“Atmos-fear”: A psycho-semiotic analysis of messages in New York everyday life

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We live in societies emphasizing security and its complementary side of fear. In this work, I analyze the peripheral messages disseminated in the urban environment, whose function is that of regulating human and collective conduct through orienting specific forms of affective meaning-making. According to the perspective of Cultural Psychology of Semiotic Dynamics, affect and cognition work always together. Affect has the primacy in the relationship with the world and on top of affective distinctions we build conceptual distinctions. Thus, I describe a type of semiotic process I have called "atmos-fear," that works through the production of empty representamen that frames meaning. The concept of "atmos-fear" could be fruitfully developed to understand phenomena of politics, communication and construction of the Other in contemporary societies, where the dialogical relationship between security and fear is at stake.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number226
Pages (from-to)169-184
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019


  • administration of fear
  • affective logic
  • affective meaning-making
  • atmosphere as sign
  • cultural psychology
  • urban spaces

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