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Thursday, 31 March 2016

Nature not to publish article on "global species"

After submitting a presubmission enquiry a few days back, today I was informed by an editor of Nature that they will not publish an article by me on the notion of "global species". "We do not doubt the interest of your study to others working in this and related areas of research", the reply went, but "after consideration, we are not persuaded that your findings represent a sufficiently outstanding scientific advance to justify publication in Nature."

See previous posts mentioning the keyword "global species" and cf. my 2010 article "The global species" (a preview is available via Questia).

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Interview on GPS-tagging of wolves to air on Swedish radio April 4th

On March 8th I was interviewed by Sweden´s Vetenskapsradion [science radio], at Sveriges Radio, the Swedish public radio, along with Katarina Cvek (Djurförsöksetiska nämnden Uppsala, SLU) - see below. I have been informed by Sara Sällström, who conducted the interview, that it will likely air Monday April 4th at 12.10, in the program "Vetandets värld" [the world of knowledge], on channel P1.

See also:

Applied to represent NoSP at PAJ conference

Today I have submitted an application to the Nordic Society for Phenomenology (NoSP) to be the organization´s representative presenting at the annual conference of the Phenomenological Association of Japan (PAJ). The NoSP board´s decision will be announced in late April.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

"Steps to a semiotics of being" cited in Knyazeva article

My article
Tønnessen, Morten 2010. Steps to a Semiotics of Being. Biosemiotics 3.3: 375–392 (online version, published April 30, 2010: DOI: 10.1007/s12304-010-9074-0). 
is cited in

Knyazeva, H. N. 2014. ПОНЯТИЕ UMWELT Я. ФОН ИСКЮЛЯ И ПЕРСПЕКТИВЫ ЭКОЛОГИЧЕСКОЙ МЫСЛИ / J. von Uexküll's Concept of Umwelt and the Prospects of the Ecological Thought. Вестник Международной академии наук. Русская секция 2014, No. 1: 68–74.

Excerpt (p. 71):
Это представление имеет аналоги в экологическом дискурсе. Эколог А. Нэсс (Arne Næss) ввел понятие «эко􏰀 логического Я»: «Мы открываем, что части природы являются частями нас самих» [11, P. 378]

Monday, 28 March 2016

Uexküll intro chapter available online

My 2015 chapter "Introduction: The relevance of Uexküll's Umwelt theory today", the introductory chapter of Carlo Brentari´s book Jakob von Uexküll: The Discovery of the Umwelt Between Biosemiotics and Theoretical Biology (Biosemiotics 9, Springer 2015) is available for download (given subscription) or purchase online, here. DOI is 10.1007/978-94-017-9688-0_1). The first page is available as a sample.

According to "chapter metrics" (Bookmetrix) it has been downloaded 219 times to date.

Friday, 25 March 2016

Abstract to constructivist SI: "Descartes, phenomenology, and the epistemology of biosemiotics"

