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Thursday, 23 December 2010

Minding animals: Pre-Lecture Events news

I have just received the second Minding Animals pre-conference events bulletin.

The first two events have now taken place - in Utrecht, the Netherlands, and in Sydney, Australia. More info at the Pre-conference events page of MAI. No less than 30 cities are mentioned in the second bulletin as potential event locations.
The Oslo event (now scheduled for October 14-15, 2011 and enveloping one and a half day of program) is mentioned in the following fashion:
Oslo, Norway, 14 October, 2011
A one day conference examining human relationships with equines and canines:
Shared Worlds
I am further involved in what is now presented as the Fifth Event:
Fifth Event: Workshop, Sydney, Australia, 19 to 21 February, 2011
The History, Philosophy and Future of Ethology
The fifth event is an ISL-HCA funded International Collaborative Workshop with international speakers including:
Dominique Lestel (ENS, France)
· Brett Buchanan
(Laurentian, Canada)
· Gary Steiner
(Bucknell, USA)
· Jeffrey Bussolini
· Morten Tønnessen
(Tartu, Estonia)
There will also be a number of local speakers and participants. It is a small but intensive interdisciplinary workshop at the borders of animal behaviour science, the ecological humanities and Continental philosophy, under the auspices of the Macquarie University Animals and Society Working Group within the Centre for Research on Social Inclusion. Though space is limited, if you are working in the history and philosophy of ethology and would like to participate, please contact Matthew Chrulew at:
Please note that a public lecture is also being planned; details of which may also be obtained by contacting Matthew.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

New York presentation confirmed

My abstract ´Integrated biological individualism and the primacy of the individual level of biological organization´ has been accepted as basis for a presentation at the 11th Gathering in biosemiotics, to take place in New York June 22-26.

Monday, 20 December 2010

MAO: First meeting carried out

The first, virtual meeting of the organizers of the Minding Animals Prelecture event in Oslo (MAO) next year was carried out Thursday December 16th (I took part from Rio de Janeiro, where I am for a month around Christmas). 2 and a half hour of chat...
Kristian Bjørkdahl is not joining us after all, but have in stead suggested Martin Lee Mueller, also of Centre for Development and the Environment, who now has joined our organizing team (eco-phenomenological, deep ecological master thesis, 2008: Symphony of Silences: A Journey Through a Multicentric World).
The MAO event will now for sure span over 2 days, October 14-15, 2011. The task for the participants for Saturday October 15th will be to work out and compose a manifesto on the relationship between academia and activism with regard to human-animal relations.

Norwegian HAS anthology: Book proposal submitted

The book proposal for our Norwegian Human-Animal Studies anthology work-titled ´Der natur møter kultur: Mennesket og andre dyr´ has been submitted to Gyldendal Dokumentar, and is currently pending feedback. Meanwhile, Svenn Arne Lie has withdrawn from the book project and Aksel Nærstad is joining us.

Aberdeen conference on conservation conflicts

The conference Conservation Conflicts: Strategies for coping with a changing world (ACES 2011) will take place in Aberdeen, Scotland, August 22-24 2010. Looks really interesting. A call for papers is due January 16th. The design of the conference, which is organized by the Aberdeen Centre for Environmental Sustainability, is interdisciplinary and spans over both natural and social sciences.
Five themes are included:
1. Understanding conflicts
2. Case studies in species conflicts
3. Case studies in protected area conflicts
4. Case studies in land use/ecosystem services conflicts
5. Approaches to managing conflicts

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Semiotics of Perception - issue, offprints received

A few days ago I received the special issue of Biosemiotics Semiotics of Perception, for which I am a guest editor along with Kati Lindström, in the mail.

And today I received the offprints of my single-authored articles in that issue, "Wolf land" and "Steps to a semiotics of being". The latter in particular means a lot to me.

Mapping human impact approaching publication

I have received my article "Mapping human impact: Expanding horizons - Interdisciplinary integration", an outcome of the second CECT autumn seminar, for checking of language editing and technical editing. This is due early January at the latest.

The proceedings will appear next spring.

