Doctoral Defense: Merit Rickberg “Towards Complexity Thinking with Juri Lotman: Modelling Cultural Dynamics in Educational Systems”

On 5 September at 14:00 Merit Rickberg will defend her doctoral thesis “Towards Complexity Thinking with Juri Lotman: Modelling Cultural Dynamics in Educational Systems” for obtaining the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (in Semiotics and Culture Studies).

Professor Peeter Torop, University of Tartu
Lecturer Silvi Salupere, University of Tartu

Associate Professor Laura Gherlone, Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina (Argentina)
Professor Dalia Satkauskytė, Vilnius University and Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore (Lithuania)

Societies tend to put a lot of hope and pressure on education to serve as a ground for tackling global challenges and initiating change towards societal goals. At the same time, change in educational systems does not always follow a linear path of development from educational agendas to the desired outcomes. Despite the attempts to plan, manage and measure these multilevel processes they can still lead to unforeseen results. One way to account for such indeterminacy is to model education as a complex system. Complexity research provides a framework for making sense of nonlinear interactions between the parts of a system that result in unpredictable outcomes. While describing the intricate relations between parts does not allow us to predict the exact trajectories of development, it can enable to identify patterns of change in such systems. What appears problematic is that the frameworks for understanding complexity are mainly inspired by research conducted in hard sciences. While all complex systems can be described by some common principles, there are also profound differences in how these systems behave depending on whether we observe complexity in physical systems or in culture. The thesis proposes that Juri Lotman’s semiotic theory offers a valuable perspective for elaborating the particularity of culture as a complex system. The complexity thinking approach stemming from Lotman’s ideas allows to maintain the static–dynamic dimension of cultural processes in paradoxical tension and, through that, has the potential to address both linear developments as well as unexpected bifurcations and view them as mutually conditional. The dissertation explicates how Lotmanian complexity framework enables to model the relation between cultural dynamics and the structural organisation of culture and can thus provide a valuable insight for the field of education where the question regarding the capacity of various models to initiate the desired change is of critical importance.

The defence can be also followed in Zoom (meeting ID: 929 8258 6961, passcode: 469345).