In the end of January I submitted the abstract below, upon invitation, to the editors of a planned special issue of Biosemiotics on constructivist biosemiotics (Tommi Vehkavaara and Alexei Sharov).
Descartes, phenomenology, and the epistemology of biosemiotics
By Morten Tønnessen  
Associate professor in philosophy at University of Stavanger’s Department of social studies 
René Descartes (1596–1650) has been reckoned as a primary antagonist of biosemiotics ever since Friedrich Salomon Rothschild introduced his seminal 1962 paper with the following statement (p. 774): 
The concept of the symbol shows the way to overcome René Descartes’ partition of man into the self as res cogitans and the body as res extensa. In the symbol psychological meaning and physical sign appear as a unit. 
What is referred to here, and has repeatedly been referred to in later biosemiotic literature, is Descartes’ infamous substance dualism, which is often associated with the mind–body problem, a problem Descartes can be said to have introduced in the modern age. While substance dualism is an instance of ontological dualism, Descartes’ position, which was so important to the establishment and growth of modern science, also implied epistemological dualism, i.e. the view that the (in Cartesian sense human) subject and the objects perceived by it are radically different. In simplified terms, this perspective can be characterized as implying that the knowing subject stands “outside”, or is independent of, the world which it comes to know about. 
In contrast, phenomenology (in its non-Cartesian versions) and hermeneutics have maintained that the knowing subject is always a part of the world that it navigates in and attempts to understand. This perspective is also central to Jakob von Uexküll’s Umwelt theory, and to Uexküllian phenomenology (Tønnessen 2011), a version of phenomenology derived from Uexküll’s work and characterized by the assumption of the universal existence (in the realm of life) of a genuine first person perspective, i.e., of experienced worlds. A living being and its phenomenal world is a unity, and the two can only be understood in tandem. 
“Knowing”, as Kalevi Kull (2009: 81) has argued, “is a distinctive feature of living systems.” Animals know – plants know – even microorganisms know (not to mention distributed knowing in various composite systems). It is the task of biology to study and describe what they know, and how they know what they know. This implies the ontological finding that all living beings are knowing creatures, and the related epistemological observation that in order to get to know as much as possible about the world at large (the natural world included), we must base much of our human knowledge on getting acquainted with what non-humans know. In consequence, biology, and perhaps zoology in particular, is key to contributing to overall human knowledge. This perspective is very unlike that of Descartes, which was that animals are machine-like and bereft of any true intelligence or rationality. 
In this article, I will discuss the relevance for biosemiotics of Michael Polanyi´s notion of ´tacit knowledge´. All organisms have tacit knowledge. This is the kind of knowledge that connects us directly with non-humans. Moreover, I will contrast Uexküllian phenomenology with Peircean phenomenology, and also draw on phenomenologists such as Husserl, Schütz, and Abram. 
In conclusion, I will refer to the common critique of Cartesian dualism found in health science in general and nursing science in particular. In doing this I will discuss to what extent biosemiotics does or should share a (w)holistic view of humanity, and of nature. In one version, such a view of humanity implies that human life has four dimensions, namely a physical, a psychological, a social and a spiritual dimension (and a reductionist view typically amounts to acknowledging only the physical dimension). 
Kull, Kalevi (2009). Biosemiotics: To know, what life knows. Cybernetics and Human Knowing 16(3/4): 81–88.
Rothschild, Friedrich Salomon (1962). “Laws of symbolic mediation in the dynamics of self and personality”. Annals of New York Academy of Sciences 96: 774–784.
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.

"Uexküllian bio-ontology" article referred to in Marinakis article

My article
Tønnessen, Morten 2001. Outline of an Uexkullian Bio-Ontology. Sign Systems Studies 29 (2): 683–691. With Russian ("Гранипы Юкскюлловской биоонтологии") and Estonian ("Uexkülli bio-ontoloogia piirjoni") abstract.
is referred to in 
Marinakis, Yorgos 2012. On the semiosphere, revisited [p. 55 (Bibliography), Tønnessen 2001]. Signs vol. 6. Available online: 57 pp.
The reference occurs in the bibliography. I have not located any mention in the main body of text.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Book review of Kolbert´s The sixth extinction published in Prosa

My book review of the Norwegian translation of Elizabeth Kolbert´s The sixth extinction was published in Prosa no. 1/2016.  Also available online. Reference:
Tønnessen, Morten 2016. Miljøvern for dummies [Environmentalism for dummies]. Book review of Elizabeth Kolbert, Den sjette utryddelsen: En unaturlig historie, Mime forlag 2015. Prosa 1(2016): 62-64.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

"Mapping human impact" chapter freely available online

My 2011 book chapter "Mapping Human Impact – Expanding Horizons: Interdisciplinary Integration" is freely available online (PDF format) via, as part of the book The Space of Culture - the Place of Nature in Estonia and Beyond (Approaches to Cultural Theory vol. 1, Tartu University Press). My article is on pp. 93-106.

Demography paper freely available online via Brage

My article "Statistikerens guide til utopia II: En demografisk analyse av øko-visjoner om befolkningsnedgang i det tredje årtusen" [The statistician's guide to utopia II: A demographic analysis of eco-visions of population decline in the third milennium] is freely available online (PDF format) via, a Norwegian self-depositing site used by University of Stavanger.