The southern wolf shot

A few days ago the Southern wolf that I have previously posted about here in Utopian Realism - and commented in the Norwegian regional daily Fædrelandsvennen (and written a chronicle about in the same newspaper) - was shot dead in Lyngdal municipality in the region of Vest-Agder, according to media reports.

New Uexkull translations to be reviewed

Around the time of my visit to Tartu the last week of November I received the news that a new translation of Jakob von Uexküll has just been published:

By Jakob von Uexküll
Translated by Joseph D. O'Neil
Introduction by Dorion Sagan
Afterword by Geoffrey Winthrop Young
University of Minnesota Press | 280 pages | 2010

The book is published as volume 12 of the Posthumanities series.

It is neither the first nor the last time these texts are translated, but it will be interesting to compare it with both the originals (Bedeutungslehre and Streifzüge durch die Umwelten von Tieren und Menschen) and the other existing translation of each text.

I have now scheduled with my supervisor Kalevi Kull that I will, as an assignment for the doctoral seminar of autumn 2010, carry out a review of the translation (whether for publication or not).

Oslo II - belated report

November 11th I gave my talk 'Ulovlig jakt på ulv' (Illegal wolf hunting) in Kriminalpolitisk seminar in Oslo (University of Oslo), cf. preliminary posts. About an hour - followed by remarks by professor emeritus Nils Christie, and general discussion. There were perhaps 30 people in the audience, and the discussion was engaged and lively, not least since Christie positioned himself - at least initially - as somewhat 'anti-wolf'. He interpreted the 'wolf wars' as a social (i.e. human-human) conflict, and sided with the weak part, which he took to be rural wolf antagonists. Interestingly, Christie accepted my portrayal of the wolf as a symbol for other rural and agricultural hardships - but we disagree on whether or not it makes any sense to 'give the wolf antagonists this victory' (getting rid of the wolf). In my analysis, it wouldn't change the underlying frustration with current developments, and so would be a shallow solution in the sense of Arne Næss' deep ecology; in Christies, "they deserve it". We agreed, however, on the topic of illegal wolf hunting, that it would be a good sign, and further the public debate on wolf management, if those who partake in poaching of wolves could step forward and admit to, and defend, what they do.

In addition to giving the abovementioned presentation, I
* met with eco-criminologists Ragnhild Sollund and Guri Larsen concerning our human-animal relations anthology in-progress
* spent some time at Gentle Actions, meeting with David Rothenberg, David Abram and Per Ingvar Haukeland
* met my colleague in edutainment François Sibbald (our conference concept ARC (Authority - role - communication) - is in progress and scheduled for release early next summer).

I was, that time around, in Oslo Nov. 10-12.

Prospects for further wolf research?

As mentioned previously I am involved in an application for a 2011-2016 research project on Environmental semiotics, based at University of Tartu's Department of Semiotics. The last few weeks I have pondered about what I could do, if it proves successful (and if my role as a researcher is confirmed).

There's plenty of meaningful work to be done - including, on the travel scene, visits to destinations in Norway, Sweden, Estonia and beyond (Yellowstone, Wolf park, Alaska, Canada, Russia).

So far I have been working with wolves (some of them being more cooperative than others) since 2006.

Existential universals - update

Transcending Signs - Essays around Eero Tarasti's existential semiotics is in progress. My contribution, "Existential universals - biosemiosis and existential semiosis", is now pending re-submission OR revision, depending on my decision. This is due January 15th.

The editors of the book, to be published by Mouton de Gruyter, are Paul Forsell and Rick Littlefield.

SKANDULV seminar - belated 'report'

In mid-November I was planning to go to Trondheim for a research stay, but got the chance to partake in the annual research seminar of SKANDULV, the Scandinavian wolf project, so I went there instead (Nov. 15-18). The seminar took place at Strömsbergs säteri & konferens close to Västerås, an hour's drive from Stockholm.

At the seminar, I gave a talk entitled 'En økosemiotisk analyse av norsk ulveforvaltning' (An ecosemiotic analysis of Norwegian wolf management). I also got the chance to meet a lot of wolf ethologists whose work I had previously only read, not heard presented in person.

