allows for the multidimensional analysis of a wide variety of specific manifestations of new technologies and communication practices.

Kristian Bankov, Professor of Semiotics at New Bulgarian University, writing in The Digital Mind (2022) (Read more here)

"It is not simple to synthesize a multifaceted and highly theoretical book such as On the Digital Semiosphere. Culture, media and science for the Anthropocene (2021). Although it sometimes gives the impression of wanting to connect too many things, the effort is enormous and allows bringing to the 21st century one of the most powerful theoretical frameworks elaborated from semiotics: the works of Yuri Lotman. The challenge facing humanity is so great that isolated disciplines are not enough: all kinds of concepts, theories and categories of analysis must be brought into dialogue. In this case, John Hartley, Indrek Ibrus and Maarja Ojamaa propose an ambitious tour de force focused on updating the concept of "semiosphere".

Carlos Scolari, Full Professor, Department of Communication of the University Pompeu Fabra (Read more here)