I am a semiotician (i.e. the study of signification and communication of meaning), as well as a systems and computation scholar, with qualifications in human geography (PhD, University of Helsinki) and urbanism (Master's, Virginia Commonwealth University), and expertise in both the Humanities & STEM disciplines.  

I have been active in diverse lines of research, connected by the red thread of complex adaptive systems as applied to human-environment systems (both natural and technical environments), especially topological patterns of behaviour and of thought at the individual and community level:

  • Semiotics, esp. as applied to culture, topology, myths, urbanism & architecture, and AI & robotics (the latter in connection to‚ÄĒor as part of‚ÄĒthe epistemology and ethics of AI & robotics.¬†To promote the fundamental role of semiotics in contemporary research and education, I have established¬†S√©m√©iologie, the semiotics reading group¬†of the University of Twente:¬†https://www.utwente.nl/en/bms/semiotics/.
  • Computational methods, esp. AI and complexity approaches: cellular automata, agent-based models, space syntax, fractals, fuzzy logic, 'fuzzy' cognitive maps.
  • Urbanism & Spatial planning, notably¬†urbanisation scenario simulations, liveable and healthy cities, bottom-up urbanism and societal¬†resilience, typologies of sustainable cities and their long-term resilience trajectories.
  • Spatial economics, esp. housing markets,¬†economic¬†effects of¬†natural risks and adaptation-mitigation solutions, spatial econometrics and the spatial structure and spatial interaction of economic mechanisms.
  • Climate and weather adaptation/resilience¬†in cities and territories¬†[heatwaves, flooding, ecosystem services], and the¬†aviation¬†and energy sectors.
  • AI and robotics, esp. automated reasoning and knowledge representation in the domains of spatial cognition; human-machine interaction and hybrid reasoning; distributed intelligence and the regulation/control of complex adaptive systems.¬†¬†

I have lectured courses on semiotics, humane AI, spatial planning & economics, and computational methods. I have served as PI, task leader or contributor in numerous ERC and National research projects and recently contributed to the UN ESCAP-APDIM's first Sand and Dust Storms Risk Assessment for Asia and the Pacific.

I am a proud member of 4TU Resilience Engineering, UT's DesignLab and StoryLab 2.0, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the International Network for Urban Research and Action (INURA), the Urban Economics Association, the European Sustainable Energy Innovation Alliance (ESEIA), the Association of European Schools of Planning (AESOP; serving as the contact person for UT-BMS-CSTM), and the International Environmental Modelling and Software Society (iEMSs).

Supervisory work (completed Masters and PhD theses) ‚ÄĒ selected examples:

  • Space Syntax analysis and observational fieldwork to develop urban design recommendations for intergenerational public spaces (Amber Lim, University of Helsinki).
  • Circular economy¬†approaches to cities, focusing on how algae can provide solutions to the key metabolic challenges of urban systems (Evgenia Ntanou, University of Twente). ¬†
  • Cellular automata modelling¬†for parametrising and categorising the spatial growth patterns of the largest Finnish cities (Katja Toivola, Aalto University).
  • Fuzzy Cognitive Maps to develop policy recommendations for renewable energy transitions at national and municipal scales (Arash Kamali and Reza Shahbazi, University of Twente), and for nuclear energy (Nadine Hendrikse, University of Twente).
  • Sustainable spatial planning paradigms, including ecotourism (Kyriakos Georgas, University of Twente), energy efficient co-housing (Duncan Kipchirchir, University of Twente), walkable cities (Ebrahim Khajeh Pour), and national parks and forests cross-governance (Caitlyn Taylor Walker, University of Twente).¬†



‚ÄúGoverning the urban commons‚ÄĚ: DLT, institutions, and citizens in perspectiveBig Data & Society, 10(1). Long, L. A. N., Graaf, S. V. D. & Votsis, A.https://doi.org/10.1177/20539517231182391Description of social, economic & regulatory conditions (SUSTENANCE deliverable 3.1). University of Aalborg. Schillinger, J., Helfrich, F. L., Aukes, E. J., Tummers, L., Votsis, A. & Sanderink, L.https://h2020sustenance.eu/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/D3.1.pdfMONARCH Regional Reanalysis of¬†Desert Dust Aerosols: An Initial AssessmentIn Air Pollution Modeling and its Application XXVIII (pp. 241-247). Springer. Di Tomaso, E., Escribano, J., Basart, S., Ginoux, P., Macchia, F., Barnaba, F., Benincasa, F., Bretonnière, P. A., Buñuel, A., Castrillo, M., Cuevas, E., Formenti, P., Gonçalves-Ageitos, M., Jorba, O., Klose, M., Mona, L., Montané, G., Mytilinaios, M., Obiso, V., ‚Ķ Pérez García-Pando, C.https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-12786-1_33Socio-economic, governance and regulatory conditions (SUSTENANCE deliverable 3.2). University of Aalborg. Votsis, A., Schillinger, J. M., Tummers, L. & Kishor, N.Spatial analysisIn Dictionary of Ecological Economics: Terms for the New Millennium (pp. 500). Edward Elgar. Votsis, A.https://doi.org/10.4337/9781788974912.S.51Spatial modelingIn Dictionary of Ecological Economics: Terms for the New Millennium (pp. 501-502). Edward Elgar. Votsis, A.https://doi.org/10.4337/9781788974912.S.54

Research profiles

Affiliated study programs

Courses academic year 2023/2024

Courses in the current academic year are added at the moment they are finalised in the Osiris system. Therefore it is possible that the list is not yet complete for the whole academic year.

