Ecological Repertoire Analysis: a Method of Interaction-Based Semiotic Study for Multispecies Environments


In the present times of global environmental change, there is growing need for qualitative methods that would describe the meanings and significance of living environments. This paper proposes ecological repertoire analysis as a qualitative observation-based method for the environmental humanities. The method proceeds from theories relevant for ecosemiotics — ecofield analysis (A. Farina), umwelt theory (J. v. Uexküll), and perceptual affordance (J. Gibson) — and takes the event to be a basic unit of study. Interaction events are defined as any observable significant interactions between participants and understood as having symptomatic qualities with regard to the broader ecosystem. The temporal and spatial pattern of the events allows for bringing forth the meaning motifs and general theme of the given environment. By interpreting activities of various animals in the framework of umwelt theory as well as the affordances that they use to relate with the environment, the method integrates the knowledge and competences of non-human species. The method is exemplified by a small study done on the shores of the river Emajõgi, conducted in August 2019 in Tartu, Estonia. Based on this study, ecological repertoire analysis appears to be a useful research method for analyzing conflicts and aggregations of different species in hybrid environments.

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The research for this article was supported by the Estonian Research Council (individual group research grant PRG314 “Semiotic fitting as a mechanism of biocultural diversity: instability and sustainability in novel environments” and individual research grant PUT1363 “Semiotics of multispecies environments: agencies, meaning making and communication conflicts”).

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Correspondence to Timo Maran.

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Maran, T. Ecological Repertoire Analysis: a Method of Interaction-Based Semiotic Study for Multispecies Environments. Biosemiotics 13, 63–75 (2020).

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  • Ecosemiotics
  • Event
  • Ecofield
  • Perceptual affordance
  • Biodiversity
  • Hybrid environments