Monday, 21 March 2016

"The biosemiotic glossary project: Umwelt" published online

Our review article "The biosemiotic glossary project: Umwelt", which is 21 pp. plus a 6 pp Appendix, has been published online. Reference:
Tønnessen, Morten; Carlo Brentari and Riin Magnus. The Biosemiotic Glossary Project: Umwelt. Published online March 15th 2016 (doi: DOI 10.1007/s12304-016-9255-6), with Appendix (Supplementary Material available online).
It will appear in print very soon, in Biosemiotics 9(1), April 2016.

18 MA exam papers graded

Last Friday I finished grading a total of 18 home exam papers in the UiS EVU course "Philosophy of science and health care ethics" (course code FXPSH100).

Friday, 18 March 2016

Minding Animals Norway mentioned in government white paper on wolves

Today the Norwegian Stortingmelding (white paper) on wolf management, "Ulv i norsk natur: Bestandsmål for ulv og ulvesone" (Wolves in Norwegian nature: Population target for wolves and wolf zone) was released by the Norwegian government. Minding Animals Norway is listed on p. 83 as one of the 70 consultative bodies that responded to a related hearing.

Third part of Delphi study

Today I responded to the third and final part of a Delphi study on play (see previous posts). The study was conducted by Daniela Kritzl and Nicole Matus, Occupational Therapy, University of Applied Sciences Vienna.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Paper abstract with Laura Kiiroja for GiB16: "Socialization of captive wolves"

For the 16th Annual Gathering in Biosemiotics (Prague, 4-8 July 2016), Laura Kiiroja and I submitted the abstract below.

Socialization of captive wolves
Laura Kiiroja & Morten Tønnessen  
Wolves give rise to controversy not only in the wild but also in captivity. Due to their genetically inherited fear of humans, wolves in captivity are notorious for persistent escape attempts, self-destructive behaviours, stereotypical behaviour and over-all suffering. Socialization of wolves with humans makes the animals more suitable for living in captive environments by reducing their fear of humans. Although proven effective, it is still a widely unknown and often misunderstood method of improving animal welfare for captive wolves. 
In this paper, a semiotic approach is used to explain the essence and proper methodology of socialization of wolves with humans for animal welfare purposes. Emphasis is put on understanding the changes in the animal’s Umwelt and in the human–animal relationship. The interdisciplinary theoretical contribution will be supported by Laura Kiiroja’s practical experiences with socialization of wolves in USA and Germany, and by Morten Tønnessen’s studies of wolf socialization in two Norwegian zoos (Langedrag mountain farm and wildlife park and Polar Zoo). Additionally, Kiiroja has conducted semi-structured interviews with world-recognized experts.  
The study explains how proper socialization aims to change the human’s significance in the animal’s Umwelt from enemy to social partner. This requires social human-imprinting, and using consistently positive methods of taming and handling. In fact, using aversive techniques, such as dominance theory and punishment, damages socialization and results in dangerous situations. Working “on animal terms” and establishing effective inter-specific communication is crucial for avoiding conflicts and maintaining positive and healthy relationships. The authors suggest that a zoosemiotic approach complements more mainstream ethological knowledge in human–animal interactions and is capable of advancing animal welfare as well as give zoo visitors more realistic experiences of wolves. 
The pros and cons of socializing captive wolves will be analysed. Animal welfare will improve with more opportunities for enrichment, less stressful effect of visitors, and better veterinary routines and husbandry practices. Avoiding suffering caused by constant fear enables the animal to display a quite complete species-specific behavioural repertoire. This is a benefit for behavioural research on captive wolves. Additionally, seeing the wolves in close proximity or interacting with them triggers empathy and interest in visitors, and this may contribute positively to support for wolf conservation. On the downside, zoos and other facilities keeping socialized wolves should be aware of the possibility that visitors might misinterpret wolves as potential pets, and adjust their education program accordingly. The management of these facilities should furthermore invest in educated wolf personnel, to be able to meet the requirements of proper wolf socialization. 
Keywords: Umwelt theory, wolves, captivity, socialization, human–animal relationships, human–animal communication, animal welfare, animal behaviour

127 SAMKUL applications

According to Research Council of Norway, 127 applications were submitted to the SAMKUL grant scheme in February. This includes my application "Umwelt Theory For Our Time". About 100 mill. NOK will be allocated to successful applicants.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Internal complaint examiner for political theory course

I have agreed to be "internal complaint examiner" for the course "Politisk teori" [Political theory] at Department of Media, Culture and Social Sciences at University of Stavanger (course code BST115_1) for the next three years, starting now. The course is part of the UiS bachelor in political science.

