Communicating danger. “Sebeok’s problem” and beyond

Communicating danger: “Sebeok’s problem” and beyond

Review of Marcel Danesi’s Warning Signs. The Semiotics of Danger, Bloomsbury Academic. London, New York, Oxford, New Delhi, Sydney, 2022. 

By Susan Petrilli 

The book by Marcel Danesi, Warning Signs. The Semiotics of Danger (Bloomsbury, 2022) can be read at several levels, including as an appeal to mitigate the causes of contemporary dangers via semiotics. There are, of course, no warning signs that will dissuade anyone who is intent on taking drugs or smoking cigarettes, nor any warning signs that will stop road accidents, or drivers from ignoring the dangers of the road, especially given the image of cars as “sexy” and able to overcome all dangers, as promoted by advertising. Also, warning signs of nuclear waste cannot always stop intrusions into nuclear sites, nor can existential signs of danger to our survival stop reckless bellicose actions (such as the Kosovo war or the “Special military operation” still under way in Ukraine). Even humanitarian interventions or pacifist movements (such as the student ones of the 1960s and 1970s with the slogan “make love, not war”) have not raised permanent awareness as to the destruction that wars bring about. Warnings seem to have little effect on destructive human behaviors.

The question becomes: Can semiotics help enhance the ability of warnings to have an effect? Marcel Danesi’s Warning Signs provides a positive answer to this question; it is an especially important book today because, at the very least, it impels us to believe that it is still possible in this world to actually create signage that will influence people and societies to heed the existential dangers that humans face on a daily basis. As such, Danesi’s book is a contribution to what can be called “special semiotics” insofar as it theorizes and practically exemplifies possible signage for humans that may affect how they behave. It is thus a kind of vademecum that relates to everyday dangers faced by everyone, including those that extend to broader political and scientific dimensions. The book introduces an approach, called the “semiotics of danger,” which aims to address the nature of danger and how it has been represented throughout time, and how representations can help approach current day dangers. One of the critiques of semiotics generally (or “general semiotics”) has been that it is too abstruse and self-contained, with no relevance to solving real human problems, remaining essentially a branch of philosophy which, as we all know, is about anything and everything, as a saying in Italian humorously puts it: “la filosofia è quella cosa con la quale o senza la quale tutto rimane tale e quale” . Danesi’s book is a call to responsibility on the part of semioticians—responsibility to others. A call to responsibility is a call to non-indifference, which is particularly relevant today in a world where global communication systems subserve self-interests and emphasize the profit motive above all else. Pope Francis has labeled this state of affairs appropriately as the “globalization of indifference”.

In light of the distinction between “general semiotics” and “special semiotics,” established by Umberto Eco in Semiotics and Philosophy of Language (1984), Danesi’s Warning Signs with its focus on a “semiotics of danger” is clearly a branch of “special semiotics”, which, has become a fertile area of semiotic analysis since the middle part of the previous century, including the semiotics of objects, architecture, literature, narrativity, film, dance, music, gesture, marketing, circus, education, among many others. Given the planetary dangers we face today, the branch delineated by Warning Signs could not be more timely.

To distinguish between “general semiotics” and “special semiotics” does not imply to separate them, in fact, they are strictly interrelated: special semiotics is necessarily embedded in general theory and theory must necessarily be applied to practice and tested for validity. In the quest for “semiotic consciousness,” whilst “general semiotics” works on sign theory in correlation with other sciences (in particular philosophy), a “special semiotics,” with any claim to scientific adequacy, analyzes specific sign phenomena with the instruments and methods of general semiotics.

Danesi’s semiotics of danger relates to Thomas A. Sebeok’s “global semiotics” (2001) which presupposes “biosemiotics” and is thus part of a tradition in semiotic studies that identifies its founders from ancient times in Hippocrates and Galen, and again in modernity in such figures as John Locke through to Charles Peirce, Charles Morris, Roman Jakobson, and so forth. Global semiotics is a metascience concerned with all academic disciplines that are sign-related. It cannot be reduced to the status of a philosophy of science, though no doubt as a science it is nonetheless engaged with philosophy.

