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Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Abstract for Uppsala event "Zoo-ethnographies"

This is the abstract I submitted for the Uppsala symposium "Zoo-ethnographies", which was arranged 17-18 October. The reference was omitted from the program booklet.

Two global species and their age-old foe: The semiotic eth(n)ology of wolves, sheep and people

Morten Tønnessen

Among the core notions I introduce in my recently submitted doctoral dissertation Umwelt transition and Uexküllian phenomenology: An ecosemiotic analysis of Norwegian wolf management is that of a global species (see Tønnessen 2010). In short, by establishing a global ‘colonial organism’ our species has installed an ecological empire, organised with Homo sapiens placed highest in the hierarchy and with crop species, pets, and livestock enjoying positions of privilege. The sheep, the third most significant creature in my case study on Norwegian wolf management beyond wolves and people (given a conflict-oriented focus on livestock predation), partakes in our ecological empire in a quite central position, as one of the top five livestock species globally. The wolf, on the other hand, does not fit in with the modern idea we have had until recently of how we want nature to be (unlike the dog, for which the wolf is an ancestor). Sheep: companion; wolf: foe.

The two global species implied in the title of this presentation, then, are our own subspecies of the human kind (Homo sapiens sapiens), and the sheep (Ovis aries). The wolf (Canis lupus), once the most widely distributed large mammal on Earth, is no global species, but it has given rise to the dog, which is. In Sweden, Man’s “best friend” is arguably the prime animal with which the wolf is conceived of as being in conflict with, and in Norway the dog-wolf problem is perceived as second in importance only to the sheep-wolf problem. In the course of this presentation I will portray the symbolic construction of the Big Bad Wolf in contemporary Norway. Wolves and sheep have historically often been juxtaposed, especially in the context of the Bible. In cultural terms, hardly any animals are as loaded with symbolic value as the wolf and the sheep. And the shared importance is no coincidence, since the symbolism of the two animals has frequently developed in explicit opposition to each other.


Morten Tønnessen 2010. The global species. New formations: a journal of culture/theory/politics culture/theory/politics 69 (Special Issue guest-edited by Ashley Dawson, Imperial Ecologies): 98-110. Featured as additional content in Encyclopaedia Britannica (

No role in GEO-5

In July I reported that I had nominated myself as a scientific reviewer for GEO-5, the 5th edition of Global Environmental Outlook. In early october I received notification that I had not been appointed a reviewer. They reportedly received about two hundred applications, and had around 50 places to fill.

List of illustrations in my doctoral dissertation

Figure 7: Waiting for wolves.

Figure 1. The levels of biosemiosis
Figure 2. Phenomenal fields
Figure 3. Umwelt transition – wolves becoming dogs – depicted over several steps
Figure 4. Umwelt transition in human relations to sheep and wolves
Figure 5. Umwelt transition in the relation of sheep and humans (overstated)
Figure 6. Field trips – map of places visited
Figure 7. Waiting for wolves
Figure 8. Feeding time
Figure 9. Life at Polar Zoo
Figure 10. Six stuffed (mounted) wolves in Norway
Figure 11. Secluded overview
Figure 12. Phenomenal fields – intragroup variation
Figure 13. a) A tripartite model of the human Umwelt, b) combined with phenomenal fields

See also:

Contents of my doctoral dissertation

I have previously posted preliminary contents for my doctoral dissertation, both of which are now outdated. In March I posted a semi-detailed table of contents, and in September revised contents in 117 paragraphs.

