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Monday, 2 March 2015

Abstract for NASS IX: "The future Umwelten of wolves, sheep and people in Scandinavia"

I have just composed and submitted the abstract below to the organisers of the 9th conference of the Nordic Association for Semiotic Studies (NASS) (Tartu, August 17-20).

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The future Umwelten of wolves, sheep and people in Scandinavia

By Morten Tønnessen, University of Stavanger 

Paper proposal submitted to the theme session “The study of future umwelten: umwelt futurology”

ABSTRACT

In Scandinavia, wolf management has been surrounded by conflict ever since the return of the grey wolf about a generation ago. While the presence of wolves is perceived to be in conflict with hunting practices, such as the use of free-roaming hunting dogs, in both Sweden and Norway, in Norway the “wolf wars” are by the general public especially associated with sheep´s grazing in outer pastures. In the Norwegian context, the wolf has become a symbol of large predators in general (which in Norway include brown bears, lynx and wolverines), and a scapegoat for certain societal developments that threaten traditional, small-scale husbandry practices (Tønnessen 2011).

In this paper, I will sketch selected future scenarios for the Umwelten of wolves, sheep and people by making use of the Umwelt theory of Jakob von Uexküll (e.g. Uexküll 1956 [1934/1940]; cf. also the concise, thorough and critical scientific monograph Brentari 2015) in combination with various future projections and scenarios from other fields.  These will include demographical projections, scenarios for climate change, trends related to the industrialization of agriculture in Scandinavia, and assumptions about future land use and husbandry practices. This paper will focus on developments in a generational perspective, until year 2100 or so.

In the scope of the presentation, I aim to outline a mainstream, “business as usual” scenario as well as an alternative, more preferable scenario. One of the basic assumptions of this paper is that in order to ascertain that conservation efforts are successful in the long run, we must understand the cultural semiotics, whether local or global, underpinning the symbolicity of the wolf. Aspects of the wolf´s symbolicity are ancient and go thousands of years back – these in effect constitute a quite stable and resistant cultural imagery.  Whenever the wolf´s symbolicity is characteristically modern, on the other hand, societal developments in the 21st century will likely change the way we think about wolves in the future.

Acknowledgement: This work has been carried out thanks to the support of the research project Animals in Changing Environments: Cultural Mediation and Semiotic Analysis (EEA Norway Grants/Norway Financial Mechanism 2009–2014 under project contract no EMP151).

References
Brentari, Carlo 2015. Jakob von Uexküll: The Discovery of the Umwelt Between Biosemiotics and Theoretical Biology (Biosemiotics 9). Dordrecht: Springer.
Tønnessen, Morten 2011. Umwelt Transition and Uexküllian Phenomenology – An Ecosemiotic Analysis of Norwegian Wolf Management (= Dissertationes Semioticae Universitatis Tartuensis 16). Doctoral dissertation. Tartu: Tartu University Press. Introduction available online.
von Uexküll, J. (1956 [1934/1940]). Streifzüge durch die Umwelten von Tieren und Menschen: Ein Bilderbuch unsichtbarer Welten. Bedeutungslehre. Hamburg: Rowohlt.

Abstract for NASS IX: "Agency in biosemiotics and enactivism"

I have just composed and submitted the abstract below to the organisers of the 9th conference of the Nordic Association for Semiotic Studies (NASS) (Tartu, August 17-20).

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Agency in biosemiotics and enactivism

By Morten Tønnessen, University of Stavanger

Paper proposal submitted to the theme session “Cognitive semiotics meets biosemiotics / Biosemiotics meets cognitive semiotics”

ABSTRACT
While several fields has a pragmatic interest in the notion of agency qua causal, biosemiotics has an ontological interest in the occurrence of agency in the living realm at large. Although there is currently no consensus in the biosemiotic community on what constitutes a semiotic agent, i.e. an agent in the context of semiosis (the action of signs), most respondents to a recent survey agree that core attributes of an agent include goal-directedness, self-governed activity, processing of semiosis and choice of action, with these features being vital for the functioning of the living system in question. 

In this chapter I seek to compare the biosemiotic understanding(s) of agency with enactive understanding(s) of agency. Despite considerable overlapping in views and outlook, there are sharp differences in how agency is understood in biosemiotics and enactivism. For example, while biosemioticians typically acknowledge agency in all living systems, whether large or small, enactivists tend for the most part to refer to individual agency, and often with stricter qualifications than biosemiotics makes use of. Gallagher´s emphasis on some organisms´ “sense of agency” exemplifies enactivism´s tendency to focus on conscious animals, and to prioritise theorizing about self-awareness rather than awareness or experience in a broader sense.

Acknowledgements: This work has been carried out thanks to the support of the research project Animals in Changing Environments: Cultural Mediation and Semiotic Analysis (EEA Norway Grants/Norway Financial Mechanism 2009–2014 under project contract no EMP151). Parts of this text have previously been published in Biosemiotics (Tønnessen, Morten 2015. The Biosemiotic Glossary Project: Agent, agency. To appear in Biosemiotics 8(1); published online January 21st 2015 (doi: 10.1007/s12304-015-9229-0), with Appendix – Supplementary Material – available online).

Friday, 27 February 2015

First draft of chapter "The Semiotics of Wild Carnivore Management" composed

A few days ago I uploaded/submitted a first draft of my chapter "The Semiotics of Wild Carnivore Management", which is to be published in Spring 2016 as part of the collective monograph Semiotic Methods in the Study of Human-Animal Interactions (Tartu: Tartu University Press). The chapter was previously work-titled "Semiotics of Management of Wild Carnivores".

A full, edited paper is due May 31st.

Chapter draft "Human Perceptions of Animals: A Multi-Modal Interaction Analysis of Interview Data" composed

A few days ago I uploaded/submitted a first draft of the chapter "Human Perceptions of Animals: A Multi-Modal Interaction Analysis of Interview Data", which I write along with Paul Thibault. The chapter is to be published in Spring 2016 as part of the collective monograph Semiotic Methods in the Study of Human-Animal Interactions (Tartu: Tartu University Press).

A full, edited paper is due May 31st.

No roles at Tangen Zoo anyhow

At a research visit last winter, I agreed to be the research contact of Tangen zoo, Norway. There was also talk of me joining the board of the zoo. However, a few months later it became clear that none of this would materialise, since the owner of the zoo at the time decided to sell it to new owners. This is a pity, I think, since he had entertained a progressive animal welfare agenda (which was what convinced me to accept the two offers).

See also:

Thursday, 26 February 2015

To present research project application on Umwelt theory on PRE-FRIPRO workshop

I have been scheduled to offer a brief presentation of my research application "Umwelt theory for our time" at a PRE-FRIPRO (see previous posts) workshop which will take place at University of Stavanger on March 18th, along with 3 others so far. The workshop will involve feedback on the projects presented.

Planning meeting attended; to chair "researcher stand-up" event

Today I have taken part in another meeting in preparation of a personnel trip to Iceland, at University of Stavanger´s Department of social studies. During the trip, I will be responsible for the "researcher stand-up", on March 24th, which will involve brief presentations of the research of selected faculty members.