As conceived by Sebeok, global semiotics is a major outcome of sign studies as they developed across the twentieth century, which has moved semiotics into a phase tagged “interpretation semiotics”. An alternative to “interpretation semiotics” is the expression “semiotics of significance” given that interpretation is present in all forms of semiosis which in fact always involves interpretants and interpretation, whatever the degree of otherness and dialogism in the relation among signs. I use the expression “interpretation semiotics” as introduced by another Italian semiotician, Massimo A. Bonfantini (1981), (a major Italian Peirce expert and theorizer of “the semiotics of objects”) in contrast to earlier “code and message semiotics” followed by “signification semiotics” with respect to which “interpretation semiotics” is a derivative.

In Danesi’s Warning Signs. The Semiotics of Danger, the first two chapters of seven, 1. “Perceiving and Communicating Danger” and 2. “Representing and Interpreting Danger,” outline the “semiotics of danger,” exploring what it might entail. Chapter 3, “The Sebeok Report,” presents the document that inaugurates this field of studies. The subsequent three chapters, 4. “Verbal Warning,” 5. “Pictorial Warnings,” and 6. “Narrative Warnings” investigate different representations of danger over time. Chapter 7, the last, “Understanding Danger”, elaborates on a set of notions and principles verifiable on the basis of studies as they have been conducted so far.

Signs of danger are everywhere, whether in the form of symptoms signalling dysfunctional semiosis as in the case of illness (swelling, pain, anxiety), or of catastrophes in nature (rising water levels, pollution) as much as in culture (cracks in a bridge) and which of course from a global semiotic perspective are inevitably interrelated. Signs of danger are also human-made signs of warning that signal the collapse of semiosis and meaning, the collapse of life (given that, as Sebeok posits, life and semiosis converge).

Danesi is concerned with the warning signs of danger for human life, whether human-made or natural, and begins by asking a series of questions which are typical of semiotics, the general science of signs. How do we understand warnings and the dangers they represent? What do they reveal about the sense itself of danger? How is danger perceived and addressed across time and space, across cultures? This leads him to consider prehistoric expressions of danger and fear (cave paintings are possibly the first registered images of danger), the role of narration, and of mythology in communicating danger. Are ancient flood myths warning tales of human destructive activities? Danesi’s concerns echo and enlarge upon Sebeok’s.

Shortly after the inauguration of Ronald Reagan as the 40th President of the United States, Thomas Sebeok, one of the most renowned American semioticians of our time, was engaged by the Bechtel Group, Inc., in 1981, as a consultant specialized in signs and communication to the Human Interference Task Force. Sebeok was responsible for devising a communication system that would reduce the possibility of future human activities capable of interfering with toxic radioactive nuclear waste repositories. He was asked to prepare a report for the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, via the Department of Energy. This is “Sebeok’s problem,” as Marcel Danesi labels the task (2022: 48-52). The report was submitted in September 1981, but as recounted by Sebeok himself in Chapter 13 of I Think I Am a Verb (1986), by Summer 1982, it had not yet been endorsed by the Department of Energy. Sebeok’s recommendations were published in a report of 1984, Communication Measures to Bridge Ten Millenia.

The title of Sebeok’s chapter in I Think I Am a Verb (one of several books by Sebeok which I have translated into Italian), “Pandora’s Box in Aftertimes,” resonates with archetypal meaning. This chapter is a variant of Sebeok’s government report. In it, he expresses his personal views on the problem he was asked to address: “designing a reasonably fail-safe means of communicating information about the repository and its contents, such that the system’s effectiveness would be maintained for up to 10,000 years” (Sebeok 1986: 149-150). The aim was to restrict, if not altogether prevent access, to the radioactive material, thereby minimizing the possibility of future intrusion at the nuclear waste site.

Sebeok points out that the 10,000 year limitation – corresponding to 300 generations circa – was clearly arbitrary. Citing Eliot Marshall (1982), he too underlines that certain forms of nuclear waste remain toxic for billions of years. Moreover, in spite of debate over a “permanent solution” for getting rid of toxic nuclear materials, projects sponsored by the Department of Energy were often ineffectual, in their turn presenting new forms of danger. In fact, what were offered as “solutions” still allowed for radioactivity to escape into the environment. Technical issues were often unsolved, and the difficult task of site selection left to the bureaucracy. Last but not least, the costs involved in processing nuclear waste were and still are simply mind-boggling.

As he recounts in a personal communication, French Canadian semiotician Paul Bouissac was himself a part of a small group that Sebeok had gathered to help him develop his report relating to “nuclear semiotics” (Danesi 2022: 60-64). As editor of the Bloomsbury Advances in Semiotics series at Bloomsbury, Bouissac in turn commissioned Danesi with an updated work on signs of danger based on that report. Another example of the will to communicate past experience to the future, not only safeguarding but also enhancing the meaning of messages for the sake of the other. Danesi responded immediately with the book I am now reviewing.

