The Semiotic Challenges of Guide Dog Teams: the Experiences of German, Estonian and Swedish Guide Dog Users

Biosemiotics 9 (2):267-285 (2016)

Abstract
Based on interviews with guide dog users from Sweden, Estonia and Germany and participatory observation of the teams’ work, the article discusses three kinds of semiotic challenges encountered by the guide dog teams: perceptual, sociocultural and communicative challenges. Perceptual challenges stem from a mismatch between affordances of the urban environment and perceptual and motoric abilities of the team. Sociocultural challenges pertain to the conflicting meanings that are attributed to dogs in different social contexts and to incompatible social norms. Challenges related to intrateam communication and interpretation of the other counterpart’s behavior are mostly tied to the difficulties of placing the other’s activities in the right context. Germany, Estonia and Sweden differ in their history of guide dog institutions and the organisation of guide dog work, but the challenges of the guide dog users appear to be fairly similar. However, differences appear in the stress laid on one or another type of challenge as well as in the explanations provided by the informants for the background of the challenges. The challenges, as analysed in the article, reflect not only the existing problems of guide dog users, but also their expectations for a social and physical environment, in which the teams would feel welcome.
Keywords Semiotic challenges  Interspecific communication  Guide dog-human interactions  Mobility of the visually impaired
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DOI 10.1007/s12304-015-9233-4
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References found in this work BETA

Umwelt trajectories.Morten Tønnessen - 2014 - Semiotica 2014 (198):159-180.
What Capabilities for the Animal?Dominique Lestel - 2011 - Biosemiotics 4 (1):83-102.

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