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Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Estonian-Norwegian Festschrift to appear September 16th

Norsk-estisk forening (= Norra-Eesti Ühing), the Norwegian-Estonian association, has announced that its Festschrift will be launched September 16th, at an event in Oslo. It has been named "Estland og Norge i fortid og nåtid - Norsk-estisk forening 25 år" [Estonia and Norway in the past and today - Norsk-estisk forening 25 years].

Cf. previous posts about my joint article "Da Lotman og semiotikken kom til Norge", co-written with Dinda Gorlée.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Norwegian human-animal relations anthology in progress

Cf. previous notes about this book project, with Guri Larsen, Ragnhild Sollund and myself as prospective editors (idea conceived of after criminology seminar - see also Academic news in brief IX pt. 4).
We are still discussing the work title, but have agreed on most other features. These days we start inviting contributors (the collection - which will be in Norwegian - is invitation-only).
In the process we have developed a 1p invitation letter, a 2p book project description, and a highly secret 3p 'innholdsdisposisjon' with drafts of contents.
Excerpts of the book project description:

Forholdet mellom mennesker og dyr er sentralt for forståelsen av såvel kultur som natur – og ikke minst for forståelsen av vår tids eskalerende miljøkrise. Det er et tema som på grunn av sine etiske dimensjoner er gjenstand for økende interesse og debatt – også i Norge, som i denne sammenhengen har kommet ganske kort i den intellektuelle diskursen. Etiske spørsmål i forlengelsen av menneskets bruk av natur og dyr har fått økt økt interesse de siste årene, både innen ulike fag og i den offentlige debatt. Likevel er gjensidig avhengighet mellom miljø, dyr og mennesker lite belyst. Arten mennesket og andre arter er ikke bare beslektet, men er i dagens samfunn gjensidig avhengig av hverandre på en historisk unik måte. Mens det på den ene siden er et trivielt faktum at mennesket bare kan overleve som del av en større natur, har vi særlig de siste århundrene også gjort utallige dyrearter stadig mer avhengige av oss. Det moderne mennesket har innarbeidet en instrumentell (nytteorientert) tilnærming til andre dyr. Dyr utnyttes i dag på utallige måter: til mat, sko og klær, i underholdning, som arbeidsdyr, forsøksdyr, kjæledyr og så videre. Først de siste par generasjonene har det i vår kultur blitt vanlig å snakke om at dyr kan ha egenverdi uavhengig av nytteverdi. Dagens offisielle politikk for vern av biologisk mangfold sliter med eldgamle forestillinger om et nødvendig fiendskap mellom bonde-/menneskesamfunnet og utemmet natur. Så dypt sitter dette natursynet at vernetilhengere og dyrevernere av mange automatisk slås i hardtkorn med menneskefiender.

Bibliographical references - 'Semiotics of nature'

Here's bibliographical data for my contributions to the below-mentioned special issue of Hortus Semioticus (no. 6 - 2010), on Semiotics of nature:

Riin Magnus, Nelly Mäekivi and Morten Tønnessen 2010. "Editors' foreword to the Special Issue Semiotics of Nature". Hortus Semioticus 6 (SI on Semiotics of nature): 1-6 (incl. Estonian version, "Toimetajate Eessõna").

Riin Magnus and Morten Tønnessen 2010. "The Bio-Translator - Interview with Professor in Biosemiotics Kalevi Kull". Includes bibliography of Kalevi Kull’s biosemiotic publications. Hortus Semioticus 6 (SI on Semiotics of nature): 77-103.