As he declares in his 1986 book chapter cited above, Sebeok’s primary concern was neither with engineering nor economic problems, nor with the international dimensions. His focus was on “the design of a method to prevent human interference with repositories during the first 10,000 years after their closure” (1986: 151). His approach to the problem he was called to attend to as a semiotician raised such questions as how to warn faraway generations up to at least 10,000 years into the future about the dangers of nuclear wastage? What signs to communicate with our distant human relatives? The difficulty in understanding ancient languages from no more than 5,000 years back indicates that the answer is not in verbal linguistic signs. Languages progressively change so much that their signifying functions become unreliable. This means that written messages as well as speech would become ineffectual.

Sebeok concludes that a fail-safe method of communication 10,000 years ahead is impossible to envisage and recommends a “relay-system of communication” with a built-in enforcement mechanism, for dramatic emphasis, his “atomic priesthood,” that is, “a commission, relatively independent of future political currents, self-selective in membership, using whatever devices for enforcement are at its disposal, including those of a folkloristic character” (Ibid.: 173). The problem of communicating warning signs to posterity is yet to be resolved.

On his part, Danesi declares his intention to extend Sebeok’s purview as regards nuclear semiotics beyond Sebeok’s specific problem. Nuclear semiotics receded into obscurity soon after Sebeok’s report. On his part, Danesi, inspired by Sebeok’s vision, aims to revive the latter’s nuclear semiotics broadening the scope of his own inquiry by comparison, to “investigate warning representations in general” and understand “how existential dangers have been perceived across the world and across time,” ultimately “to help solve problems of making warnings about these dangers emotively powerful” (Danesi 2022: 134). Emotivity is a possible key to raising awareness of danger and effective message transmission when a question of communicating danger to future generations. Emotivity is a powerful conditioning factor in the construction of signifying behaviour.

As summarized in the last chapter of his book, “Understanding Danger,” Danesi elaborates this approach under five aspects which he discusses in separate chapters: 1. how danger has been represented throughout history in different forms and media, from cave art and poetry to hazard pictography and cinematic environmental narratives; 2 identification of common principles of representation revealing how danger has been perceived and interpreted throughout history (and even prehistory); 3 understanding the sense itself of danger; 4 suggesting solutions to problems of effective communication connected to current existential dangers, e.g. climate change and infectious diseases; 5 putting forth concrete strategies for counteracting denial discourses.

Findings are summarized in terms of seven semiotic principles described as applying to each of these five aspects (Danesi 133-135):

1 Representationality: how humans encode and communicate danger through a representation. To interpret the meaning of a representation is a complex task involving such factors as representation-maker intention, historical-social context, purpose, physical medium, relativity and emotive effects. Interpretations of the same representation vary across time and cultures. And while meaning decay occurs – though some types of representation resist more than others, whereby the subtext concerns human accountability, human responsibility, and remains constant.

Danesi exemplifies this principle with flood myths which can be interpreted today as warnings about climate change, rather than as apocalyptic punishments for evil-doing from the divinities. Images from apocalyptic films like The Day After Tomorrow can be interpreted as evoking archetypal-folkloric understanding and thus inspire activism. Scientific discourse provides warning signs concerning the causes of environmental disaster, but is not as emotively effective as mythic language and its reinterpretation in filmic discourse, as Sebeok had made a point of underlining in his report.

2 Emotivity: the more emotively powerful is an image, the more it is likely to raise the awareness of danger. This leads to specific types of semiotic questions such as what makes a representation emotively powerful. Is Edvard Munch’s The Scream more powerful than a narrative about natural disaster? (Danesi 2022: 56-59). Iconic representation, as Sebeok knew, is a powerful instrument for understanding.

Danesi analyses the relation between emotivity and connotation and references the notion of “semantic differential” by Osgood, Suci and Tannebaum (1957). The same technique has been applied to assess the effects of coronavirus pandemic on mental health. To exemplify how emotivity affects ideas, beliefs and human action, Danesi reports anecdotal examples from Benjamin Lee Whorf’s analysis of the Empty Sign on gasoline drums and Alfred Korzybski’s story about the effects of the label Dog Cookies on students. The relation between emotivity, cognition and behaviour is recognized as well by Sebeok (1984: 12). “Emotive conditioning” is a strategy employed to change denial attitudes or beliefs.