MIA Oslo - first planning meeting

The individual organizers of the Oslo Minding Animals pre-conference event now counts four: Rhys Evans, me, green criminologist Rune Ellefsen and Kristian Bjørkdahl (PhD project: The dog and the hog and a world of difference: Pragmatism and human-animal relations).

We'll have our first, virtual planning meeting next week.

Pictures from my field trip to Rendalen and Stor-Elvdal

The book store at Koppang, Stor-Elvdal - "read about handicapped Emilie and her dramatic fight for survival in the wilderness of Østerdalen".

Koppangtunet hotel, Stor-Elvdal.

Rendalen municipality house (Bergset, Rendalen).

The public library at Koppang, Stor-Elvdal.

Rendalen (Åkrestrømmen).

Philosophy in antiquity exam

This Monday I prepared the exam questions for this year's exam in Philosophy in antiquity at the University of Agder. The exam takes place Monday 13th.

Rendalen report

I have not yet reported from my field trip to Rendalen municipality in the Norwegian region of Hedmark, cf. post on plans (but the visit has already triggered both reflection and academic production, cf. my article 'Visjon 2040' and my research seminar presentation on the nature view and worldview of people in Rendalen).

The trip took place October 28 - November 2nd. The most important work carried out consisted in conducting 8 interviews, with:

RENDALEN municipality


Head of section for planning and business

Consultant, agrigulture

STOR-ELVDAL municipality

Head of section for planning and business

Head of RENDALEN REN (reindeer)

Sheep farmer (and NGO representative), Rendalen

Former sheep farmer couple, Rendalen

State licenced wolf hunter, Stor-Elvdal

In Rendalen, I was particularly pleased to hear about ROSAREN, a project designed to look into the potential for local business dependent on, or not in conflict with, the presence of big carnivores including wolves.

188 papers examined

This morning I finished examining 188 exam papers for the University of Stavanger, in the subject Examen Philosophicum (Ex.Phil - introductory philosophy) - cf. previous post. Last year this time of year I examined 155+11=166 papers, this year it was 179+9 (home exam papers + school exam papers), all together 22 more (all in all a pile of about half a meter).

The topic was the knowledge theories of Aristotle, Descartes and Hume, and their potential applicability in nursing.

The wolf wars: Vision 2040

The article-in-the-making I referred to a month ago, "Visjon 2040: Fra overlagt rovdrift til Utopi Buane" was finished, as a first draft at least, December 3rd (30.000 characters). Samtiden, the Norwegian general journal, once again responded quickly. They welcome a second, revised version of the text. If the revision goes according to plan (to be submitted early January), the article can hopefully be published in issue 2 or 3 of 2011.

* En hybrid forteller
* De to Norger
* Rendalen og verden
* Konspirasjon og kunnskap
* To natursyn
* Nederlagets symboler
* Levende bygder - på trygd
* Sannheten om sau og ulv
* Fra status quo til hva nå?
* Ikke mer skjebnetro!
* Rasjonelt og rasjonelt, fru Blom
* Rikdommens paradokser
* Norge 2040 (Utopi Buane)

References, green criminology

My article The legality and ethical legitimacy of wolf hunting in Scandinavia is mentioned as one out of six articles in 'øko-global kriminologi' (eco-global criminology) from a NsFK research seminar report on the Nordic eco-global criminology site.

The latest Nordic green criminology newsletter, administered by Rune Ellefsen, mentions these six articles indirectly and also the Oslo Minding Animals event to take place October 14th, 2011.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Where is David Wood?

Some time back i answered to a call for contributions to eco-phenomenologist David C. Wood's new chronopod, to be placed in the Amazones - but I have not heard from him since.

Reported missing:
* My song "Herfra til ingensteder" [From here to nowhere]
* Its lyrics
* My song "Alene (på en stein i mørket)" [Alone (on a stone in the dark)]
* Its lyrics
* An original illustration of my own making - of a 'global ontological map'

Next: Examine 195- exam papers

A day or two from now I will start examining a number of exam papers in introductory philosophy for the University of Stavanger. I have been told there are 195 students registered all in all, a bit more then last year. They met for a school exam - or delivered their home exam - November 26th, three days ago.

