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Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Minding Animals Award 2015 to Bergljot Børresen

On Saturday March 21st, during Dyreverndagen (the Norwegian Animal Protection Day) at DogA in Oslo, the Norwegian Minding Animals Award 2015 was presented. Being the Chair of Minding Animals Norway, I was presenting the award on behalf of the jury. The prize, which consisted of an artwork by Ksenia Aksenova and a diploma, was awarded to Bergljot Børresen, a Norwegian veterinarian who has written extensively about human-animal relations, particularly on domestic animals, and challenged anthropocentric notions. The prize was received by Marianne Melgaard on Børresen´s behalf.

Børresen has published e.g. on Gyldendal (see author page).

Norwegian Animal Protection Day held in Oslo

On Saturday March 21st I attended Dyreverndagen (the Norwegian Animal Protection Day) at DogA in Oslo. The event was organised by a working group sorting under Minding Animals Norway, consisting of some 15 volunteers. Some 170 people attended the event, which consisted of a seminar at day-time and a party/concert with award ceremonies in the evening.

I was on stage at two occasions - first at the end of the seminar, when I surprised project leader Hilde Valbjørn Hagelin with a bouquet of flowers. And then in the evening, I presented the winner of the 2015 Minding Animals award.

Minding Animals stand attended

On Saturday March 21st, at Dyreverndagen (the Norwegian Animal Protection Day) at DogA in Oslo, I attended the Minding Animals stand for some time in the breaks. We sold books, had brochures on display, and explained participants what we are doing as an organisation.

Monday, 30 March 2015

"Umwelt Theory For Our Time" FRIPRO application drafted

After hours on March 20th I finished a research application draft aimed at the Norwegian FRIPRO (independent projects) grant scheme. The application draft (10 pp.), or rather the project, is titled "Umwelt Theory For Our Time". I finished a draft by this date in an attempt to have it selected as one of three application drafts that are to be reviewed at a PRE-FRIPRO workshop at University of Stavanger in mid-April.

9 Ex.Phil. papers graded

Today I have graded 9 exam papers in Examen Philosophicum (course code BSNEXP) for University of Stavanger´s Department of health studies.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Hospitalised - now back home

I was hospitalised Monday to Friday last week and am now recovering at home. For this reason, I am currently slightly behind schedule with several responsibilities (now catching up).

Friday, 20 March 2015

Included in prospective research network - animal welfare for pigs and hens

I have agreed to be part of a prospective research network, with the name "COST GroupHouseNet", which will if funded conduct networking activities involving knowledge dissemination etc. in the study of animal welfare for pigs and hens. The application is initiated by the Norwegian University of Life Sciences and involves researchers representing 17 institutions in 15 European countries.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Abstract for "Animals in the Anthropocene" conference: "Proto-language in wolves"

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".

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Proto-language in wolves
Morten Tønnessen (University of Stavanger) and Paul Thibault (University of Agder)

Like several other animals (and human infants), wolves have proto-language. In human development, proto-language precedes and is the foundation of the child’s development of the adult language. In animals, proto-language forms an important part of their communicative repertoire. In animals and humans alike, proto-language is characterized by the absence of grammar, and is directly tied to internal bodily states and/or to aspects of situations. In other words, actual use of proto-language is often action-related, for instance by directing attention.

In terms of the tripartite Umwelt model (Tønnessen, based on Uexküll), animal interjections can be associated with the conceptual aspect of Umwelt, where in the human case linguistic practices are placed. In animals too, the conceptual Umwelt is characterized by predicative reasoning, i.e. the habitual, mental attribution of specific features to someone or something. However, the mediated aspect of Umwelt also comes into play as far as mediation, e.g. anticipation and memory, enters the picture, as is typically the case with emotions, which are often at the basis of interjections.

We will analyze a data set involving captive wolves, aiming to identify animal interjections performed in a range of situation types. We will be looking for patterns and variation, e.g. between different groups (packs), with a view to determining the range of meanings and situations in which different interjections occur. We hypothesize that since interjections are very likely to some extent conventionalized, there will be systematic, observable variations grounded in the lived experience of social relations, whether intra–pack, or human–animal. Of interest here is the extent to which these calls or interjections are not merely expressive of internal states but serve communicative and thus social functions such as coordinating relations between individuals in the group. Our assumption is that interjections are often learned through experience, in a social setting. By comparing instances of interjections in wolves, we will also consider how the individual and social agency of wolves is enacted through these vocalizations, and how it contributes to individual and group development. This implies that socialization is always in part self-socialization (i.e. that socialization always involves individuation).