Here is the final, much simpler table of contents (but note that many of the headlines mentioned above will likely occur in the monograph I am now planning to complete based on my doctoral work):



1.1 Appraisal of Sebeok's depiction of the Umwelt as species-specific modelling system
1.2 The levels of biosemiosis

2.1 On the notion of phenomenology
2.2 Semiotics and phenomenology
2.3 Husserl's notion of Lebenswelt
2.4 The notion of Uexküllian phenomenology

3.1 Visual representation of Brock's phenomenal fields
3.2 The notion of semiotic causation

4.1 Field research
4.2 The cultural semiotic of wolves and sheep
4.3 Remarks on Næss' philosophy of wolf management
4.4 On invasive management of shy animals
4.5 The symbolic construction of the Big Bad Wolf in contemporary Norway


6.1 Theoretical findings
6.2 Umwelt futurology: Three Umwelt scenarios
6.3 Deep and shallow solutions


University of Tartu: Semiotics podcast; university ranking

In October the newsletter of the university of Tartu linked to a semiotic podcast. Semiotics - lingering or thriving?, posted in September, documents a panel discussion from the 5-day Tartu summer school in semiotics, which was launched this year.

The same newsletter could report that Times Higher Education (THE) now ranks the University of Tartu among the 350-400 top universities globally. This is the highest the university has been ranked, and places it among the top 3 % of universities internationally. University of Tartu is the highest ranked university of Estonia.

Doctoral thesis submitted

My doctoral dissertation was submitted to the University of Tartu's Council of Institute of Philosophy and Semiotics on October 10th.

The final title ended up being "Umwelt transition and Uexküllian phenomenology: An ecosemiotic analysis of Norwegian wolf management". The Estonian version of the title reads "Uexkülli fenomenoloogia ja omailma üleminekud: Norra hundipopulatsiooni majandamise ökosemiootiline analüüs".

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Arne i 100 on Twitter

Arne i 100, which has been founded to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the birth of philosopher Arne Næss, is now on Twitter (arnei100).

A website on our own domain is straight around the corner. For now at least I am both webmaster and responsible for the Twitter account.

Reminder: CFP on Eco-phenomenology at NoSP 2012

See my post wherein I call for contributions to a prospective panel on eco-phenomenology/phenomenology and biological science at next year's conference of the Nordic Society for Phenomenology (NoSP). Response by November 30th, please.

A couple of people have shown interest, but I still need to see actual abstracts.

"Wolf play" a YouTube hit

My video clip "Wolf Play" passed 10.000 views on YouTube at some point by November 18th. Since then it has been shown more than a 1.000 times more (and it has been shown 6.000 times the last month). Where is this gonna stop?

Further wolf vids on YouTube on MrMortenTonnessen's channel:
"Wolves wrestle" (289 views)

.... and 6 more.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

CFP: Panel on Eco-phenomenology at NoSP 2012

I am hoping to gather a group of scholars/graduate students for a joint panel on the theme "Eco-phenomenology: Phenomenology and the life sciences" for the 10th annual conference of the Nordic Society for Phenomenology (NoSP), which is to be arranged at the University of Oslo, Norway, June 7-9 2012. The general theme of the NoSP conference is "The Varieties of Phenomenology".

This panel will likely include presentation of the book Environment, Embodiment and Gender (eds. Johannes Servan and Ane Faugstad Aarø; Bergen: Hermes Text, 2011), where Charles Brown, David Abram, Ted Toadvine, Monika Langer and others contribute with chapters. Topics of the panel will further include Uexküllian phenomenology and animal subjectivity. Further proposals from various angles are welcome.

If accepted by the organizers, this proposed panel will envelop papers presented in parallel with other sessions. The maximum length of each talk is 20 minutes, and there will be 10 minutes for discussion. Please submit your proposal to me as the panel convenor in the form of a suggested title and an abstract of maximum 200 words.

Proposals should be sent to mortentoennessen[at] by November 30th.

