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Monday, 31 March 2014

Electoral program online at UiS webpage

Today the electoral programs of the candidates for representative for temporarily employed education and research staff in the board of University of Stavanger was made public on the web pages of UiS. The election will take place April 3-9.

My electoral program is here.


Monday, 24 March 2014

First Biosemiotics article handled by new editorial team published online

The article "Hominin Language Development: A New Method of Archaeological Assessment" by James Cole, published online in Biosemiotics March 7th, is the first paper which the new editorial team of the journal (Alexei Sharov, Timo Maran and myself) have been handling from submission to publication.

Thematical plan for introductory philosophy course composed (August 2013)

On August 17th 2013 I composed the thematical plan for that autumn's course in introductory philosophy, Examen Philosophicum for nursing students at University of Stavanger's Department of health studies.

[This is part of my still considerable backlog]

New EiCs now mentioned online

At some point last autumn - October? - I made a note that I should mention in this blog that the names of the three new editors of the journal Biosemiotics - Alexei Sharov, Timo Maran and myself - are now mentioned online, on the journal's webpage, along with Marcello Barbieri. 

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4th Animals in changing environments research seminar scheduled for April 2016

The 4th research seminar of the Norwegian-Estonian research project “Animals in changing environments: Cultural mediation and semiotic analysis” (EEA Norway Grants EMP151) has been scheduled for Friday April 29th 2016. The research seminar, which will likely be the last event to be held within the framework of this project (which expires April 30th 2016), will take place at the University of Stavanger.

3rd Animals in changing environments research seminar scheduled for May 2015

The 3rd research seminar of the Norwegian-Estonian research project “Animals in changing environments: Cultural mediation and semiotic analysis” (EEA Norway Grants EMP151) has been scheduled for Friday May 15th 2015. The research seminar will take place at the University of Stavanger.

2nd Animals in changing environments research seminar scheduled for October 2014

The 2nd research seminar of the Norwegian-Estonian research project “Animals in changing environments: Cultural mediation and semiotic analysis” (EEA Norway Grants EMP151) has been scheduled for Friday October 24th 2014. The research seminar will take place at the University of Stavanger.

Animals in changing environments conference scheduled for September 2015

The conference of the Norwegian-Estonian research project “Animals in changing environments: Cultural mediation and semiotic analysis” (EEA Norway Grants EMP151) has been scheduled for September 16-18 2015. The conference will take place at the University of Stavanger.

Videos from Norwegian Animal Ethics Conference 2013 online; including two featuring me

Videos from the Norwegian Animal Ethics Conference 2013 are now online via the YouTube page of Minding Animals Norway - see YouTube playlist. Videos include one of my presentation, titled "Hva er natur i en verden uten villmark?" [What is nature in a world without wilderness?] and a panel discussion I chaired, "Fritt vilt? Forvaltningen av de store rovdyrene" [Fair game? Management of the big predators].

Kudos to Lene Sand for filming and to Frode Bakke Bjerkevik for editing, plus to NOAH - for animal rights for filming of the two panel discussions.

The UiS board: Electoral program for Morten Tønnessen

Yesterday I finished and submitted my electoral program etc. in preparation of the upcoming election of representative and deputy representatives for temporarily employed education and research staff in the board of University of Stavanger. The Norwegian version has been posted in my Norwegian language blog Utopisk realisme. For the English version, see below.

***

ENGLISH
a) Morten Tønnessen

b) 38 years old

c) Associate Professor of philosophy at Department of Health Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences; Project leader at UiS for the Norwegian-Estonian research project “Animals in changing environments: Cultural mediation and semiotic analysis” (EEA Norway Grants EMP151)

d) I have been the representative for temporarily employed education and research staff in the UiS board 20122013, and 2nd deputy representative 20132014. I defended my doctoral degree in semiotics/philosophy – with a case study on Norwegian wolf management – in 2011 at the University of Tartu (Estonia). Since 2013 I’ve been Co-Editor-in-Chief for the Springer journal Biosemiotics. I have held several NGO positions (amongst other positions I am currently Chair of Minding Animals Norway and secretary of Nordic Association for Semiotic Studies), and I work interdisciplinarily. In capacity of being a philosopher/semiotician who has been doing research on biological/ecological phenomena for some ten years, I have connections to the humanities as well as to social science and natural science. Academic blog: http://UtopianRealism.blogspot.com.

e) My goals are:

