I am currently involved in two rather different empirical research topics, both of which are approached from an environmental semiotic framework, but are supplemented also by knowledge stemming from environmental history, philosophy and ethology. The first deals with the perception of the environment by the guide-dog and the blind person tandem – how they are supplementing one another’s propensities when orienting in city space and how a shared environment is thereby formed where both can operate. It is a process of mutual adjustment that needs trust and exercise from both sides. This research intends to lead to the development of proposals on how to take into consideration these different perceptions of the environment in planning urban spaces.
The second research, which I am conducting with my colleague Kadri Tüür, concerns the movement patterns on and to the Western Estonian islets – how the historical and modern wayfaring, means of transportation and reasons of travelling have influenced the environments of the islets as well as induced cultural changes. We aim to demonstrate how small scale movement of both humans and animals on the islets (for example, among pastures, meadows, lighthouses and fishermen shelters) translates into larger time scale historic transformations which in turn ends up in stable sets of relations (cultural-natural communities, cultural patterns expressed in clothing, language). Conservation efforts benefit from acknowledging that humans share the characteristics of all living beings; they need to build their lives upon meaningful relations with their environment.
Combining my knowledge of semiotics and biology has brought me to an exploration of the meeting points of human and non-human environments.