Courses academic year 2022/2023

Current projects


Sustainable and Integrated Energy Systems in Local Communities

To accelerate the transition of Europe‚Äôs electricity system to a more decentralized structure, the SERENE project aims to demonstrate cost-effective and customer-centric solutions for effectively integrating different energy system carriers for the sustainable development of regional communities to meet their energy needs from local sources of renewable energy. The specific goal is thus to establish locally integrated ‚Äúenergy islands‚ÄĚ in different villages of Skanderborg (Denmark), Olst (the Netherlands) and Przywidz (Poland). Such ‚Äúenergy islands‚ÄĚ will contribute to the decarbonisation of local energy systems via the optimal integration of multi-energy carriers through smart control and the balancing of systems and grids at the local level. This approach will also increase the levels of renewable energy use, thereby enhancing the environmental, social and economic conditions of the citizens and establishing more business and trade. The experiences gained at the demonstration sites will be analysed and evaluated for replicability across Europe. Technical benchmark models and solutions will be established alongside business models and evaluated against the different challenges identified by the countries involved. The levels of user involvement and their interest to participate will be evaluated from the geographical, social, environmental and economic conditions.


Sustainable Energy System for Achieving Novel Carbon Neutral Energy Communities

The overall purpose of the H2020 SUSTENANCE project is to set up sustainable energy systems for achieving novel carbon neutral energy communities. The project focuses on the development of smart technological concepts enabling a green transition of the energy systems with higher share of local renewable energy and more efficient integrated energy solutions for the electrical, heat, water, waste as well as transportation infrastructure. The set up solutions will at the same time have good socio-economic impact in the local communities and ensure eco-friendly solutions and good infrastructures, which provides support to sustaining the essentials of life. The demonstration activities are set up in four countries: Denmark, the Netherlands, Poland and India.


ELSE aspects of human-robot interaction in the classroom

In collaboration with dr. Dina Babushkina and dr. Michael Nagenborg. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ A key question in human-robot interaction concerns the implications that the cognitive pairing with the robot‚Äôs AI and mechanical components has for core human dimensions, such as emotions, identity, trust, anthropomorphism, and dependability. Moreover, as autonomous systems are deployed to perform real-world functions, the issue is not just about human-robot interaction from a consumer perspective; it is also about the interaction between robot and decision maker, as well as about the indirect interaction with a potentially large amount of people without their direct involvement. As a consequence, several ethical aspects merit attention, as well as how they can be translated to legal, regulatory, social terms. At the same time, the degree of cognitive pairing between humans and robots has led to hybrid epistemology, with open questions on what knowledge about the world do machines produce, how it relates to human knowledge, and what the resulting epistemological flow is. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- In order to help the new generations of students and future professionals understand and address these crucial issues, the applicants have developed the new course ‚ÄúEthics and Epistemology of AI‚ÄĚ (OSIRIS code 202200010) as part of the Master‚Äôs in Philosophy of Science, Technology and Society. The course gives a systematic introduction to the ethics and epistemology of AI and robotics in the context of a larger debate in the humanities. Given the rapidly growing use of AI and robotics in various social spheres as well as its largely experimental nature, there is a pressing need for a responsible stance towards the design and implementation of this technology. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- We aim to apply DesignLab‚Äôs responsible futuring approach to our course from a citizen science perspective, in a way that humanities and social science topics are treated hands-on with technology. We will acquire and use in the classroom two robotic systems as learning material, for demonstration and prototyping activities. We use a humanoid robot as an accessible entry point to classic embodied artificial intelligence and a means for the teachers to introduce essential ethical and epistemological entry points. Distributed intelligence follows via use of swarm robots as an entry point to the radically alternative paradigm of swarm intelligence, with a set of largely unexplored implications. In parallel, we use swarms to demonstrate embodied machine learning in real-time.


the semiotics reading group of Universiteit Twente

To recognise and support the fundamental role that semiotics* has for contemporary research and education, I have established séméiologie, the semiotics reading group of the University of Twente. We hold regular informal gatherings, each dedicated to one of the wide range of subjects in the European and American semiotic traditions: cultural, architectural, media, literary, musical, bio-, social, AI and robot semiotics [& more].

In the press

  • EGU21 Press Conference "From avalanches to aviation: The Sahara's global impacts". Talk "DustClim: Solar energy climate products".¬†https://youtu.be/JzJDbYqOc2s?t=520¬†

News on utwente.nl


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