Teaching of antique philosophy completed

November 18th I taught the sixth and last class of philosophy in antiquity at the University of Agder. A 'sluttevaluering' (final evaluation, by the students) was carried out the same day.

Australia plans

The title of my talk at the international collaborative workshop on the history and philosophy of ethology, to take place in Sydney February 19-21, will be "Bad dog: An Uexküllian Analysis of Norwegian Wolf Management". 45 min.

I have arranged flight tickets - will be leaving Europe February 15th and return March 4th (in Australia February 17th - March 3rd). The workshop organizers provide me with accommodation in Sydney for February 17-22, the remaining 9 days I intend to spend in the Blue Mountains, working on completing my thesis.

Oslo MIA event mentioned in newsletter

Minding Animals International has issued its first newsletter before the 2012 Utrecht conference (MAC2 Newsletter 1). The Oslo Pre-lecture event is therein officially listed as one of the events taking place in October 2011, along with related events in New York, Rennes, Uppsala, London (twice), Christchurch, and Utrecht.

Note on the Oslo MIA event

I am mentioning the October 2011 Oslo Minding Animals Pre-lecture Conference event with irregular intervals. As for the roundtable on the shared worlds of people and wolves, I will be its facilitator (and Rhys Evans for the one on people and horses).

Following the coordinating efforts of MIA's convenor Rod Bennison, we have agreed to move the event from the originally planned October 25th, 2011, to Friday October 14th.

Participation at conference to honour Peeter Torop

November 26-27 I was present at the international conference Culture in Mediation: Total Translation, Complementary Perspectives, which was arranged here in Tartu at the occasion of professor Peeter Torop's 60-year birthday. Present were also a number of outstanding semiotic names. For my own part it was not least an opportunity to meet Dinda Gorlée for the very first time, and Winfried Nöth for the second time (first time in Europe).

Regional media coverage - the Southern wolf

Tuesday November 23rd I was featured in the regional Norwegian newspaper Fædrelandsvennen under the heading "Vil gi ulven plass i Agder" [Wants to give the wolf space in Agder]. Whole page, including excerpts from the daily's online debate and a comment from Helge Fossen, a NGO representative.

The journalist Tarald Reinholt Aas generously allowed me to publish the uncut version of the interview text in my Norwegian language blog Utopisk Realisme. There I have further posted a reply to Helge Fossen ("Hva er en sau verdt?" [How much is a sheep worth?]).

Oslo Minding Animals event - update

The University of Tartu's Department of Semiotics by Dynamical Zoosemiotics and Animal Representations, a research project where I partake, has become an affiliated institution for the upcoming Minding Animals Pre-Conference Lecture Oslo event.

Eco-criminologist Rune Ellefsen joins the organizing team.

Presentation given at second zoosemiotic research seminar

Today at 10.30-11 I presented 'The nature view and worldview of people in Rendalen municipality in the region of Hedmark', based on my field trip(s) this autumn, in the 2nd Research Seminar of Dynamical Zoosemiotics and Animal Representations.

There were five other talks - by my colleagues Timo Maran, Jelena Grigorjeva, Kadri Tüür, Silver Rattasepp and Nelly Mäekivi.

Zoosemiotic grant meeting - roundtable plans

Today after the research seminar in Dynamical Zoosemiotics and Animal Representations, we had a grant meeting, the six of us. Next spring's conference naturally topped the agenda. We agreed on what responsibility each one of us will have, and I was asked to lead a roundtable scheduled for April 6th, 2011 (preliminary at 16.30-18.00), with the topic 'Futures of Zoosemiotics'. I will have to come up with names for the roundtable, and prepare a set of questions for discussion.

Remaining credits - intensive course on semiotics and phenomenology

During this last year of my PhD studies, I have to get the credits I am still missing. Concrete assignments are now about to be given to me. Will involve some reading, an unknown, plus a presentation of my thesis work in the Department's doctoral seminar next spring.

And: I will be giving an intensive course next term, perhaps in March, worktitled "Semiotics and phenomenology". This is to get required credits in Teaching Practice. Details will follow. Readings will include Peirce, Uexküll, Husserl and Merleau-Ponty.