Special Issue 'Semiotics of nature' published

Guest editors
: Riin Magnus, Nelly Mäekivi and Morten Tønnessen

Dear readers,

We are delighted to announce that the journal Hortus Semioticus has now published a special issue on the semiotics of nature. All together with 7 papers, a foreword, an interview, Meditationes Semioticae and 2 overview articles, this issue is almost exclusively in English. The papers of contributing MA and PhD students are all original papers written within a scientific framework which encapsuls the topics of meaning, value, communication, signification, representation, and cognition in and of nature.
1) Nelly Mäekivi, Riin Magnus and Morten Tønnessen: Editors foreword to the Special Issue Semiotics of Nature
2) Remo Gramigna: Augustine’s legacy for the history of zoosemiotics
3) John Haglund and Johan Blomberg: The meaning-sharing network
4) Silver Rattasepp: The idea of the extended organism in the 20th century history of ideas
5) Sara Cannizzaro: On form, function and meaning: working out the foundations of biosemiotics
6) Svitlana Biedarieva: Reflections in the Umwelten
7) Arlene Tucker: A metaphor is a metaphor
8) Patrick Masius: What are elephants doing in a Nazi concentration camp? The meaning of nature in the human catastrophe
9) Riin Magnus and Morten Tønnessen: The bio-translator. Interview with professor in biosemiotics Kalevi Kull (with his complete biosemiotic bibliography)
10) Meditationes Semioticae – this time by Kaie Kotov: Do you mind? Does it matter? Semiotics as a science of noosphere
11) Ülevaade: Acta Semiotica Estica VII

We hope that for our readers and contributors, these papers will encourage even more interest in the field, and open yet new horizons.

Saturday, 28 August 2010


I have registered at
The list of papers there (11) is not complete - but I have accepted whatever their system could find on its own.
I have not listed any past talk, but have added the 4 upcoming talks I have scheduled as for now.
My CV is there, though, offering a more complete overview (but the latest updates appears here, in Utopian Realism).

Thursday, 26 August 2010

About the international phenomenology congress in Bergen

On a belated note, I took part in the 60th international congress of phenomenology in Bergen August 10-13, where I presented my paper "Semiotics of being and Uexküllian phenomenology" for a limited but qualified audience in a group session.
This was my first encounter with the World Phenomenology Institute, lead by Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka. Registering for the conference, I became a member (by choice) of International Society of Phenomenology and Sciences of Life, which seems, unfortunately, not to have much activities.
My paper will be revised by October 1st, and hopefully published in the conference proceedings, which will appear as a volume of Analecta Husserliana.
In Bergen I further mingled with local phenomenologists, and joined the email list of a University of Bergen phenomenology group.

"Mapping human impact" to be revised

A fortnight ago I got to read the review of my CECT paper "Mapping human impact", which made just as much sense as my paper. I will revise it within September 15th, to be included in the proceedings of the second CECT conference, which will appear within the end of the year.


I am in the (slow) process of preparing a more detailed academic bibliography, including works written by others that refer to my work. One of the latest references made is in Don Favareau's "Introduction: An evolutionary history of biosemiotics" (from Essential reading in biosemiotics), where I'm referred to (p55), though not included in the literature list.

In the areas of animal studies, ethology and zoology, Mette Böll (2002), Karel Kleisner (2007, 2008), Dominique Lestel (2002), Timo Maran (2003), Dario Martinelli (2005), Stephen Pain (2007), Morten Tønnessen (2003), and Aleksei Turovski (2000) are all pursuing biosemiotic lines of investigation in their work.

Zoosemiotics book review published

My book review "A stroll around the worlds of zoosemioticians and other animals" was published electronically in Semiotica the 24th of August (print version: issue 181, pp. 317-325). Unfortunatelly the proof reading I reported was not executed - an errata crediting the research projects I am involved in will be published in no. 182, in October.

Article for Signs

Yesterday I was invited to contribute with an article to the online, peer-reiewed semiotic journal Signs, based in Denmark. I have started pondering on the theme "The cultural semiotic of wolves and sheep". Unlike another article I am mentally prepared to write, "The symbolic construction of the Big Bad Wolf in contemporary Scandinavia", this one will be global and historical in its scope.

Abstract for zoosemiotics conference in progress

I have come up with a title for my abstract submission to the conference Zoosemiotics and Animal Representations (Tartu, April 4-8, 2011): 'The Umwelt trajectories of wolves, sheep and people'. This paper will sum up my work on the (in part interactive) life worlds of these creatures, and introduce some new concepts in the process ('Umwelt trajectory' being one).