3 Relativity: the principle of semiotic relativity which posits that words, images, and other expressive structures shape the perception of meaning. Representations not only interpret, but in turn model reality. Danesi references Whorf (1940: 22) and his principle of relativity according to which the same physical evidence does not lead all observers to the same picture of the universe, unless their linguistic backgrounds are similar. Quite interesting from this point of view is Roman Jakobson’s example: a pencil used to indicate something is interpreted differently relatively to culture, language, context –an object, the colour yellow, number one, and so forth. In a road sign system “x” warns us that there is an intersection, but with reference to mathematics x is also number 10, a multiplication sign, or again the sign for a kiss.

In terms of “Sebeok’s problem” the upshot is that the sense of danger is regulated by the type of representation. The lack of an apt label to define a risk can influence whether or not we even perceive the risk; and if so how? Images have been introduced as warning signs rather than verbal labels to avoid relativity effects. But as it turns out images are just as prone to misinterpretation. Images are subject to linguistic-cultural relativity and connotative variation in the same way as words. An example is the smiley emoj which, designed to be as culturally neutral as possible and thus universal in terms of meaning effect, has ended up being shaped culturally.

As Danesi indicates, a “goal” for “nuclear semiotics,” and more broadly with Danesi himself, a “goal” for “danger semiotics” would be to investigate how danger textuality shapes the perception itself of danger, the sense of danger (Danesi 2022: 142).

4 Metaphoricity: this principle implies that figurative language is a powerful source of emotivity and relativity shaping beliefs about dangers. Metaphors influence how we perceive and evaluate disease (Sontag 1978). Cancer and pollution indicated as enemies to defeat is figurative discourse suggesting a common conceptual ground which interconnects dangers, from the biological to the metereological. Danesi describes conceptual continuity over time and across cultures with reference to the metaphorical portrayal of plagues, from Bocaccio’s Decameron to media coverage of recent pandemics such as Ebola and COVID-19 (Danesi 2022: 119-120).

Investigating the sense and reasons for continuity, the common semantic ground of many metaphors suggests they may be archetypal, which can help explain why prophetic warnings were expressed as riddles, one of the best-known examples being the Riddle of the Sphinx. Metaphors may not save the world from itself, but they doubtlessly enhance awareness and understanding, in fact a central theme in Victoria Welby’s Significs (Petrilli 2006, 2009).

5 Iconicity, a dimension of semiosis involved in what Danesi tags “iconic presence,” highlighting yet another primary aspect in the different modalities of understanding and meaning-making strategies. Pictorial representations have a high degree of iconic presence and though they are more likely to be understood cross-culturally, they too, as Sebeok warns (1984: 17), are subject to interpretive variation as indeed already observed with the iconic emoji figure.

According to Danesi (2022: 145-146), “iconic images are likely to be more emotively powerful as universal warning signs than other types of sign structures,” as exemplified by cave paintings. The signifying capacity of visual iconicity emerged strongly in social media during the Covid pandemic with the global circulation of the image of a spiked virus head signalling danger.

Worth mentioning en passant is that messages ideally conceived are either iconic, or indexical, or symbolic. In actuality most messages are the combination of two or all three aspects, organized according to a contextually appropriate hierarchy, which changes over time as context alters. Every natural language consists of a complex interplay of subtly shifting iconic, indexical, and symbolic signs (Jakobson 1965: 2). With the recommendation that messages to the future should be as redundant as possible, Sebeok promotes a judicious mixture of verbal and averbal components, preferably containing in turn a mixture of iconic, indexical and symbolic elements (1986: 173) combined for transmission through the devices that are at one’s disposal, including the folkloric.

6 Folkloricity. Use of folkloric-mythical-ritualistic artefacts to create warning systems was also strongly recommended by Sebeok (1984: 24). He based his position on the assumption that folkloric representations carry archetypal experience and as such play a central role in human meaning-making, albeit unconsciously. Let me add à la John Deely (2001, 2009) that past and future experience are connected in the present which, in turn, conditions them, thus subjecting both to reinterpretation, that is, by remodelling the past and somehow conditioning the future. And as Barthes (1977: 9) observed, myth which pervades folklore is still powerful because it gives ideas a “natural justification”.