  • A professional, leading university
    • Increased internationalisation (enhanced staff mobility included).
    • Higher aspirations for research.
    • Good conditions for interdisciplinary research and educational activities.
    • UiS must at all faculties become a university that combines general education and applied studies. Today general education is not integrated into all degrees. This gives us lower credibility than Norway’s «old» universities.
    • Support to the process towards establishment of a Faculty of Health Studies.
  • A green university
    • Petroleum research that contributes to enhanced oil and gas recovery and production in new/vulnerable areas must be phased out as existing contracts expire.
    • I favour a restructuring through which current expertise in petroleum research can in the future be made use of e.g. within a major investment in renewable energy research.
    • Environmental ethics must be established as a central subject at TN.
    • Emphasis on social science and humanities perspectives on climate issues.
  • An ethically aware and responsible university
    • In the autumn of 2012 the UiS board, on my suggestion, asked the university director to study how UiS can follow up the action plan for ethical trade by setting some concrete measures for implementation in the period 20132016. The board’s decision must be conducted by the director, and such issues must be taken seriously.
    • More transparency in management/leadership processes.
    • Long-term, global perspectives rather than short-term, provincial concerns.
    • The university’s social responsibility must be understood as more than the sum total of market orientation and government directives. UiS has responsibility for contributing to the good of society.
    • UiS must therefore take a vision of the good society as starting point for its research policy.


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Three nominated for UiS board election

On March 21st it was announced (see here) that 3 persons, me included, have been nominated for the upcoming election for the University of Stavanger board. The other nominees are Kristian Thorsen, the current representative for temporarily employed education and research staff, and Clemens Furnes, the current 1st deputy.

The election will take place April 3-9.

University of Stavanger yet to take concrete measures in relation to ethical trade

Today a letter to the editor of sorts that I wrote yesterday was published on the debate pages of the University of Stavanger. It is titled "Oppfølging av styrevedtak om etisk handel" [Follow-up of the board decision on ethical trade], and refers to a proposal of mine and decision made by the board of University of Stavanger on November 28th 2014. As far as I have seen no concrete measures have been discussed by the board to date. It is the responsibility of university director John Møst to suggest some concrete measures.

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Monday, 17 March 2014

Abstracts reviewed for cognitive semiotics conference

Twitter update

I've updated profile info and image(s) for my Twitter alias, @sporfilosofen.

To date I've posted 1,032 tweets, and have 236 followers. Not so much. Mostly tweeting in Norwegian, occasionally in English. But not really tweeting much at all lately (the summer of 2011 was an exception, due to the terror in Norway).


"Outside the circle" art exhibition text now online

My academic text "Utenfor sirkelen" [Outside the circle], which is part of Jørund Aase Falkenberg's art exhibition of the same name, is now available online - on the artist's homepage in plain text plus as a PDF document.

I've also published the full text in my Norwegian language blog Utopisk Realisme.

Two wolf-related articles to be co-written with Laura Kiiroja

I have agreed to co-write two academic articles with Laura Kiiroja, my colleague in the Norwegian-Estonian research project "Animals in changing environments: Cultural mediation and semiotic analysis": One on Nordic zoo wolf demographics (I've had the idea for a few years, and now want it done), and another on socialization of zoo animals including wolves. Both these articles will be written in the context of the project's case study "Agencies and Conflicts of Interest in Zoological Gardens as an Environment for Mediated Communication".

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Minding Animals Norway launches banners - and has more brochures

Minding Animals Norway has recently ordered and received a second round of brochures, and, for the first time, a few banners (see below). While we ordered only a few hundred brochures initially, we now got 2000 brochures - and 6 banners.


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Sunday, 16 March 2014

Research employment started March 15th

Starting yesterday I am employed through a separate contract with University of Stavanger's Department of health studies in a 10 % research position (title: Associate professor; I am also the project's Norwegian project leader). The employment is externally funded, via the Norwegian-Estonian research project "Animals in changing environments: Cultural mediation and semiotic analysis" (EEA Norway Grants EMP151). This contract ends April 30th 2016.

400 applied for Norwegian-Czech funding

According to the Research Council of Norway (the news story "Over 800 vil forske med Tsjekkia og Romania" [More than 800 want to do research with the Czech Republic and Romania], about 400 applications were submitted to the recent call in relation to the EEA-affiliated Norwegian-Czech research program. Among these is "Living beings as sign systems in evolution and development", which will prospectively be lead by Anton Markoš (Charles University, Prague) and have me in the role as Norwegian project leader (University of Stavanger).