Monday, 31 October 2011


To be posted soon (i.e., post-November 7th, when I return with my wife from a 4-day holiday to Bodø):

> Utopian: Hamar...
> Utopian: Volga reservert for 5-10 pers 15des kl16-
> Utopian: Umw traj 2013
> Utopian: Revised Rodopi timeline
> Utopian: 3rd zoosemiotic research seminar
> Utopian: Champagne 2011 (ref)
> Utopian: Council pres and decision 24Oct
> Utopian, Utopisk: Bloggintervju/Liberaleren
> Utopian: Grant seminar
> Utopian, Utopisk: Youtube hit
> Utopian: Flight dates 14-16Dec, travel plans, fellow travellers
> Utopian: Beever ref
> Utopian: Ai100 meeting; chronicle; webpage (meeting)
> Utopian: Rootsi+Silver>Nelly
> Utopian: chair (+ treasurer) MAN. MAN members; arb plan, styre
> Utopian: Shared worlds sem
> Utopian: Grant seminar 25, program
> Utopian: uis... (hired etc) + klepp
> Utopian: Deadline abs Jan15 2012
> Utopian: Materialisten
> Utopian: Uppsala schedule
> Utopian: Uppsala abstract
> Utopian: No GEO5 role
> Utopian: thesis update - final contents?
> Utopian: Tartu x 2 (semiotics podcast; university by ranking
> Utopian, Utopisk (horse panel); updated program
> Utopian: Levert (final title + ee title)
> Utopian: NoSP 2012 CFP (invite to eco-phen. panel?)

Monday, 24 October 2011

Doctoral dissertation accepted for defense

The Council of Institute of Philosophy and Semiotics (University of Tartu) has just unanimously decided to accept my doctoral dissertation "Umwelt transition and Uexküllian phenomenology: An ecosemiotic analysis of Norwegian wolf management" for defense on December the 15th.

More info to follow - as for now I have a 1 month backlog in Utopian Realism... Hope to be back on track by a week.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Travel plans: Stavanger and Klepp, October 3-5

As detailed in the previous post I have been assigned to teach introductory philosophy at the University of Stavanger next spring, in a 25 % position. That is one of two reasons why I will October 3rd-5th be visiting Stavanger and nearby Klepp. The other reason relates to Rhys Evans of Klepp's The Norwegian University College for Agriculture and Rural Development (Høgskulen for landbruk og bygdenæringar), with whom Rune Ellefsen and I are organizing the October 14-15 Shared World seminar in Oslo (see also the website of Minding Animals International).

I will arrive in Stavanger Monday October 3rd in the morning, and meet with the scholar academically responsible for University of Stavanger's web-based bacholor degree in nursing plus the staff philosopher that day. The next day, Tuesday October 4th, I will meet with the head of department at Department of health studies, and then move on to Klepp and the Norwegian University College for Agriculture and Rural Development, where I will work and discuss with Rhys that afternoon and the next morning, partly in preparation of the Shared Worlds seminar.

Assigned to teach introductory philosophy at University of Stavanger

Ten days ago or so I was assigned to teach introductory philosophy at the University of Stavanger next Spring, in a 25 % position (which includes examining). The course code is BSNEXP-1, which refers to the Examen Philosophicum for students in a web-based bachelor degree in nursing (my group of students is the class of 2011-2015). The course sorts under Department of health studies (Institutt for helsefag) at Faculty of Social Science (Samfunnsvitskapleg fakultet), where I will for the third year in a row be an examiner this November/December.

Today I talked with the scholar who is academically responsible for this bachelor, and agreed to dates for student gatherings at UiS: January 18-19 (week 3), February 8-9 (week 6), February 29-March 1 (week 9) and March 21-22 (week 12). I also said I will be present in person at all these gatherings. Additionally there will be web-based learning.

Ten days ago I was further asked preliminary whether I would be interested in working full time as a substitute philosophy lecturer next autumn, if the chance arises, to which I said yes. If this materializes I will be commuting between Kristiansand, where I reside, and Stavanger, perhaps two days a week.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Minding Animals Norway formally registered as NGO

Minding Animals Norge has now been registered as an NGO in Norway's Brønnøysundregistrene (Enhetsregisteret). Organisasjonsnummer: 997 336 216.

I am a founding member and a member of the board along with Rune Ellefsen and Rhys Evans. The first general meeting of MAN will take place in Oslo October 15h, at the closure of our Shared Worlds seminar (see our Facebook page here).