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).

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".

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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).

Friday, 13 March 2015

Field trip dates rescheduled

Today I met with my colleague Paul Thibault to reschedule field trip dates for our work related to human perception of wolves and related animals, in the research project "Animals in changing environments: Cultural mediation and semiotic analysis" (EMP151), specifically the case study "Representations (both Problematic and Romanticizing) of Large Mammals, especially Wolves". The field trips will take place in April, May and June.

MC exam questions composed

Today I have composed exam questions for an extraordinary Multiple Choice exam in Examen Philosophicum (course code BSNEXP) at University of Stavanger´s Department of health studies which is to take place March 19th, next week.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Jena, code biology 2: "Umwelt codes exemplified by Umwelt alignment in corvids" accepted for presentation

Today I have received a notification from the organisers of the Second International Conference in Code Biology (Jena, Germany, June 16-19) that my paper “Umwelt codes exemplified by Umwelt alignment in corvids” has been accepted for oral presentation at the conference.

Norwegian EMP151 budget informally revised

Today I have (informally) finished revising the budget of the Norwegian research group in the Estonian-Norwegian research project "Animals in changing environments: Cultural mediation and semiotic analysis" (EMP151). The revision includes some planned reallocations for 2015 and 2016, and also takes into consideration the actual accounts so far (2013 and 2014).

Previous UiS university director Per Ramvi refers to petition; board temporarily renews CenSE

In the Stavanger Aftenblad chronicle "Har Universitetet bærekraft?" [roughly: Is the university sustainable?] (March 11), Per Ramvi, previously university director at University of Stavanger, makes reference to "et professoropprop" [a professor petition] - which I took part in initiating (see link below). The context of the letter is that the current university director, John Møst, has recently suggested that the board of University of Stavanger does not renew the research center-status of CenSE (The Center for Sustainable Energy Solutions)

The question is how University of Stavanger can strengthen its research in sustainable energy. The board meeting took place today - and the board decided to temporarily renew CenSE´s status as research center (article in Norwegian). Meanwhile, a work group is to be appointed by the university director which is to be tasked with suggesting how the university can strengthen its research into sustainable energy.

See also:

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

MA Toolkit; 2nd "Animals in the Anthropocene" CFP in 28th MAI Bulletin

In the 28th Bulletin of Minding Animals International, distributed a few days ago, there is a call for contributions to the the Minding Animals Toolkit (see previous posts) pp. 7-8, and an updated version of the Second Call for papers for the conference "Animals in the Anthropocene: Human-animal relations in a changing semiosphere" is featured on pp. 4-5 and 29-31.

NSD reference to EMP151 field work

Norway´s Data Protection Official for Research (Personvernombudet for forskning) has registered the   interviews in the subproject "Representations (both Problematic and Romanticizing) of Large Mammals, especially Wolves" of the research project "Animals in changing environments: Cultural mediation and semiotic analysis" (EMP151) with (NSD) project number 41062. I am registered as contact person/responsible.

See also:

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Plans for paternal leave 2016-2017

My wife is expecting twins - and I am expecting to be on graded paternal leave (50%) in the whole academic year 2016-2017.

To be employed by UiS Business School this autumn

Yesterday, after a week´s negotiations, I agreed to make an employment contract with the University of Stavanger Business School for this autumn. I will be employed in 40% position August to December 2015, as Associate professor in philosophy, responsible for teaching in Examen Philosophicum.

This will be the third department at UiS that I have been affiliated with. Altogether I have made arrangements for 100% work (plus responsibility for UiS EVU, cf. yesterday´s post) in the academic year 2015-2016.

Festschrift to Kalevi Kull referred to in TRAMES article

In the article "Emic conceptualization of a “wild edible plant” in Estonia in the Second Half of the 20th Century", published in TRAMES 19 (64/69, 1) (2015): 15-34, Renata Sõukand and Raivo Kalle refer to Semiotics in the Wild: Essays in Honour of Kalevi Kull on the Occasion of His 60th Birthday (Tartu: Tartu University Press), which was edited with Timo Maran, Kati Lindström, Riin Magnus and myself.