Friday, 20 August 2010

Most quoted biosemiotic works

The list below is compiled from data of Google Scholar. It includes all works of biosemiotic character of the authors listed cited 50 times and more in their system.
1. Jesper HOFFMEYER: Signs of meaning in the universe (1996): 336
2. Thomas SEBEOK: Animal communication: A communication network model for languages is applied to signalling behavior in animals (1965): 158
3. Jesper HOFFMEYER and Claus EMMECHE: Code-duality and the semiotics of nature (1991): 152
4. Marcello BARBIERI: The organic codes - an introduction to semantic biology (2003): 137
5. Claus EMMECHE and Jesper HOFFMEYER. From language to nature: The semiotic metaphor in biology (1991): 95
6. Marcello BARBIERI: The organic codes (1998): 88
7. Jesper HOFFMEYER: Biosemiotics: Towards a new synthesis in biology (1997): 87
8. Kalevi KULL: Biosemiotics in the twentieth century - a view from biology (1999): 67
9. Various: A semiotic perspective on the sciences: Steps toward a new paradigm (1984) 59
10. Kalevi KULL: Semiotic ecology: Different natures in the semiosphere: 57
11. Thomas SEBEOK: Coding in the evolution of signalling behavior (1962): 54
11. Claus EMMECHE: Defining life as a semiotic phenomenon (1998): 54
13. Thomas Sebeok and DJ UMIKER-SEBEOK (eds.): Biosemiotics: The semiotic web 1991 (1992): 53

1. Claus EMMECHE: The garden in the machine - the emerging science of artificial life: 166+53
2. Claus EMMECHE, S. KØPPE and Frederik STJERNFELT: Explaining emergence - towards an ontology of levels (1997): 144
3. Thomas SEBEOK: How animals communicate (1977): 140
4. Claus EMMECHE, Frederik STJERNFELT et al.: Levels, emergence, and three three versions of downward causation (2000): 105
5. NA BAAS and Claus EMMECHE: On emergence and explanation (1997): 98
6. Thomas A. SEBEOK: The Clever Hans phenomenon: Communication with horses, whales, apes, and people (1981): 93
7. TA SEBEOK and M DANESI: The forms of meaning - Modeling systems theory and semiotic analisis (2000): 85
8. Thomas SEBEOK: Global semiotics (2001): 78
9. PB ANDEREN, Claus EMMECHE and NO Finnemann: Downwards causation: Minds, bodies and matter (2000): 77
10. Thomas SEBEOK and DJ Umiker-SEBEOK: Speaking of apes: A critical anthology of two-way communication with man (1980): 65

In comparison, Umberto Eco's "A theory of semiotics" is cited 2.566 times.

The Global Species published

Yesterday I received my copy of new formations no. 69, where my article "The Global Species" appears (pp98-110). Guest editor of the Special Issue 'Imperial Ecologies', Ashley Dawson, summarizes my article in his "Introduction: New Enclosures" (freely available online). Excerpts (p20):

Morten Tønnessen’s essay focuses on a substance even more ubiquitous than oil, one that has perhaps also been more essential to the reproduction of our species: non-human animals. Approaching analysis of human-affiliated life forms from the perspective of the long durée and developing the concept of ecosemiotics, Tønnessen argues that the historical process of globalisation can perhaps be best understood through analysis of the planet’s colonisation not simply by human beings but also by the accompanying proliferation of species we favour. Alongside this process of planetary diffusion, human beings have introduced a schism in nature, Tønnessen suggests, one that divides biological life into favoured and non-favoured species. Life and death have been apportioned around the planet for centuries according to this anthropocentric matrix of biological utility. The result is a global colonial organism or ecological empire, with human beings at the apex of a massive pyramid of fauna and flora that we privilege because of their utility to our species’ expanded reproduction. While acknowledging the primary role played by Europe and the United States in diffusing a particularly unsustainable model of development around the world over the last five hundred years, Tønnessen explores the provocative question of whether there may be something ecologically imperialistic in our behaviour as a species over a much longer time span than that of Euro-American-dominated modernity. Drawing unnerving conclusions from this historical retrospect, Tønnessen argues that the serried ecological crises we currently confront are linked inextricably to the forms of biopower we exercise not simply over human populations but over the mammoth global pyramid of flesh and grain upon which we depend.