See also the webpage of Minding Animals International.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Podcast of causerie on sin of sloth

The second last Friday, September 9th, I read a monologue, or causerie, on the sin of sloth as part of the closing event of this year's Christianssand Protestfestival, an annual tradition for some ten years now where authors and discussants meet up for public events and debate. Some 100 people were present at the cardinal sin event, which involved a series of 7 monologues.

A podcast of the event can be found (and downloaded) here (7 cardinal sins in ONE package!).

Joining Concerned Scientists Norway

I have become a member of Concerned Scientists Norway. In order to become a member one must be a "scientific employee" and support the manifesto of Concerned Scientists Norway, which is concerned with climate change and other environmental issues.

The slogan of CSN is "researchers for a sustainable development". Their manifesto stresses the importance of interdisciplinarity, and states that such a "interdisciplinary perspective, which will address the various causes of the [ecological] crisis, and seek to go to the root of the problems, will involve criticism of aspects of our economic and social system."

See also the webpage of the US' Union of Concerned Scientists.

Update on Arne Næss celebration

The work of the committee preparing the celebration of the 100th year anniversary of the birth of Norwegian philosopher Arne Næss, "Arne i 100", is progressing. As I wrote in a post almost a month ago, we had a founding meeting August 25. However, following some complications and correspondence back and forth, in which I was involved, it was only a few days back that we received the confirmation that Arne i 100 has been accepted and registered as a non-profit NGO. The objective of the NGO, in its shortest form, is to "videreføre den filosofiske arven etter Arne Næss", namely to "carry on the philosophical legacy of Arne Naess".

Some in our group has met with Arne Hjeltnes, who will host the anniversary event January 27th 2012 in the university aula of the University of Oslo. Further names have been confirmed, and we have secured some more funding from public and private sources (the latter includes the Norwegian Ministry of Environment). We are also developing plans for marking 2011-2012 as a "Arne Næss year", though most of our focus has thusfar been on the anniversary event on the day 100 years after Arne's birth.

Academic travel plans

This weekend I have arranged tickets for two academic trips the coming months:

* Tartu: October 23-26 [in Oslo 22-23] (to stand before the doctoral committee, and to participate in zoosemiotic research seminar)

* Hamar: October 30 - November 1 (for conference on predators and grazing animals)

I will further be going to Uppsala in October, and to Tartu once again in December (for defense of doctoral degree).

(We have also booked tickets for a holiday - Kristiansand-Bodø and back by train (1526 km each way, says Google Maps), November 3-6)

New work rules

While I revised my doctoral work this weekend with regard to what to submit as PhD dissertation, I also reworked my work habits.

As the two next figures show, I have worked long work weeks since 2009 (the last diagram displays the work hours so far in 2011 week by week).

The trouble with such long work weeks is, for one thing, that one risks blurring the difference between work and free time, if work is omnipotent. After having pressured myself lately, I have now introduced two new principles so as to self-disciplinize myself (and become a better husband):
1) At least one full day without work (as in duty) each week!
2) As a rule no work after 6 pm!

Selection of articles for my doctoral thesis

1. MT 2009. Umwelt Transitions: Uexküll and Environmental Change. Biosemiotics 2 (1): 47-64.

2. MT 2009. Steps to a Semiotics of Being. Biosemiotics 3.3: 375-392 (online version, published April 30, 2010: DOI: 10.1007/s12304-010-9074-0).

3. MT 2011. Semiotics of Being and Uexküllian Phenomenology. Pp. 327-340 (chapter 27) in Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka (ed.): Phenomenology/Ontopoiesis Retrieving Geo-Cosmic Horizons of Antiquity (= Analecta Husserliana CX/110).

4. MT 2011. Mapping Human Impact – Expanding Horizons: Interdisciplinary Integration. Pp. 93-106 in Tiina Peil (ed.): The Space of Culture - the Place of Nature in Estonia and Beyond (= Approaches to Cultural Theory vol. 1). Tartu: Tartu University Press.

