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Symposium: Public Interpretation - Sharing Meaning in the Era of Extreme Virality

Teaser für Tagung
Photo: CIRCe, University of Turin


Tuesday, 4 July 2017, Aula “Guzzo”, via Po 18, Turin, Italy

International Doctoral Symposium jointly organized by the University of Potsdam, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and the University of Turin, in cooperation with MIUR (Italian Ministry for University and Research) and DAAD (German Service for Academic Exchange).

Most images spreading violent extremist views exploit a misleading semiotic instinct: confronted with the image, the spectator tends to believe that she or he beholds a visual totality, in which the most relevant cognitive information and its emotional and pragmatic entailments are openly provided. The verbal discourse that accompanies extremist images emphasizes this mechanism, since it presents the visual message not as an iconic text whose semantic implicitness must be questioned, but as a key that spectacularly reveals the secrets of reality. Against such gullible attitude, semiotics should constantly encourage spectators to focus not only on that which the image represents, but also on that which it chooses not to show, relegating it in the backstage of the visual representation. When, for instance, a xenophobe Facebook page displays a video entitled “Non-whites attack white people in London”, showing a Caucasian man on the ground and a group of people of predominant Asian or African descent confusedly surrounding him, spectators are encouraged to believe that what they are visually witnessing to through the video is an episode of inverted racist violence, perpetrated by ‘non-whites’ against ‘white people’. That which the image does not disclose about the context of such scene, however, is more important than that which is displayed, as well as focused on by the caption. Through a thorough description and analysis of the ‘negative content’ of extremist images, semiotics should help defusing their potential for the viral diffusion of unreasonable social attitudes.


9:00 AM Introduction and welcome speech
9:15 “Public Interpretation”: Prof. ZHANG Jiang, Vice President of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS)
9:45 Discussion
10:15 Coffee break
10:30 “Semiotics of the Common Sense”: Prof. Massimo LEONE, University of Turin
11:00 Discussion
11:30 (Post-Doctoral) Workshop: Julius Erdman, Vincenzo IDONE CASSONE, Jan Rathje, Mattia THIBAULT, Nora Yehia, Amir Dizdarević, joint research (Post)Doctoral network (MIUR-DAAD, University of Potsdam and University of Turin)
12:30 Discussion
1:00 PM Lunch break
3:00 “Semiospheric Turbulences”: Prof. Eva KIMMINICH, University of Potsdam
3:30 Discussion
4:00 Conclusion of the symposium: Prof. Ugo VOLLI, University of Turin


  • Prof. GAO Jianping, Former Deputy Director-General of Institute of Literatures, CASS
  • Prof. QUAN Da, Program Officer of European Division, International Cooperation Bureau, CASS
  • Prof. Stefania STAFUTTI, University of Turin
  • Prof. WU Bolong, Director of European Division, International Cooperation Bureau, CASS
  • Prof. ZHANG Zhengwen, Vice President of Graduate School, CASS



Aula “Guzzo”, via Po 18, Turin, Italy

Link to premises location on OpenStreetMap