Other contributors: Crystal Bartolovich, George Caffentzis, Ashley Dawson, Ben Dibbley, Jeremy Gilbert, Peter Hitchcock, Leerom Medovoi, Brett Neilsen, Rob Nixon, Sian Sullivan, Nicholas Thoburn, Tony Venezia.
"The Global Species" is also available for purchase in PDF format:
IncentaConnect $26,80 + tax
DocStoc $7.95

Arne Næss memorial piece

My brief text "An ageing giant", published in the Spring/Summer 2009 issue of International Society for Environmental Ethics Newsletter (p13), can now be accessed freely only also by non-members. The entire issue is to be found here.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Zoosemiotics conference: Updated CFP

The organizing team of the international conference 'Zoosemiotics and Animal Representations', to be arranged in Tartu April 4-8, 2011 - cf. initial announcement and launch of webpage - has issued an updated CFP. The deadline for abstract submission is September 15th. To submit a proposal, interested scholars should e-mail an abstract (300-600 words) and a bio-note (less than 100 words) to the address The abstract and bio-note should be sent together in one file (.doc or .rtf) attached to the e-mail.
The news fall in two categories - plenary speakers and publication venues. We are glad to announce the plenary speakers of the conference [already mentioned in Utopian Realism]: Colin Allen (Professor of History and Philosophy of Science at Indiana University, USA), Jesper Hoffmeyer (Professor emeritus, Biological Institute, University of Copenhagen, Denmark), Graham Huggan (Professor of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Literatures at University of Leeds, UK) and David Rothenberg (Professor of Philosophy and Music at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, USA).
There are two publications planned for the articles based on conference presentations: a volume in Rodopi´s Nature, Culture and Literature series and a special issue on zoosemiotics in journal Semiotica. The Rodopi volume will be edited by me and Kadri Tüür, the Semiotica issue by Timo Maran.
For up-to-date information, see the conference webpage.

Chronicle on Southern wolf

This Saturday (August 14th) a chronicle of mine, "Ulven på Sørlandet" (The Southern wolf) was printed in the regional newspaper Fædrelandsvennen.
Cf. also my Norwegian language blog, Utopisk Realisme.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Academic news in brief X

1. The Sydney workshop 'History and philosophy of ethology', to be arranged at Macquarie University, has been rescheduled to February 19-21st, 2010 (cf. previous post). I have started pondering what more I can get done while in Australia.
2. The editorial work with the Special Issue of Hortus Semioticus 'Semiotics of Nature' is about to be concluded - the issue is now entering production.
3. I have started writing my thesis (though that threshold qua point in time could be defined in various ways).
4. The last week I have started planning the remaining field work and research stays of my case study on Norwegian wolf management. First out is a trip to Langedrag mountain farm and wildlife park (captive wolves) and Rendalen, Hedmark (sheep farms).
5. My debate article 'Forskningens formål' (The purpose of science) was printed in the Norwegian national daily Aftenposten August 6th. Norwegian text here.
6. The same day I sent a chronicle entitled 'Ulven på Sørlandet' (The wolf in the South) to the regional newspaper Fædrelandsvennen. This is my first comment to the wandering wolf that has been visiting our region (where there have not been wolves since the mid-80ies, as far as I can remember) the last few weeks, and the calls for its death.
7. Tomorrow I am heading for Bergen, where the 60th International Congress of Phenomenology is taking place the next few days (cf. previous posts).
8. I have arranged tickets for my next visit to Estonia, which will take place September 5th-9th (5-8 in Tartu, 8-9 in Tallinn).
Last 'Academic news in brief': No. IX.