5. MT 2010. The Global Species. New formations: a journal of culture/theory/politics 69 (Special Issue guest-edited by Ashley Dawson, Imperial Ecologies): 98-110. Featured as additional content in Encyclopaedia Britannica (

6. MT 2010. Wolf Land. Biosemiotics 3.3: 289-297 (online version, published April 23, 2010: DOI: 10.1007/s12304-010-9077-x).

7. MT 2011: I, Wolf: The Ecology of Existence. Pp. 315-333 in Johannes Servan and Ane Faugstad Aarø (eds.): Environment, Embodiment and Gender. Bergen: Hermes Text.

See also: Update on my doctoral dissertation (and more)

Update on my doctoral dissertation (and more)

A week ago or so I posted "Revised contents for my doctoral dissertation". Since then, however, more specifically last Thursday, I was convinced by my supervisor Kalevi Kull to submit a collection of articles (with an original introduction), instead of a monograph. Crucially, however, I will still complete the monograph which summarizes, addresses and further develops the theme of my doctoral studies, and aim at having it published by an international academic publisher, hopefully as soon as the autumn of 2012. This way I can stick to defending my thesis and attaining my doctoral degree just before Christmas, and simultaneously work thoroughly and without haste with the results in form of a monograph.

Minding Animals Bulletin no. 7

The seventh Bulletin of Minding Animals International was distributed the last few days. At 20 pages, it details a number of upcoming pre-conference lecture events, and more (such as a call for people to convene lunchtime roundtables at the Utrecht conference in 2012). It also envelops a wolf poster presented here in Utopian Realism advertising for the Oslo "Shared Worlds" event October 14-15, and a flyer for the Uppsala event October 17-18.

See also: Flyer for the Uppsala event "Zoo-ethnographies"

Flyer for the Uppsala event "Zoo-ethnographies"

Web site: Zoo-ethnographies

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Revised contents for my doctoral dissertation

Below is the revised table of contents for my doctoral dissertation Umwelt Transition: Uexküllian Phenomenology - An Ecosemiotic Analysis of Norwegian Wolf Management, on which I have been working intensely for the last few weeks. This compares with the contents as previously outlined in Semi-detailed table of contents (posted in March). That outline, however, presented only two of the three levels of numbering used previously. All in all I had some 660 subdivisions. Now I have 117. Much more manageable, but still so inter-disciplinary as to be really challenging, and of incredibly wide scope, if I dare say so myself.

Detailed table of contents

Contents at a glance

Detailed table of contents



Chapter 1 Making Sense of Nature

§1. Introduction

§2. Toward a phenomenology of environmental change

§3. From self to world

§4. The notion of integrated biological individualism

§5. On the levels of biosemiosis

§6. Earth - the natural (and absolute) setting for the human condition

§7 Husserl’s notion of the Lebenswelt

§8 The notion of Uexküllian phenomenology

§9 The notion of semiotics of being

§10 Research questions

§11 Methodology

§12. The Umwelt theory of Jakob von Uexküll

§13. Uexküll’s visual representations

§14. Uexküll’s metaphors: Bubble, web, melody

§15. How 'partner' is to be interpreted (whether social companions in general are to be included)

§16. How 'food' is to be interpreted (whether resources in general are to be included)

§17. On the forms of life

§18. Ontological and epistemological outlook

§19. An anecdote on the role of fiction in the natural sciences

§20. Implications for the scientific enterprise at large

§21. Uexküllian thought after Uexküll

§22. Problems in contemporary ethological approaches to nature

§23. Problems in contemporary semiotic approaches to nature

§24. Changing views on a changing nature

§25. The topic of change

§26. On the current ecological situation

§27. Umwelt typology – systematic outline

§28. What is subjective biology today?