Three more supervision sessions

Today and yesterday I have conducted the second of four supervision sessions for my three students in bachelor thesis in child welfare at University of Stavanger´s Department of social studies.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Application for parental leave sent

Today I have posted my application for parental leave in relation to the birth last autumn of our twins Alexander and Cecilie da Silva-Tønnessen. All I have had so far is two weeks straight after birth. I now apply for a further 21 weeks or so, with some of it taken as graded parental leave (part-time, combined with part-time work). If the application is approved as submitted, I will start part-time parental leave April 1st and have full-time parental leave August 1st to October 26th (the latter portion of leave will be rearranged if I get a position as Head of department at University of Stavanger).

Unions, safety representative calling for prolongation of Head of department´s term

Today an email was sent to all faculty at University of Stavanger´s Department of social studies, announcing that an attached letter had been sent to the Dean of Faculty of social sciences, Einar Marnburg, calling for prolongation of Einar Engebretsen´s term as functioning Head of department, until organizational changes have been carried out (see previous post). This would imply that a new Head of Department would not be appointed with effect from August 1st 2016, but only at some later point. The letter was sent on behalf of two unions and the department´s safety representative.

I am one of two applicants deemed qualified and currently being considered as Head of department of social studies (se previous posts).

Open meeting on organizational development attended

Today I attended an open meeting at University of Stavanger on ongoing considerations of "organizational development"/organizational changes. A couple of hundred people were present.

Monday, 14 March 2016

To grade 100/300 exam papers for Department of health studies

I have agreed with University of Stavanger´s Department of health studies that this Spring I will grade about 100 home exam papers, and all (about 200) Multiple Choice exam papers, in Examen Philosophicum (course code SVEXPHIL2). I have been grading papers in this course since 2009.

COST involvement (GroupHouseNet) - WG5; Stakeholder and End-User Forum

Early in March, at the first Management Committee meeting of COST action CA 15134, "Synergy for preventing damaging behaviour in group housed pigs and chickens" (GroupHouseNet) (see previous posts), it was (according to the minutes) formalized that I am a member of the action´s Work Group 5 "Dissemination and exploitation", and of the "Stakeholder and End-User Forum".

Friday, 11 March 2016

13 MC exam papers graded

Today I have graded (pass/fail) 13 Multiple Choice exam papers in the continuation exam in Examen Philosophicum for the UiS Business School.

PHCC meeting attended

Today I attended a meeting for faculty involved in the UiS EVU master program Prehospital Critical Care (PHCC), at University of Stavanger´s Department of health studies.

Good performance on cut-e skills tests

Today I met with a HR consultant to go through my cut-e scores in relation to my job applications for positions as Head of department at University of Stavanger. The test battery consisted of four tests, two of these concerned leadership style / personality. The other two were skills tests. I did well on the skills tests, with a performance better than 86% of others who have taken one of the tests (involving a fictitious email inbox), and a performance better than 98% of others who have taken the other test (verbal finance).

See also:

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Six exam papers graded for UiS Department of social studies

Today I have graded six exam papers in Examen philosophicum at University of Stavanger´s Department of social studies. These were submitted to a so-called "continuation exam" (second chance to stand for exam).

Seven exam papers graded for University of Bergen

Today I finished taking part in examining of seven papers in Examen Philosophicum for University of Bergen (Faculty of social sciences). All exam papers were evaluated by me and fellow examiner Trygve Lavik following complaints from students on their original grades.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Interviewed by Sweden´s science radio

Yesterday, attending Vargsymposiet [The wolf symposium], I was interviewed by Sweden´s Vetenskapsradion [science radio], along with Katarina Cvek (Djurförsöksetiska nämnden Uppsala, SLU). Vetenskapsradion is part of Sveriges Radio, the Swedish public radio. The topic we discussed was first and foremost (the ethics of) GPS-tagging of wolves.

