Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Contribution to Foreword

Today I have contributed to the Foreword of the forthcoming collective monograph Animal Umwelts in a changing world – Semiotic studies of human-animal relations (Tartu University Press, to be published Spring 2016).

Special issue of Zeitschrift für Semiotik on biosemiotic ethics to appear December 2016

Some days ago, we got the final go-ahead for a special issue of Zeitschrift für Semiotik on biosemiotic ethics. The special issue, which will according to plans appear December 2016, will be guest-edited by me, Jonathan Beever and Yogi Hendlin.

This implies that I will be involved as an editor in no less than two books and a special issue to be published in 2016, in collaboration with publishers in Germany, Estonia and the US.

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In 2nd place for job as Head of Department

On Monday it surfaced that the appointments committee of the University of Agder´s Faculty of Humanities and Education Friday last week decided to offer the job as Head of Department for Department of Religion, Philosophy and History to Hans Hodne, who had been nominated in 2nd place. In the same email announcement, sent to faculty members, it was stated that if Hodne declined to take the job, it would be offered to me.

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Wolf and sheep paper planned for Special Issue of Pakistan Journal of Historical Studies

I have agreed to contribute to Pakistan Journal of Historical Studies (published by Indiana University Press) 1(2), a forthcoming special issue on “Emotions, Humans and Animals". Work title for my paper, which is due June 1st, is "A brief history of the cultural semiotic of wolves and sheep».

No UiA teaching

I have been asked to step in to teach a course in Spring 2016 in Examen Facultatum (general version) at University of Agder, but have declined, since I already have lots of obligations (related to my job as Associate professor at University of Stavanger).

95 home exam papers graded

Today I finished grading 95 home exam papers in Examen Philosophicum at University of Stavanger´s Department of social studies.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Peer-review for Anthropocene Review

This autumn I have peer-reviewed a paper for The Anthropocene Review, published by SAGE.

Commentary given; cognitive semiotics symposium attended

On Thursday December 17th I presented my commentary "Biosemiotisk synvinkel på CCS" [Biosemiotic perspective on Center for Cognitive Semiotics] during the symposium "Hur människan blev ett så annorlunda djur" [How the human species became such a different animal] at Lund University, or more specifically at the Pufendorf institute. I also took part in the concluding discussions.

The symposium was attended by some 30 people.

External members of board of UiS announced

The names of the external board members appointed to the board of University of Stavanger for the period 2016-2019 have been announced. None of my nominations are among them.

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No UiS trip today

Today I had planned being at the University of Stavanger. But I stayed working from home, since it turns out I only have to move from one office to another by February 1st.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Minding Animals Norway mentioned in Norwegian parliament debate on fur farming

On December 8th, Minding Animals Norway was mentioned in a debate in the Norwegian parliament, by our previous board member Une Aina Bastholm (Green Party of Norway). The debate concerned animal welfare/the living conditions of fur animals. Bastholm pointed out that Minding Animals Norway, "an academic network", is among the organizations and institutions opposing fur farming. Bastholm´s parliament speech is available here (in Norwegian).

Minding Animals mentioned on Fritt Ord webpage, re Norwegian Animal Ethics Conference

Minding Animals Norway is mentioned in the news article "Bevilgninger i oktober 2015 (søknader om kr 100 000 eller mindre)" [Applications for 100.000 NOK or less], in relation to the organizing of the Norwegian Animal Ethics Conference 2015, which got 30.000 NOK in funding from the Fritt Ord foundation.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

EMP151 Steering Committee meeting attended; grant to be prolonged

Today I attended the Steering committee meeting for the Estonian-Norwegian research project "Animals in changing environments: Cultural mediation and semiotic analysis" (EMP151), along with Timo Maran. Among other things we agreed that the project will be prolonged from April 20th 2016 to December 31st 2016 (upon application).

New book title for collective monograph

The collective monograph so far work-titled Semiotic methods in the study of human-animal interactions (forthcoming, Tartu University Press - see previous posts) has been renamed Animal Umwelts in a changing world - Semiotic studies of human-animal relations.

Monday, 14 December 2015

No application to UiS ToppForsk

Given that my research RCN application only got the grade 5 (out of 7), I do not qualify, on that measure (among others), to apply for the University of Stavanger excellence in research program ToppForsk UiS, in the 2016 round, which is just around the corner.