Context (p. 17):
Nature-culture dichotomy has been an important subject in anthropology for quite a long time (Ellen and Fukui 1996, Descola and Pálsson 1996), while perception and categorization of (wild) nature in science and modern society has lately been an actively disputed subject in ecosemiotics (e.g. Kull 1998, Maran 2004, 2006, Maran et al 2012, Augustyn 2013, Siewers 2014).

Monday, 9 March 2015

4 papers graded

Today I have graded 4 exam papers at University of Stavanger´s Department of social studies, in the course Examen Philosophicum (continuation exam).

Meeting on PHCC master course; contract signed

Today I have been in a meeting with UiS EVU, and later on signed a contract with them as responsible (course coordinator and sole teacher) for the course "Philosophy of Science and Health Care Ethics" as part of the PCHH (Pre-Hospital Critical Care) Master. The course will be taught over this autumn and next Spring (2 x whole 3 days of teaching).

Friday, 6 March 2015

Extended deadline March 15th for conference "Animals in the Anthropocene"

The deadline for the conference "Animals in the Anthropocene: Human-animal relations in a changing semiosphere" (Stavanger, Norway, September 17-19th 2015) has been extended to March 15th. This was done to accommodate inclusion of the 2nd Call For Papers in the bulletin of Minding Animals International, which is distributed in these days.

Still possible to submit to NASS IX

The 9th conference of the Nordic Association for Semiotic Studies, to take place in Tartu August 17-20, is still accepting abstracts (even though the deadline has formally expired). 

This implies that abstracts are still welcome to the two sessions I take part in chairing:

For instruction on abstract submission, see the conference webpage.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Proceedings chapter: "The changing imagery of the big bad wolf" - reference; errata

A brief article of mine, "The changing imagery of the big bad wolf", based on a conference presentation in 2009, has been published online (and on a CD) - in 2012, it appears. Abstract is available online, as is the full PDF.

Reference:
Tønnessen, Morten 2012. The changing imagery of the big bad wolf. Proceedings of the 10th World Congress of the International Association for Semiotic Studies (IASS/AIS) (Universidade da Coruña (Spain)), ISBN: 978-84-9749-522-6, pp. 1543–1548. 
Errata:
1. "Morten Tønnessen, University of Tartu, Moscow (Russia)": Not sure where this came from. Tartu, where I took my PhD, is in Estonia.
2. “Rendalen happens to be [Southern!] Norway’s biggest municipality, measured by land area."

Chapters selected for Avatud Eesti Raamat volume on Norwegian ecophilosophy

Yesterday I finished selecting prospective chapters for a book volume that is to appear in the series Avatud Eesti Raamat, an Estonian book series for philosophy, with Norwegian ecophilosophy in Estonian translation. The book, which is to be published by Tartu University Press, will include texts by Peter Wessel Zapffe, Arne Næss and Sigmund Kvaløy (assuming that we get the required permissions to reprint). The work is coordinated by Riin Magnus and Mart Kuldkepp, both University of Tartu.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

2nd most-publishing scholar at Dep. of social studies; 10th at Dep. of health studies

Preliminary overviews indicate that in 2014, I was the 2nd most-publishing researcher at University of Stavanger´s Department of social studies, and at the same time the 10th most-publishing researcher at Department of health studies. I have been credited with 1,7 publication points for Department of social studies and 1,5 publication points for Department of health studies, in total 3,2 publication points (vs. 3,13 in 2013).

In a previous post, I estimated that I would be credited with 3,7 publication points. The difference is explained by the fact that a book chapter I co-authored appeared in December 2014 but will be considered a 2015 publication since the official, printed publication year was 2015.

Extended deadline for politics and animals chapter

I have been allowed an extended deadline for my book chapter "A critical reading of mentions of animals in political party programs". The new deadline is March 31st.

See also:

Monday, 2 March 2015

Abstract for NASS IX: "The future Umwelten of wolves, sheep and people in Scandinavia"

I have just composed and submitted the abstract below to the organisers of the 9th conference of the Nordic Association for Semiotic Studies (NASS) (Tartu, August 17-20).

