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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).

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Umwelt trajectories paper accepted and publication thereof invited

My paper "The Umwelt trajectories of wolves, sheep and people" (cf. previous posts) has been formally accepted for presentation at the conference Zoosemiotics and Animal Representations (Tartu, April 2011), and invited for inclusion in the related special issue of Semiotica on zoosemiotics, which is to appear in the autumn of 2012. As for the latter, a full-length text is due by May 20th 2011.

Research summary

A few days ago I wrote a 1-2p summary of my sub-project partaking in the research project The Cultural Heritage of Environmental Spaces. It will appear as published eventually.

First Norwegian wolf journal article in process

I have described an idea for an article on Norwegian wolf conservation and agricultural policies for the editor of Samtiden, Norway's biggest general academic journal (dedicated to matters of politics, literature and society). Getting the response that it might be of interest for them, I have started writing it, and given it the preliminary title "Visjon 2040: Fra rovdrift til Utopi Buane" [Vision 2040: From /untranslatable/ to Utopia Buane]. I hope to finish a first draft this weekend.

Update on the Minding Animals event in Oslo

Plans for the Oslo event in the Utrecht pre-conference lecture series of Minding Animals International is progressing. Today I talked by phone for the first time with Rhys Evans of the Equine Research Network and The Norwegian University College for Agriculture and Rural Development. The two are us are for now the only members of the organizing team. We are currently writing a memo with some initial decision points concerning the one-day event, which will take place Tuesday October 25th 2011 and involve plenary speeches, round table discussions (on human-horse and human-wolf relations) and group work. The overall theme for the event will be "shared worlds".

In the meantime, Minding Animals International has gone public with a list of cities where pre-conference events are being planned or considered.
Minding Animals International is proud to announce that several events are being planned before the next Minding Animals Conference.

Events are at various stages of development, and workshops, lectures, exhibitions or seminars in at least Abu Dhabi, Brisbane, Cape Town, Christchurch, Delhi, London (x2), New York, Oslo, Rennes, San Francisco, Sydney (x2), Wollongong, Uppsala and Utrecht, are now being considered.

The First Pre-conference Event is an expert meeting scheduled for Utrecht on 29 and 30 November, 2010, followed by a Second Event in Sydney on 3 December, 2010, a public lecture by Professor Marc Bekoff.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Wolf chronicle

The chronicle I have previously referred to as "Hvem er villest i landet her? - Et ulveliv" [Who's the wildest in the country here? - A wolf's life]" has been published in the weekly newsmagazine Ny Tid under the title "Når villdyret overvåkes" [loosely: When wild animals are monitored]. It is accompanied by an illustration (drawing) by Firuz Kutal. Full reference:
Morten Tønnessen 2010. Når villdyret overvåkes. Ny Tid no. 39 2010 (November 5-11), p32-34.
Note that I have listed three corrections (one is rather a precisation) in my Norwegian language blog Utopisk Realisme, concerning the use of ear-tags/chips in management, the practice of captures, and a statement by the major of Rendalen.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Criminology publication - wolf hunting

I have just found out that my article "The legality and ethical legitimacy of wolf hunting in Scandinavia" has just been published in the Research seminar report 52 (pp 65-72) of the Scandinavian Council for Criminology. Publication date is (approximately) October.

The paper is the revised outcome of my presentation at Hønefoss in May.

It is one of six papers in the section "Økologisk kriminalitet" (Ecological crime), along with papers by Guri Larsen, Sigurd S. Dybing, Rune Ellefsen, Nicolay B. Johansen ("The problem with green criminology") and Per-Anders Svärd.

* Intro
* From extermination campaigns to coservation policies
* Perception and symbolism
* Hunting ethics
* Concluding observations

Biosemiotics special issue sent to printing

I have just been informed by Springer and Editor-in-Chief Marcello Barbieri that the special issue 'Semiotics of Perception', guest-edited by Kati Lindström and myself, has been sent to print. It will appear in December, as no. 3(3).

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Topic for zoosemiotic research seminar

The regular research seminar of the research project Dynamical Zoosemiotics and Animal Representations will this autumn take place November 29th. The title of my 20m presentation, I have just settled, will be "The nature view and worldview of people in Rendalen municipality in the region of Hedmark".

In other words, I will be presenting some observations from my field trip to Rendalen/Stor-Elvdal, which concludes today.

This time the seminar will be for members of the research team only.