I assume some 20-30 projects (i.e., 5-7,5 %) will be funded.

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Animals in changing environments project referred to in Norwegian Europe portal article

The research project "Animals in changing environments: Cultural mediation and semiotic analysis" (EEA Norway Grants EMP151), which is carried out in cooperation between University of Tartu and University of Stavanger, is mentioned in the news article "Norsk-estisk forskningssamarbeid i verdensklasse" [World class Norwegian-Estonian research cooperation] in the Norwegian government's Europaportalen [The Europe portal]. The article, which briefly outlines all 13 projects that got funded, is written by Mari Lieungh Melby, who works at the Norwegian embassy in Estonia.

In the article, the project I am involved in is referred to in Norwegian as "Dyr og mennesker i skiftende miljø". The official Norwegian title of the project is "Dyr i landskap i endring".

Friday, 14 March 2014

Member of Nordic Wittgenstein Society

Wittgenstein and Uexküllian phenomenology paper accepted for presentation

Today I was informed by the organisers of the 5th Symposium of the Nordic Wittgenstein Society"Wittgenstein and Phenomenology", which is to be held at University of Stavanger May 30-31st, that my abstract "“If a lion could talk...” Wittgenstein and Uexküllian phenomenology" has been accepted for presentation.

Abstract: "“If a lion could talk...” Wittgenstein and Uexküllian phenomenology"

On February 28th I submitted the abstract below to the organisers of the 5th Symposium of the Nordic Wittgenstein Society, "Wittgenstein and Phenomenology", which is to be held at University of Stavanger May 30-31st.

***
“If a lion could talk…” Wittgenstein and Uexküllian phenomenology

By Morten Tønnessen
Associate professor in philosophy at University of Stavanger’s Department of health studies
“If a lion could talk,” Wittgenstein (1986 [1953]: 223) famously wrote, “we could not understand him.” Wittgenstein’s enigma does not appear to have been meant to address topics of animal communication – even though he does claim (ibid, 226) that “[w]hat has to be accepted, the given, is—so one could say—forms of life.” 

Elsewhere in PI Wittgenstein (ibid, remark 25) actually addresses the question of whether animals have language (emphasis added):
It is sometimes said that animals do not talk because they lack the mental capacity. And this means: “they do not think, and that is why they do not talk.” But—they simply do not talk. Or to put it better: they do not use language—if we except the most primitive forms of language.—Commanding, questioning, recounting, chatting, are as much a part of our natural history as walking, eating, drinking, playing. 

While most traditional forms of phenomenology take for granted that the human lifeworld is and should be the dominant, if not the sole, object of study for phenomenology, Uexküllian phenomenology, built on the Umwelt theory of biologist Jakob von Uexküll (1864-1944) (cf. Uexküll 2010), is different. In sharp contrast, Uexküllian phenomenology is “characterized not least by an assumption of the (in the realm of life) universal existence of a genuine first person perspective, i.e., of experienced worlds” (Tønnessen 2011: 327). For the ethologist as well as for the zookeeper, Wittgenstein’s statement that we would not be able to understand a lion’s language is nonsensical – since understanding animals and their behaviour and mindset is exactly what good ethologists and zookeepers do. In a similar manner, the Uexküllian phenomenologist realizes that all animals have their own lifeworlds (or Umwelten, in Uexküll’s terminology), which are just as meaningful to them as our human lifeworld is to us. Whether or not instances of animal communication are nominally branded as instances of language is here not decisive – more interesting is to what extent human-animal understanding is possible. 

In this presentation I will recount Wittgenstein’s statement and its context, explain how the perspective of Uexküllian phenomenology makes the statement sound nonsensical, and refer to indications of acknowledgement of the existence of other-than-human lifeworlds in the work of Husserl and Mearleau-Ponty respectively.

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
Tønnessen, Morten 2011. Semiotics of Being and Uexküllian Phenomenology. Pp. 327–340 in Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka (ed.): Phenomenology/Ontopoiesis Retrieving Geo-Cosmic Horizons of Antiquity (= Analecta Husserliana CX/110). Dordrecht: Springer.
Uexküll, Jakob von 2010. A Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Humans with a Theory of Meaning. Minneapolis: University of Minneapolis Press. Transl. by J.D. O’Neil.
Wittgenstein, Ludwig 1986 [1953]. Philosophical Investigations. Transl. by G. E. M. Anscombe. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

End of second round of parental leave

My second round of parental leave (graded leave, 75%) at the occasion of the birth of a certain Matias Laurits da Silva-Tønnessen, my beloved son, ended yesterday, on March 13th. The next few months, however, my work routines will likely remain pretty much as they have been since New Year (he still needs being looked after, after all).


