Saturday, 16 May 2015

Abstract for 3rd EMP151 research seminar: "Human Perceptions of Wolves and other Animals in Kristiansand, Kautokeino and Rendalen"

Paul Thibault and I have today composed the abstract below for the 3rd Norwegian research seminar in the Estonian-Norwegian research project "Animals in changing environments: Cultural mediation and semiotic analysis" (University of Stavanger, June 5th).

Human Perceptions of Wolves and other Animals in Kristiansand, Kautokeino and Rendalen 
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 which the wolf is often perceived as being in conflict with. The data analyzed in this paper consists of video-recordings of a series of semi-structured interviews conducted in Norway in Spring 2015 in three locations. During these interviews, participants were shown and asked to respond to display materials featuring wolves and other animals – particularly reindeer (Kautokeino, Finnmark) and sheep (Rendalen, Hedmark). Other study animals include hunting dogs, lynx and moose. Reindeer and sheep were selected for study due to their centrality in regional discourses on wolf management. At each of the interview locations (including the pilot study in Kristiansand, Vest-Agder), participants were recruited from relevant interest groups, including environmentalists, hunters, sheep farmers and reindeer herders. 11 interviews are included in the data presented here (4 in Kristiansand, 3 in Kautokeino, 4 in Rendalen). 
Using techniques derived from Multimodal Interaction Analysis (MIA), the study analyzes 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 analyze 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 experienced 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. 
The paper will present preliminary findings concerning the different ways in which interviewees performed and enacted their experiences of the study animals through body dynamics, verbal patterns and orientation to cultural values. The display material included in the interviews were designed to elicit different responses and interpretations, without prompting from the interviewer. In particular the audio clips and images proved, in many instances, to be highly ambiguous and open to diverse interpretations.  
Acknowledgements: 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). Laura Kiiroja contributed to cataloguing and coding the video-recordings as a valuable stage in the preparation of the analyses developed in this paper.

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