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The future Umwelten of wolves, sheep and people in Scandinavia

By Morten Tønnessen, University of Stavanger 

Paper proposal submitted to the theme session “The study of future umwelten: umwelt futurology”

ABSTRACT

In Scandinavia, wolf management has been surrounded by conflict ever since the return of the grey wolf about a generation ago. While the presence of wolves is perceived to be in conflict with hunting practices, such as the use of free-roaming hunting dogs, in both Sweden and Norway, in Norway the “wolf wars” are by the general public especially associated with sheep´s grazing in outer pastures. In the Norwegian context, the wolf has become a symbol of large predators in general (which in Norway include brown bears, lynx and wolverines), and a scapegoat for certain societal developments that threaten traditional, small-scale husbandry practices (Tønnessen 2011).

In this paper, I will sketch selected future scenarios for the Umwelten of wolves, sheep and people by making use of the Umwelt theory of Jakob von Uexküll (e.g. Uexküll 1956 [1934/1940]; cf. also the concise, thorough and critical scientific monograph Brentari 2015) in combination with various future projections and scenarios from other fields.  These will include demographical projections, scenarios for climate change, trends related to the industrialization of agriculture in Scandinavia, and assumptions about future land use and husbandry practices. This paper will focus on developments in a generational perspective, until year 2100 or so.

In the scope of the presentation, I aim to outline a mainstream, “business as usual” scenario as well as an alternative, more preferable scenario. One of the basic assumptions of this paper is that in order to ascertain that conservation efforts are successful in the long run, we must understand the cultural semiotics, whether local or global, underpinning the symbolicity of the wolf. Aspects of the wolf´s symbolicity are ancient and go thousands of years back – these in effect constitute a quite stable and resistant cultural imagery.  Whenever the wolf´s symbolicity is characteristically modern, on the other hand, societal developments in the 21st century will likely change the way we think about wolves in the future.

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
Brentari, Carlo 2015. Jakob von Uexküll: The Discovery of the Umwelt Between Biosemiotics and Theoretical Biology (Biosemiotics 9). Dordrecht: Springer.
Tønnessen, Morten 2011. Umwelt Transition and Uexküllian Phenomenology – An Ecosemiotic Analysis of Norwegian Wolf Management (= Dissertationes Semioticae Universitatis Tartuensis 16). Doctoral dissertation. Tartu: Tartu University Press. Introduction available online.
von Uexküll, J. (1956 [1934/1940]). Streifzüge durch die Umwelten von Tieren und Menschen: Ein Bilderbuch unsichtbarer Welten. Bedeutungslehre. Hamburg: Rowohlt.

Abstract for NASS IX: "Agency in biosemiotics and enactivism"

I have just composed and submitted the abstract below to the organisers of the 9th conference of the Nordic Association for Semiotic Studies (NASS) (Tartu, August 17-20).

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Agency in biosemiotics and enactivism

By Morten Tønnessen, University of Stavanger

Paper proposal submitted to the theme session “Cognitive semiotics meets biosemiotics / Biosemiotics meets cognitive semiotics”

ABSTRACT
While several fields has a pragmatic interest in the notion of agency qua causal, biosemiotics has an ontological interest in the occurrence of agency in the living realm at large. Although there is currently no consensus in the biosemiotic community on what constitutes a semiotic agent, i.e. an agent in the context of semiosis (the action of signs), most respondents to a recent survey agree that core attributes of an agent include goal-directedness, self-governed activity, processing of semiosis and choice of action, with these features being vital for the functioning of the living system in question. 

In this chapter I seek to compare the biosemiotic understanding(s) of agency with enactive understanding(s) of agency. Despite considerable overlapping in views and outlook, there are sharp differences in how agency is understood in biosemiotics and enactivism. For example, while biosemioticians typically acknowledge agency in all living systems, whether large or small, enactivists tend for the most part to refer to individual agency, and often with stricter qualifications than biosemiotics makes use of. Gallagher´s emphasis on some organisms´ “sense of agency” exemplifies enactivism´s tendency to focus on conscious animals, and to prioritise theorizing about self-awareness rather than awareness or experience in a broader sense.

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). Parts of this text have previously been published in Biosemiotics (Tønnessen, Morten 2015. The Biosemiotic Glossary Project: Agent, agency. To appear in Biosemiotics 8(1); published online January 21st 2015 (doi: 10.1007/s12304-015-9229-0), with Appendix – Supplementary Material – available online).