Tartu visit, November 2010: Supervision

It is the last day of my latest visit to Tartu, which envelops 23-30 November. I am satisfied and tired. The visit pretty much started out with a 3-4 hour supervision session with my supervisor Kalevi Kull. We discussed my tentative notions of integration vs. segregation (vs. assimilation) as competing management models... And he criticised my notion of the 'independent' vs. 'dependent' viability of wildlife populations on the grounds that it reproduces the nature/culture distinction. Useful discussion.

The department is vivid as ever with two classes of international master students...

Uexküllian Foray

It was only yesterday that I discovered that a new translation of Uexküll has been published by University of Minnesota Press, in the Posthumanities series (volume 12). The book is entitled A Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Humans - with A Theory of Meaning, and envelops - surprise surprise - Streifzüge plus Bedeutungslehre. I am looking forward to check out the translation (which has been carried out by Joseph D. O'Neil).

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Abstract for the NY gathering in biosemiotics

I have completed and submitted an abstract for the 11th international gathering in biosemiotics, which will for the first time take place outside Europe - in New York, June 21-26 2011.

Integrated biological individualism and the primacy of the individual level of biological organization

Morten Tønnessen, Department of Semiotics – University of Tartu

In ‘Umwelt Transitions: Uexküll and Environmental Change’ (Biosemiotics 2.2) I introduced the notion of integrated biological individualism, according to which the individual, or more precisely organismic, level should occupy the centre—the middle ground—of methodology in the life sciences, at the crossroad where the somatic realm encounters the ecological one. The term was then included in a broader programmatic treatment in ‘Steps to a Semiotics of Being’ (Biosemiotics 3.3). From the standpoint of the individual, or organism, we can describe how an individual organism is constituted as a biological body, as well as how nature as a global ecological system is constituted by individual organisms and their interrelations. Nature, then, is a body of bodies (the ultimate superorganism); and any individual self is by its nature a social self – through its interrelation with others, a self is always bigger than itself.

In this paper I will expand upon the notion of integrated biological individualism by relating it more explicitly to the suggested primacy of the individual level of biological organization. As Anton Markoš remarks (Readers of the Book of Life: Contextualizing Developmental Evolutionary Biology (2002): 29), life “proceeds synchronously on innumerable space, time, and organizational levels. Nothing on any single level can reveal its essence”. Yet, it remains that a biological science with no concern for, or interest in, the living themselves (qua living beings – at the level of the individual) would be deeply problematic. There is no doubt that the ‘genetic turn’ in biology has been successful in terms of scientific understanding, but the new microscopic realm that has opened up to us has simultaneously induced us to neglect the ‘life-size’ realm. What future can we envision for the critical task of Umwelt mapping?

After a general introduction to this topic matter I will introduce an original, tentatively all-inclusive model of various levels of biosemiosis. According to this model there are six levels of biosemiosis, falling under three broader categories.



Intra-cellular semiosis

Inter-cellular semiosis


Intra-organismic semiosis

Inter-organismic semiosis*

Extra-organismic semiosis


Super-organismic semiosis*

* social proper, in the sense of involving several individuals

The tripartite model is relevant for simple and complex life forms alike (though in the case of very simple – non-social – creatures it collapses into a two-category model). As it demonstrates, perception is at the core of biosemiosis, even though not all biosemiosis is perceptual, and even though perception constitutes but one level (or layer) of biosemiosis. The standing of perception is intimately tied to the standing of the individual. With such an overall model of biosemiosis, the individual organism (and its lifeworld) is methodologically placed at the center of biological research.

Abstract to Nordic semiotic conference: Perception and the levels of biosemiosis

I have just completed and submitted the following abstract, for the Seventh Conference of the Nordic Association for Semiotic Studies (NASS) (with the thematic title "Towards Cognitive Semiotics. A semiotic perspective on cognition - A cognitive perspective on semiotics") - to take place in Lund, Sweden, May 6-8 2011:
Perception and the levels of biosemiosis

Morten Tønnessen, Department of Semiotics – University of Tartu

This paper will dwell on the presentation of an original, tentatively all-inclusive model of various levels of biosemiosis, aiming at a treatment first and foremost of perception. According to this model there are six levels of biosemiosis, falling under three broader categories.



