The European Mind Project Experience-The First Year

Eero Tarasti, University of Lapland
“This project in fact realizes many dreams and future aspirations expressed several times during last 20-30 years in international gatherings of semioticians; namely, a systematic education program of semioticians in the universities at their highest academic level, and also the hope to ‘professionalize’  the  title of a ‘semiotician’.  The latter goal is of course closely linked to the idea of labour market orientation of our doctoral program. However, this is by no means jeopardizing the goal of many a young gifted semiotician to become a serious scientist and make a purely academic career as a university teacher and scholar.

I have been very satisfied with the manner the Lapland University has launched this major, I would frankly say, historic project within the global semiotics. Our team is also aware that it is making an important pioneering work for a discipline which has several keys to the core problems of our contemporary world from ecological problems to cross-cultural communication and understanding.

Concretely speaking our work is going so enthusiastically also thanks to the Finnbarents Agency whose technical expertise has been a crucial factor for our efficient work. As an international scholar and teacher, travelling a lot, I would personally have no time to survey all this concrete work; I would not even master the special discourse necessary for administering such an EU enterprise.

Our meetings with other partners have opened new views how semiotics is taught and organized in different parts of the Europe, from the North to the South. Here in Finland as a result a new doctoral program is rising in the Lapland University, in the arctic area of the Europe.  In fact we have had in Finland since 2004 an EU funded project, via the ISI at Imatra, for a National Network University of Semiotics, to  which 13 Finnish Universities are  participating; it has now about 60 doctoral students of semiotics only in Finland. When this started I had the vision that it is an experiment within one country of how the training of semioticians would function among European countries in a broader scale. Now this is truly becoming a reality.


It has been a pleasure and joy for me to work with this nice team. I am also glad to note that our work has been very positively recognized in many international congresses and symposia of semiotics to which I have been attending during last years (about 10 altogether). So I have the feeling that the global community of semioticians is following our project. Our doctoral programme will also serve as a possible model for many non-European countries starting semiotics from Latin America to China."


Kimberly Cornfield, University of Lapland
“I became the project manager six months after the project began. It was a challenging start, especially as I do not have a background in Semiotics.

What I have enjoyed most is the team work. Our project leader Prof. Tarasti and the partners are incredibly knowledgeable in Semiotics and enthusiastic, which has created a positive working environment for me! I also appreciate that our team is always working hard to overcome the challenges we face!

I have found that the biggest challenge has been to combine education structures. Incorporating four universities structures and systems into one joint programme, particularly when national legislation determines certain aspects of the programme structure in each country, has been administratively challenging. All our universities provide much of the same content for a PhD programme, but it took time to see that because the structures can vary.”


Kristian Bankov, New Bulgarian University
“After one year of working in the SEMKNOW project I have a much better view on the doctoral studies all over Europe. I have realized how important is to reform many of the existing practices and to make the third level studies as international as possible. I consider particularly useful the effort of all four partners to establish the basic contents for a balanced introduction in the semiotic theory, something unachieved by any single existing semiotic department. I have also realized how difficult and sometimes even impossible is to overcome bureaucratic obstacles in the university administration.”


Tiit Remm, University of Tartu Remm
“From the first sight, semiotics in partner universities does not seem to have much in common. Nevertheless, it still seems possible to map the core of semiotics that we share - the classics from history and central ideas that find their local applications.


Federica Turco, University of Torino
“I’m Federica and it’s my first time in a European Project. I’ve been working on this project since last September. It was very hard at the beginning: lots of things to learn, several notions to know, thousands of papers, articles, and instructions to read!
But I am very happy to be in the teamwork now, because I’m learning how to manage a European Project and because it’s very interesting to listen to and to speak with people teaching and researching in semiotics in other countries. Each time you can discover how different the same subject can be if you see it from a different point of view or perspective.
I finished my PhD a year ago and the fact that I can contribute to the creation of a new doctoral programme, that I can suggest values, merits and imperfections to realize a better course for my future colleagues is extremely challenging for me!”

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