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No Vice Dean Tønnessen

My employment situation turns out to be too complicated for me to be considered for the position as Vice Dean for research for University of Stavanger´s Faculty of Social Sciences.

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Friday, 11 December 2015

UiS Faculty of Social Sciences seeking Vice Dean for research

Today University of Stavanger announced that its Faculty of Social Sciences is seeking a Vice Dean for research, in 50% position, from January 2016 to the summer of 2020. I´ve signaled interest, but it is uncertain whether my circumstances will allow it.

65 home exam papers graded

Yesterday I finished grading 65 home exam papers in Examen Philosophicum at University of Stavanger´s UiS Business School (course code SVEXPHIL4).

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Nominated in 3rd place for UiA Head of Department position

Yesterday I was informed that I am nominated in 3rd place (with 3 persons nominated only) for the position as Head of Department at University of Agder´s Department of Religion, Philosophy and History. There were 13 applicants. A formal decision is due December 16th.

Research application "Umwelt theory for our time" not funded

Yesterday I was informed that my research application "Umwelt Theory For Our Time" (see previous posts) was not funded by Research Council of Norway´s scheme "Unge forskertalenter" [Young research talents]. The overall assessment grade given was 5 (out of 7). 12 projects in HUMSAM - humanities and social science - were funded (17%).

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Semiotics text book review published; full reference

The review "A hundred introductions to semiotics, for a million students: Survey of semiotics textbooks and primers in the world" has now been published, with me as one of several co-authors. It is freely available online (see also PDF). Reference:
Kalevi Kull, Olga Bogdanova, Remo Gramigna, Ott Heinapuu, Eva Lepik, Kati Lindström, Riin Magnus, Rauno Thomas Moss, Maarja Ojamaa, Tanel Pern, Priit Põhjala, Katre Pärn, Kristi Raudmäe, Tiit Remm, Silvi Salupere, Ene-Reet Soovik, Renata Sõukand, Morten Tønnessen and Katre Väli 2015. "A hundred introductions to semiotics, for a million students: Survey of semiotics textbooks and primers in the world". Sign Systems Studies 43(2/3): 281-346 (DOI:
This counts as my fifth publication in Sign Systems Studies, and my eight academic publication this year.

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Vargsymposium subwebpage updated with "Is a wolf wild..." link

The presentation of me at the webpage of Vargsymposiet 2016 appears to have been updated. It now features a link to my article "Is a wolf wild as long as it does not know that it is being thoroughly managed?" (Humanimalia).

Abstract (Vargsymposiet 2016): "Marked for life – Ethical questions concerning management of and research on wolves"

The Norwegian title of my upcoming presentation at Vargsymposiet 2016 is "Merket for livet – Etiske spørsmål knyttet til forvaltning av og forskning på ulv". The English version of the abstract, finished yesterday, follows below.

Marked for life – Ethical questions concerning management of and research on wolves

Morten Tønnessen (academic blog: Utopian Realism)
Associate professor of philosophy, University of Stavanger

This presentation vil address ethical questions concerning how we treat the wolf. It will hopefully be of relevance for similar discussions about bears, wolverines and lynx as well. To study how we treat the wolf, we must first make a distinction between formal and informal wolf management. By ”formal wolf management”, I mean the official management, for which the authorities are responsible. ”Informal wolf management”, on the other side, refers to the public´s treatment of the wolf, whether it is of legal or illegal character (including illegal hunting).
Such conceptual distinctions make a difference, because our motivation for how we treat the wolf, according to many ethicists, can be seen as decisive for how our actions may be judged. This is a central theme within ethics of conviction. In this presentation I will therefor compare legal and illegal hunting, as well as authority-approved ”taking out” (“removal”) of individual wolves, based on two different ethical perspectives: a consequentialist perspective, where what is decisive is what consequences our actions have for the wolf. And an ethics of conviction perspective, where the motivation behind our actions is emphasised.
In this context, I will also use radio-collared wolves as a central example. In this case as well I will interpret current practices from a consequentialist and ethics of conviction perspective respectively. Here the relevant distinction to be made is not that between formal and informal wolf management, but a distinction between research purposes and management purposes. In what way is the researcher´s motivation different from the manager´s motivation for tagging a wolf and equipping it with a radio-collar? And to what extent can our need for knowledge justify such treatment of wolves? Seen from a consequentialist perspective, with an emphasis on the consequences for the wolves involved, it remains clear that GPS-tagging of wolves, possibly with the use of a helicopter during the chase when tagging is done and at later capture events, can involve a risk of traumas for the marked wolf. An important question is whether such traumas permanently changes the wolf´s relation to humans, and what this does to the wolf (and to the reliability of research data).
A measure of our formal management of wolves is to what extent our attempts to protect the wolf as a species, or population, is based on a willingness to sacrifice individual wolves. A sound wolf ethics must, in my opinion, presuppose that our treatment of wolves is compatible with attributing moral status to the wolf both on a species level and on an individual level. Here, further ethical traditions can be made use of. From a virtue-ethical perspective, our management of wolves should seek to realize good lives for humans as well as for wolves and animals in our care. From a deontological perspective, one often makes reference to the inherent value of living beings. If the wolf, too, has inherent value, then we have a duty to respect its inviolability, on a par with the inviolability of other living beings with inherent value.  

