Mari-Liis Madisson's PhD thesis defense

Tuesday, August 23, at 14.15 Mari-Liis Madisson will defend her PhD thesis in Semiotics titled "The Semiotic Construction of Identities in Hypermedia Environments: The Analysis of Online Communication of the Estonian Extreme Right" at the Senat Hall, Main building of the university.


This dissertation presents a semiotic study of the processes of identity-creation, which prevail
in online interactions of the extreme right. Security authorities, as well as the academic
studies, have indicated that in contemporary societies, which generally respect the rights of
minorities, the most active formation and exchange of racist and xenophobic ideas takes place
by virtue of online communities. The meta-language of semiotics allows the relational
conceptualization of the extreme right communication. It enables to take into account the
meaning-hierarchies, which form the interactions of different extreme right nodes but also to
comprehend the dynamic relations between radical nationalist sphere and the wider sociocultural
context. Based on non-participatory observation in the Estonian extreme right
networks, the findings of the previous studies and conceptual frameworks of cultural
semiotics, this dissertation concentrates of four topics, which disclose the key-aspects of
contemporary racist and nativistic meaning-making. Firstly, I explain the dominant
frameworks which organize the extreme right interpretations of particular events but also
generate the associations with communal memory. Secondly, I reveal the semiotic
mechanisms which enable seemingly paradoxical self-descriptions, which unite racist and
xenophobic understandings with signifiers form generally accepted discourses of liberal
democracy and multiculturalism. Thirdly, I demonstrate what kind of dominants of meaningmaking
lead to the echo chamber communication, which facilitates the reproduction of preexisting
stereotypes and directs towards polarized understandings. Fourthly, I make known
the functions, which New World Order (NWO) conspiracy theories have in the extreme right
interpretations and self-understandings. Besides aforementioned emphases, this dissertation
develops a general theoretical framework, which enables to expose the semiotic logic of the
signification of conspiracy theories that are articulated outside of the extreme right sphere of
communication. In addition, I also explain the identity-discourse of e-Estonia, which connects
contemporary information and communication technologies with particular values and visions
of Estonian society. The discourse of e-Estonia has a significant role in the dominant selfdescriptions
of Estonia but it also influences the identity-creation of peripheral spheres.