While Sebeok’s recommendation was never taken up by the government, it resonates with artists and writers. Nevertheless, as Danesi (2022: 150) observes, “the folkoricity principle became a central one in early nuclear semiotics”. Ancient wisdom reinterpreted is often reproposed in contemporary artforms, whether in films, musicals, plays and digital media as a way of reviving and spreading messages from the past. To wit—many myths were warnings about infectious diseases.

7 Narrativity. This concept refers to the principle that it is easier to remember stories about danger, more than isolated concepts or words. A danger narrative whether oral or written or in some other media is effective to the extent that it portrays the danger as part of a story concerning a series of interrelated events, people and situations. Danesi cites works by Konrad Witz, Bernt Notke, Hans Holbein the Younger, also the painting by Michael Wolgemut “Danse of Death” (1493). Science fiction novels like Eyes of Darkness (1981), by Dean Koontz, or films like Contagion, Outbreak, The Andromeda Strain, Flu, and Virus are designed to help people understand the signifying implications of pandemics. “Balancing the two – both the factual and fictitious – is critical to instilling a sense of ostranenie: the unfamiliar presentation of a common thing that affords the viewer an enhanced perception of the familiar”. This principle is thematized effectively by Mikhail Bakhtin with his notion of extralocalization (Bachtin e il suo Circolo 2014).

Narratives and correlate pictorial representations have always played an important role in understanding the meaning of plagues and other disasters. Danesi recalls Max Weber (1922) who remarked that, unlike literary and artistic expression generally, science has always been unequal to the task. Korzybski introduced the notion of “time-binding,” whereby our sense of time is reflected in our narratives which are “time bound”. A “timeless” narrative is an oxymoron, as Danesi (2022: 153) explains observing that Sebeok (1984: 2) adopted Korzybski’s (1974) notion of “time-binding” as part of his relay system.

Two fundamental principles that Sebeok (1984: 2) keeps account of in his considerations on communicating with posterity are that “human thinking must be in continuity with the past,” but also that “information tends to decay over time”. Danesi (2022: 153) aptly concludes that “Narrativity can thus help us solve the problem of decay indirectly, since it is based on connecting events, people, and situations in ways that seem to transcend time and place”.

Danesi’s focus in Warning Signs. The Semiotics of Danger is on human responses to danger, which he analyses in terms of psychological-emotional processes, basing his inquiry on expressive representations of the responses – linguistic, pictorial, narrative, folkloric. His semiotics of danger aims to develop constructive frameworks for devising “effective warning systems related to existential dangers, present and future” (Ibid.: 135).

At the time of “Sebeok’s problem”, in the early 1980s, the US Department of Energy estimated that the earliest date a final repository would be available is the year 2000, the famously futuristic 2000! Some scientists criticized the target as impossible to attain.

But how do things stand today, in 2022? In spite of the undeniable increase in warning signs signaling global planetary crisis, environmental collapse, the destructive effects of anthropizing the earth and monetizing human enterprise, and in spite of the interrelated emergency for human survival manifest with such worldwide phenomena as pandemics, famine, war, migration, unemployment, the signs of optimism when accompanied by profit continue to persevere! (Petrilli 2017).

Responsibility towards future generations is not a priority when a question of defending the self-interest of a greedy market and its makers, market-makers (forget about meaning-makers, value-makers, peace-makers!) (Petrilli 2021; Ponzio 2022).

In his search for a method to stop humans from entering into contact with nuclear waste deposits at least for the next 10,000 years, Sebeok most interestingly suggests relying on recourse to the “irrational,” to semiosis in the signs signifying excess, characteristic of the artistic sphere, beyond the conventions of codes and messages, as foreseen by “semiotics of interpretation” or “semiotics of significance,” thus beyond “decodification semiotics,” and even beyond “signification semiotics”. Instead of the rational or reasonable transmission of information across generations to warn people about the danger of atomic waste deposits, Sebeok in fact recommends communication through a combination of artificially created and nurtured ritual-and-legend. “The legend-and-ritual, as now envisaged, would be tantamount to laying a ‘false trail,’ meaning that the uninitiated will be steered away from the hazardous site for reasons other than the scientific knowledge of the possibility of radiation and its implications; essentially, the reason would be accumulated to shun a certain area permanently” (Sebeok 1986: 168).