Intra-cellular semiosis

Inter-cellular semiosis


Intra-organismic semiosis

Inter-organismic semiosis*

Extra-organismic semiosis


Super-organismic semiosis*

* social proper, in the sense of involving several individuals

The tripartite model is relevant for simple and complex life forms alike (though in the case of very simple – non-social – creatures it collapses into a two-category model). As it demonstrates, perception is at the core of biosemiosis, even though not all biosemiosis is perceptual, and even though perception is but one level (or layer) of biosemiosis. The standing of perception is tied to the standing of the individual. With such a model of biosemiosis, the individual organism (and its lifeworld) is methodologically placed at the center of biological research.

Such a perception-oriented model of biosemiosis has implications for cultural studies as well. Applied on humans, it evokes a perspective in which the human mind, or soul – as Plato and Aristotle would have it, but in a radically different sense – partakes in three realms. Perceptual semiosis (which is ‘social’ in the primal sense of being related to the active navigating of an individual) is grounded in somatic semiosis, and interacting with a yet higher (more complex) level, namely that of superorganisms – e.g., society, or an animal population. It is on this highest, more-than-individual level that society’s often indiscernible yet absolutely principal influence on how individual members of society carry out their lives is to be located.

According to the abovementioned tripartite model of the levels of biosemiosis, cells and organisms (individuals, where applicable) are the primary substances of the biological world, though there are also larger wholes. It may perhaps shed new light on the notions of endosemiosis and exosemiosis, which is usually conceived of as semiosis that is internal and external to the body respectively. In our tripartite model, the boundary between ‘the outer’ and ‘the inner’ is in flux depending on the level of biosemiosis considered. It is thus possible to argue that endo- and exo-semiosis occurs both at the somatic level and the social level, and that in a global ecological perspective all semiosis is ultimately endosemiosis.

This comprehensive model will be supplemented by a simple model of the interrelations of the sign-relation phenomena of signification, communication and representation in a conceptualized Umwelt. Depending on whether the dominant cognitive processing (if dominated it be) is of a significational, communicational or representational nature, some people will perceive in a way that is dominantly based on immediate (unmediated) perception, social perception (included herein extremist autocommunicative perception) or symbolic perception – though most well-functioning individuals are more balanced.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Biosemiotics special issue paginated

The special issue of Biosemiotics "Semiotics of perception" (= Biosemiotics 3.3) is very soon to appear in print, and has now been paginated. Subscribers (individual as well as institutional) can now access the articles in paginated form online - and until November 30th non-subscribers can get trial free access. Altogether the 10 contributions of the special volume has been paginated as pp. 257-392 of volume 3 (136 pages).

257-261 Kati LINDSTRÖM and Morten TØNNESSEN: Introduction to the Special Issue Semiotics of Perception: Being in the World of the Living - Semiotic Perspectives

263-275 David ABRAM: The Discourse of the Birds

277-287 Wendy WHEELER: Delectable Creatures and the Fundamental Reality of Metaphor: Biosemiotics and Animal Mind

289-297 Morten TØNNESSEN: Wolf Land

299-313 Renata SÕUKAND and Raivo KALLE: Plant as Object within Herbal Landscape: Different Kinds of Perception

315-329 Timo MARAN: Why Was Thomas A. Sebeok Not a Cognitive Ethologist? From "Animal Mind" to "Semiotic Self"

331-345 Ane FAUGSTAD AARØ: Merleau-Ponty's Concept of Nature and the Ontology of Flesh

347-357 Kalevi KULL: Ecosystems are Made of Semiosic Bonds: Consortia, Umwelten, Biophony and Ecological Codes

359-373 Kati LINDSTRÖM: Autocommunication and Perceptual Markers in Landscape: Japanese Examples

375-393 Morten TØNNESSEN: Steps to a Semiotics of Being
In this issue I have co-edited 136 pages, written 27 pages on my own and co-written 5 pages (altogether taken part in the writing of 32 pages).