Chapter 2 Uexküllian Phenomenology

§29. Introduction: Uexküll and phenomenology

§30. On the notion of phenomenology

§31. The phenomenology of Charles Sanders Peirce

§32. Remarks on contemporary eco-phenomenology

§33. Semiotics and phenomenology

§34. Introducing a universal, twofold notion of self: The explicit and the implicit self

§35. Problems of phenomenology

§36. Problems of ontology

§37. Existential universals

§38. Communal being and distinctive being

§39. On the forms of existence

§40. The notion of swarm Umwelten

§41. Development of a typology of Umwelt transitions

§42. Modern Umwelten

§43. The search image in social life

§44. Further theoretical developments

§45. Playful Umwelten

Chapter 3 The Semiotics of the Ecological Crisis

§46. Introduction: The trajectory of a crisis

§47. Fragment of a metalogue: On the transition from naïve animal to semiotic animal

§48. Semiosis and crisis

§49. On matters of diversity and extinction

§50. The semiotics of domestication and related phenomena

§51. Anthropocene studies: The global species

§52. Favoured vs. unfavoured species – a hypothesis

§53. On matters of ethics and economy

§54. Ecological alienation

§55. Developing the perspective of Umwelt alignment

§56. Simplified management models for human-animal relations: Integration, segregation (assimilation)

§57. The long-term goal for wildlife management: Independent viability?

§58. Characteristic developments in the modern era

§59. Current developments

Chapter 4 Umwelt Mapping

§60. Introduction: On mapping semiosis at the level of the organism, and higher levels

§61. On matters of quality and quantity

§62. The notion of semiotic causation

§63. Mapping human Umwelten

§64. Mapping human impact

§65. Distinguishing between formal and informal human impact

§66. Mapping status as (un)favoured

§67. First examples of ontological maps

§68. Introducing a tripartite model of the human Umwelt

§69. Methodological challenges

§70. Developing the notion of relational Umwelt maps

§71. Developing the notion of phenomenal fields

§72. Further models and visual representations

Chapter 5 Case study: Norwegian Wolf Management

§73. Introduction: Prelude to the Norwegian wolf wars

§74. Field trips

§75. Preliminary remarks on wolf hunting

§76. Remarks on Arne Næss’ philosophy of wolf management

§77. The cultural semiotic of wolves and sheep

§78. Contextual encircling of the topic matter of the case study

§79. Geographical treatment

§80. The situation for Norwegian sheep farmers and agriculture

§81. The symbolic construction of the Big Bad Wolf in contemporary Scandinavia

§82. Conflict areas in current wolf management

§83. Controversial questions in the current debate

§84. Conspiracy theories

§85. On matters of democracy, empowerment and knowledge regimes

§86. Management strategies

§87. Management methods

§88. On matters of legality

§89. Historical exposition – the era of extermination campaigns

§90. Historical exposition – the era of conservation efforts

§91. Contemporary exposition (2006-2011)

§92. Field trip interviews

§93. Summary of findings: The Umwelt of captive wolves in general and socialised wolves in particular

§94. Summary of findings: The nature view and worldview of people in Rendalen

§95. Mapping of the Umwelt of wolves in Norway

§96. Mapping of the Umwelt of sheep and other relevant animals in Norway

§97. Mapping of the Umwelt of selected groups of Norwegians

§98. Analysis: The wolf and other symbols

§99. Analysis of Norwegian wolf ecology in terms of the semiotic niche and ontological niche concepts

§100. Analysis: Matters of management philosophy, and further analysis

§101. To what extent are wolves a favoured species in contemporary Norway?

§102. To what extent are sheep a favoured species in contemporary Norway?

§103. Analysis: Umwelt transitions

§104. Future perspectives: Deep and shallow solutions

§105. Umwelt futurology: Three Umwelt scenarios

Chapter 6 Umwelt Transition

§106. Introduction: Theoretical findings

§107. To what extent can the case study findings be generalized?

§108. In search of the wolf’s perspective

§109. Evaluation of theoretical assumptions

§110. Evaluation of the methodology of Umwelt mapping

§111. On further methodological development

§112. Umwelt transition and animal migration

§113. On Umwelt transitions as habitual

§114. On recolonization as a habitual Umwelt transition

§115. On further theoretical development

§116. Towards an ethics of semiotics of being

§117. On the prospects of Umwelt futurology