Sebeok goes on to suggest a ritual annually renewed, with the legend retold year by year, while the “actual truth would be entrusted exclusively to an – as it were – ‘atomic priesthood, that is, a commission of knowledgeable physicists, experts in radiation sickness, anthropologists, linguists, psychologists, semioticians, and whatever additional administrative expertise may be called for now and in the future” (Ibid.). He also underlines the need to internationalize communication measures for the sake of posterity. “The ultimate design adopted should enjoy the benefit of world-wide thinking about the problems we face and their world-wide implications” (Ibid.: 170).

Nonetheless, Sebeok also recalls that maledictions associated with the burial sites, the pyramids, of some Egyptian pharaohs have been ineffectual, have served precious little to deter greedy graverobbers from digging for “hidden treasures”.

But the greediness of graverobbers is certainly nothing by comparison to the greediness for the profits made in the process of producing atomic waste. But even more dangerous than atomic waste for the planet’s health and of the lifeforms that inhabit it, human and nonhuman, is the greediness itself for profit. In the face of unimaginable catastrophies across the world  generated by human behaviour in different domains – from the petrol and carbon business, oilpipes, gaspipes, to the digital, from walls built to contain migration to the politics of savage deforestation, from speculation in terms of global finance to pharmaceutical multinationals governing the world’s destiny, from words to incite war and back again with the communication industry, the marketing industry, the arms industry, to child, organ and drug trafficking, the list is endless… – do we really have reason to doubt that we humans are our worst enemies, that among the greatest threats to the health of life over the entire planet, human and nonhuman, is short-sighted, greedy self-interest?

Transmitting the danger-related information through art is an original solution to the problem of warning distant generations about danger, as for example making recourse to Munch’s The Scream, as Danesi also points out endorsing Sebeok’s vision (Danesi 2022: 28-34). Alongside Sebeok’s “atomic priesthood” other solutions have been proposed. Among the most original, that preferred by the US Department of Energy a few years ago would seem to be installation of a series of six-metre monuments, pyramids, sculptured in local granite, with an incision at the top imaging the anguished face of Munch’s famous artwork.

The underlying assumption of this choice is that the face portrayed by the famous Norwegian artist represents a universal symbol, resistant to time, capable of communicating anguish and thus keeping away eventual intruders. Curiously enough, according to the art historian Robert Rosenblum, the expression of anguish that characterizes the face of this particular artwork derives from the features of a Peruvian mummy which Munch had had occasion to observe in Paris, at the Musée de l’homme. In other words, this artwork itself is archetypal and arises in turn from the search for a universal expression of anguish.

Danesi expands the purview of Sebeok’s nuclear semiotics to the overall study of danger warnings, from antiquity to the present time. From this purview he extracts the general principles of representation that help understand how danger is perceived by the human brain. Human history may be viewed as a chronicle of danger and of human responses to danger. Recurring principles can be identified and used to construct effective warning systems. Attempts at solving existential problems are constant through human history and solutions are proposed from different angles. The semiotics of danger as proposed by Danesi promises to study warning signs of danger and their meaning implications, responding to a time in world history where the demand for such engagement is no less than urgent.

In the framework of Sebeok’s global semiotics human beings are shown to be capable of a global perspective on semiosis. As such, we are also capable of responsibility. As theorized by global semiotics, semiosis and life converge. Therefore, the question is what is human responsibility if not to preserve life, indeed the universe in its globality?

The Semiotics of Danger as perspected and practiced by Marcel Danesi with his Warning Signs is a clear signpost that points in the direction of the need for responsible action, for the sake of healthy and secure, if not happy, humanity. The demand is for non-indifferent involvement in the life of others, our neighbours as close or as distant as they might be, to the advantage of the life of others in addition to my own (nor can these different situations be separated). As special semiotics, the semiotics of danger draws its sense from the overall vision of Sebeok’s semiotics.

Moreover, with its focus on the problem of safeguarding human posterity, Danesi’s “semiotics of danger” can also be considered as a contribution to developing global semiotics and general semiotics in the direction of reflection on the relation between signs and values in human semiosis, thus semiotics and axiology, called today semioethics (Petrilli 2014a; Petrilli & Ponzio 2014 [2003]).

Susan Petrilli is Full Professor of Philosophy and Theory of Languages at the University of Bari Aldo Moro, in Puglia, Italy. She teaches General Semiotics, Philosophy of Language, Semiotics of Translation at the Department of Research and Humanistic Innovation (DIRIUM) and Semiotics of Law and Intercultural Communication at the Ionic Department in Juridical and Economic Systems of the Mediterranean: Society, Environment and Cultures.


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