24–27 August 2023, University of Tartu, Estonia.


What – and how – do we know and acquire knowledge about the future? What is the link between the past, present, and future? Furthermore, what does the capacity of future-making depend on? The aforementioned are some of the guiding questions through which we aim to shed light on and better comprehend the processes of creation, circulation, and choices of models of the future.

Knowledge about the future states of the world is always semiotically mediated. Omens, prophecies, utopias, prognoses, predictions, visions, plans – these are just some of the means we use to get a tentative glance at what is coming or as a direction for moving towards the desired future. Moreover, the future itself can be conceived and conceptualised in different ways: as something that can be predicted or as a forking pathway with endless possibilities. Times of rapid change call for a better understanding of what the future holds – as a concept, temporal dimension, a body of narratives, as something that arrives or something that is forged.




We are happy to present the preliminary programme of Tartu Summer School of Semiotics 2023 "Coming Soon" (PDF)

(Updated 22.05.2023)


Confirmed plenary speakers:




Jaak Tomberg

a literary scholar, a co-professor of Contemporary Literature at the University of Tartu who is interested in the philosophy of literature, science fiction, utopia and utopian thought. His next study, entitled “How to Fulfil a Wish”, is about the fate and status of utopian imagination in a modern culture whose technological saturation has brought about a decisive proximity between realism and science fiction.



Gemma Jones

an interdisciplinary cultural researcher and strategist specialising in semiotics and futures thinking. She works with organisations, students and teams to help make sense of the complex swirl of culture and change in and between global and localised contexts. Her research interests centre on the future of places and communities. Gemma is the Head of Insight at Protein Agency and a co-founder of School of Critical Design. She guest lectures undergraduate and postgraduate students in critical research disciplines and speculative design. In the decade since her masters in Culture and Creative Industries at King’s College London, Gemma has worked on innovation, social impact, brand strategy and design projects with organisations including Nike, Microsoft, Noom, Bude Climate Partnership, Uber, and Costa.




Mattia Thibault

a semiotician and an Assistant Professor (Tenure Track) in Translation in the Creative Industries at Tampere University. His interests include semiotics and translations, speculative research, and playfulness and the built environment (real and digital). He is a member of the Language Unit and collaborates with the Gamification Group, the Centre of Excellence in Game Culture Studies and the Flagship project UNITE - Forest-Human-Machine Interplay.


Reet Aus

a fashion designer, environmental activist and senior researcher at the Estonian Academy of Arts Sustainable Design and Material Lab. Since 2002, Reet has been creating collections based on upcycling practises. She is a pioneer in the field of industrial upcycling for fashion, and has developed the UPMADE® certification, in order to pass on her knowledge to brands and factories. Reet’s guiding mission in life is to save the fashion industry from itself, and to show that there is a way of ending the throwaway culture that causes so much waste and destruction around the world.




Tartu Summer School of Semiotics is organised by the Department of Semiotics, University of Tartu in cooperation with Estonian Semiotics Association.