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).

Monday, 7 December 2015

Peer-review for Humanimalia

This Spring I peer-reviewed an article for the academic journal Humanimalia – a journal of human/animal interface studies.

Peer-review for Elsevier

This Spring I peer-reviewed a book proposal for Elsevier.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

General Meeting of Minding Animals Norway held; reelected as chair

This year´s General Meeting of Minding Animals Norway (MAN) was held yesterday afternoon at Funky Fresh Foods (a vegan restaurant) in Oslo. 7 people were present. I was reelected as chair of MAN for another year, and August Torp and Iselin Linstad Hauge were elected as new board members.

4th Norwegian Animal Ethics conference held, in Oslo

The 4th Norwegian Animal Ethics Conference (Dyreetikkonferansen 2015) was held yesterday at Litteraturhuset in Oslo. I chaired the whole conference (9.30 to 15.00), opened the conference, and held an introduction to the conference theme ("Mor og barn i dyreriket" - mother and child in the animal kingdom). 10 people were on the program, including talks by Bjarne Braastad, Guri Larsen and Espen Gamlund, and two panels featuring veterinarians, farmers, a hunter and activists. 

Some 50 people were present.

25 attending 5th Minding Animals research seminar, at NMBU; predator/mother talk given

The 5th research seminar of Minding Animals Norway, "Mor og barn i dyreriket - menneskenes interaksjon" [Mother and child in the animal kingdom - humans´ interaction] took place at Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU) at Ås outside Oslo today. The program lasted for some 4 hours, and included my talk "Mor og barn-relasjoner hos ulv og andre rovpattedyr, og hvordan disse (ikke) tas hensyn til" [Mother and child relations among wolves and other carnivore mammals, and how these are (not) being respected]. The research seminar was organized by August Torp and Benedicte Brun, with some input from me.

Some 25 people were present.

Commentary scheduled for December 17th (Centre for Cognitive Semiotics)

On December 17th, at Lund University, Sweden, I will be one of the invited commentators at the concluding symposium of the Centre for Cognitive Semiotics (CCS), "Hur människan blev ett så annorlunda djur" [How the human became such a different animal]. My commentary, entitled ”Biosemiotisk synvinkel på CCS” (Biosemiotic perspective on CCS), has been scheduled for 14.15-14.30. Other commentators include Frederik Stjernfelt and Sören Brier, among others.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Reference for editorial "Organisms reshape sign relations"

Full reference for the editorial "Organisms reshape sign relations":
Sharov, Alexei, Timo Maran and Morten Tønnessen 2015. Organisms reshape sign relations. Editorial. Biosemiotics 8(3): 361–365. Published online October 16th (DOI 10.1007/s12304-015-9251-2).

Biosemiotics 8(3) published online

Biosemiotics no. 3 2015 (volume 8, issue 3) has been published online, and Springer alert (email) has been distributed. This is a regular issue. Among the articles is the editorial "Organisms reshape sign relations", co-written by me (HTML here, PDF with pagination here).

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Job interview at University of Agder

Today I attended a job interview related to my application for the position as Head of Department of University of Agder´s Department of Religion, Philosophy and History. The job interview lasted for about an hour, with five persons present, plus me. There were 13 applicants.