Sunday, 15 March 2015

Abstract for "Animals in the Anthropocene" conference: "Human Perceptions of Wolves and other Animals in Contemporary Norway"

On Friday this week I took part in composing and submitting the abstract below to the September 17-19th conference "Animals in the Anthropocene: Human-animal relations in a changing semiosphere".


Human Perceptions of Wolves and other Animals in Contemporary Norway

Paul Thibault (University of Agder) and Morten Tønnessen (University of Stavanger)

This paper presents fieldwork focused on people´s perception of wolves and selected animals the wolf is often perceived as being in conflict with. The data consists of video-recordings of a series of semi-structured interviews conducted in Norway in 2015, specifically at five locations. During these interviews, participants were shown and asked to respond to display materials featuring wolves and other animals. Study animals other than wolves include hunting dogs (particularly in Moss), reindeer (particularly in Kautekeino) and sheep (particularly in Rendalen). These animals were selected for study due to their centrality in regional discourses on wolf management. At each of the three main locations (excluding pilot study and control group), participants were recruited from relevant interest groups, which included hunters, sheep farmers, reindeer herders, mushroom gatherers, and hikers.

Using techniques derived from Multimodal Interaction Analysis (MIA), the study analysed participants´ accounts of, attitudes to and reactions towards selected display materials. The term ´perception´ used in the title of this paper refers to participants´ experience with, ideas about and attitudes towards the study animals, as revealed in the interviews. Methodologically, display materials were used in order to elicit responses that provide information about the participants´ perceptions of the study animals. The display materials included video clips, audio recordings of animal vocalizations, and images. The semi-structured interviews also included a few standard questions. 

The techniques of MIA were deployed in order to analyse the full range of interviewees´ meaning-making resources, including vocal utterances, gesture, facial expressions and other relevant body movements. The purpose of the MIA was to identify salient cultural thematic patterns, evaluative stances and feelings experiences by the participants in their encounter with the display materials and their recounts of their experiences of the study animals. Furthermore, a comparative analysis was developed of relevant patterns in the data that showed differences and similarities in the perceptions of the different interest groups. Moreover, a comparative analysis was also undertaken based on the different geographical locations where the data was gathered.

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).

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