Panel discussion on ethics of wolf research and management attended

Yesterday, at Vargsymposiet [The wolf symposium], I participated in a panel discussion on ethics in wolf research and management, along with Katarina Cvek (Djurförsöksetiska nämnden Uppsala, SLU), Olof Liberg (SKANDULV) and the chair Sverre Sjölander. The panel discussion lasted for an hour.

Ethics of wolf management and research paper presented at the Wolf Symposium

Yesterday, at Vargsymposiet [The wolf symposium], I presented my paper "Merket for livet – Etiske spørsmål knyttet til forvaltning av og forskning på ulv" [Marked for life – Ethical questions concerning management of and research on wolves]. This year there has been around 150 registered participants.

This was an invited presentation, 45 minutes long.

Complete list of confirmed contributors for special issue on biosemiotic ethics

A couple of days ago we completed our list of confirmed contributors for Zeitschrift für Semiotik´s forthcoming special issue on biosemiotic ethics. Most were confirmed around January.

See also:

Travel complications for Brighton staff trip

Our return from England to Norway last Friday did not happen quite as planned. Our bus broke down a 15 minutes drive from Gatwick. Taxis were ordered, but took so long to get there, apparently due to miscommunication, that we (meaning a group of 14 I was in) did not get to the airport in time for our flight to Stavanger. We ended up staying the night at Holliday Inn Gatwick, and the next morning I joined the taxi to Heathrow along with the others before flying, on my own, to Kristiansand via Amsterdam.

See also:

Friday, 4 March 2016

Staff trip to Brighton attended

From Wednesday until today I have attended the staff trip of University of Stavanger´s Department of social studies to Brighton, UK, close to London. The program has included a workshop (the one I attended addressed research profile and external funding), discussions about the master in social studies, ongoing review of the bachelors in social work and child welfare, presentations of the PhD scholars´ work, and (a satisfying) dinner last night at Browns Brasserie.

Job interview; still considered as Head of Department

Friday one week ago I attended a (my) job interview at University of Stavanger, in the board room of the university. This was in relation to my job applications for positions as Head of Department at Department of social studies and Department of media, culture and social sciences respectively.  I have in the days since been informed that I am still being considered for both positions.

See also:
cut-e tests conducted [the test I took will be used also in relation to Department of media, culture and social science]

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Home exam questions composed

On Thursday February 25th I completed composing home exam questions for the course "Philosophy of science and health care ethics" (UiS EVU).

5 hours of teaching

On Friday February 26th I taught for 5 hours in the course "Philosophy of science and health care ethics", for UiS EVU. This completed three days of teaching, in the second and final gathering of the course. Home exam in the course started the same day.

Second part of Delphi study

A couple of days ago I conducted the second part on a Delphi study on play (checking wording of definitions).

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

cut-e tests conducted

Today I have gone through four cut-e tests online in relation to my application for the position as Head of department at University of Stavanger´s Department of social studies.

Visit to University of Sussex´s Department of social work and social care work

Today, on a staff trip with University of Stavanger´s Department of social studies, I have visited University of Sussex and its Department of social work and social care work.

To co-write article on family topic

I have agreed to co-write a chapter with Svein Erik Tuastad for an anthology to be published in relation to the 25 year anniversary of University of Stavanger´s Department of social studies. The topic will be the (philosophy of the) balance between family and individual rights in child welfare contexts.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

9/13 abstracts peer-review for IACS 2

Yesterday I peer-reviewed 9 abstracts - or rather 13, since one was a theme session, for IACS 2, the second conference of the International Association for Cognitive Semiotics.


Yesterday I supervised my third student in child welfare (first supervision session).

Proof queries for Umwelt review article

Today I have responded to 17 proof queries to our article "The biosemiotic glossary project: Umwelt", to appear in Biosemiotics.

"Synchronicity" paper accepted for presentation at IVSA 2016

I have been informed that my paper "Synchronicity in human perception of animals" has been accepted as a paper presentation at IVSA 2016 - Visualizing Sustainability: Imagined Futures (Lillehammer University College, Norway, June 22-24th 2016).