Thursday, 13 March 2014

Equipment to be used in wolf-related field work bought

The last couple of weeks or so I have bought practically all of the equipment that is to be bought in the Norwegian part of the Norwegian-Estonian research project "Animalsin changing environments: Cultural mediation and semiotic analysis" (EEA Norway Grants EMP151). This includes a video camera and a digital camera with accessories, and a laptop, all of which will be used in the case study "Representations (Both Problematic and Romanticizing) of Large Mammals, Especially Wolves".

Second web gathering held

Today I conducted the second of two web gatherings (see post on the first) in the introductory philosophy course Examen Philosophicum in the internet-based bachelor in nursing at University of Stavanger's Department of health studies (course code BSNEXP). Six students showed up online. The topic was the exam questions plus the study questions in the course. 

Research visit to Tangen zoo conducted; to be zoo's research contact

Sunday to Tuesday this last week, March 9th to 11th, I have been conducting a research visit to Tangen zoo (formerly Amadeus zoo) in Stange in Hedmark, Norway. I was hosted by zoo owner Runar Næss and my research colleague in the research project "Animals in changing environments: Cultural mediation and semiotic analysis" Laura Kiiroja, who currently resides in the zoo.

During the visit I agreed to be a research contact for Tangen zoo, a role which will involve being a scientific advisor when it comes to research carried out in the park. Currently the zoo houses socialized foxes, and they are working to get permission to hold socialized wolves too. This would likely involve long-term observations of some sort from my side - some ideas are brewing, but some of these depend on further research funding.

I got to see most of the animals close-up, including the two camels, an iguana, a number of snakes (constrictors), several curious silver monkeys, a zebra, and a not very friendly alligator. Throughout the visit I took photos and filmed - part of this material might be used for the perception studies I will soon carry out with Paul Thibault.


Friday, 7 March 2014

Early human Umwelt article to be revised

I have been notified about the editors' decision on my article "The ontogeny of the embryonic, foetal and infant human Umwelt”, submitted to a forthcoming Special Issue of Sign Systems Studies, entitled "Sign evolution on multiple time scales" and edited by Luis Emilio Bruni and Kristian Tylén. A revision of my article, based on two peer reviews, is due March 28th.

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Text read at opening of art exhibition "Who owns history?"

Yesterday I had the pleasure of reading excerpts of my text "Utenfor sirkelen" [Outside the circle] at the third out of four events constituting the opening of the 8 artists-strong art exhibition "Hvem eier historien? Makt, kunst og demokrati" [Who owns history? Power, art and democracy] in Stavanger. My reading was part of the opening of "Utenfor sirkelen" [Outside the circle] by artist Jørund Aase Falkenberg, at MUST - Museum Stavanger's Department of Natural History. There were quite a few present (a hundred?).

This was the second time I took part in the opening of an art exhibition, and furthermore it is the second time I am contributing to an art exhibition (both times in an academic role).

Some hours ahead of the opening event(s), I got to see Jørund's exhibition, which  includes the video "Inn i sirkelen" [Into the circle], documenting how he burried two birds from the museum's collection, and "Nytt lys" [New light] which is situated around and within an existing natural history exhibition involving skeletons (of whales etc.) and mounted animals.

The full text of my contribution "Utenfor sirkelen" (6 pp) will be available in print throughout the exhibition (March 6th - June 15th) at Stavanger Museum - initially there are 50 copies, but more will be produced given demand.

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Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Board meeting of Minding Animals Norway held

This Monday, 3rd of March, I attended and chaired the board meeting of Minding Animals Norway. Topics included plans for several events this year (to be announced).

To speak at opening of art exhibition "Outside the circle"

I have agreed to speak, or rather read aloud, at the opening of the art exhibition "Utenfor sirkelen" [Outside the circle] by artist Jørund Aase Falkenberg, which will take place aMUST - Museum Stavanger's Department of Natural History on Thursday March 6th at 20.15. In addition to this event, involving two artists, there will also be a more general opening event for the art exhibition(s) "Hvem eier historien? Makt, kunst og demokrati" (Who owns history? Power, art and democracy) at 6 pm the same day at Stavanger Art Museum, which I will attend.

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