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Monday, 18 June 2018

Tripartite Umwelt model applied in Jeremy Lent´s Berkeley presentation

In his talk at the 18th Gathering in Biosemiotics today (held at UC Berkeley), "“The Tao in one’s own nature”: The congruence of Asian wisdom traditions and cognitive neuroscience in identifying the source and implications of human uniqueness", Jeremy Lent made extensive reference to, or rather use of, my workshop presentation (Language and life workshop, Tartu 2012) "The conceptual Umwelt and its role in the tripartite model of the human Umwelt".

Curriculum panel held; paper on Norwegian experience presented

Today I presented my paper "Biosemiotic readings in a Norwegian philosophy of science MA course" as part of the "Curriculum panel" at the 18th Gathering in Biosemiotics, held at UC Berkeley, as one of about nine presenters. Some 50-100 people were present.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

At 18th gathering in biosemiotics, Berkeley: To present paper, contribute to panel, chair editorial board meeting

Here at the 18th gathering in biosemiotics, held at Berkeley, California (June 17-20th), I have been scheduled to take part in three activities:
  • On Monday June 18th at 09.00-10.30 I will present, among 8 others, in the "Curriculum panel" initiated by Paul Cobley, with the paper "Biosemiotic readings in a Norwegian philosophy of science MA course".
  • On Tuesday June 19th at 19.30-21.00 I will chair the editorial board meeting of Biosemiotics.
  • On Wednesday June 20th at 17.30-18.00 I will present my paper "The search image as link between sensation, perception and action" - the very last presentation of the gathering.

At 18th gathering in biosemiotics, Berkeley

I arrived in Berkeley, California, last night, to attend the 18th Gathering in Biosemiotics, held here at University of California Berkeley June 17-20th and convened by Terrence Deacon and Yogi Hendlin. The conference, which seems to have attracted an attendance of about 100 people, takes place at International House at the campus of UC-Berkeley.

This is my first visit to California, and my second visit to the USA (I also attended the 2011 gathering in biosemiotics in New York).

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Lead Editor-in-Chief for Biosemiotics

The Editors-in-Chief of Biosemiotics, that is Alexei Sharov, Timo Maran and myself, have agreed that starting with issue 2/2018 (volume 11, issue 2) I will be the lead Editor-in-Chief. This involves main responsibility for communication, and a coordinating role. Editorial decision-making is joint among the three of us.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

MPH130 grading

I have just graded four exam papers in MPH130 for the continuation exam.

Abstract for "Semiotics of hybrid natures" conference: Current human ecology in light of Umwelt theory

Below is my abstract and bionote for the "Semiotics of hybrid natures" conference to be held in Tartu, Estonia, November 8-10th, where I am one of three keynote speakers.


Current human ecology in light of Umwelt theory

Morten Tønnessen
Associate professor of philosophy, University of Stavanger

Umwelt theory is an expression of von Uexküll´s subjective biology and as such it is usually applied in analysis of individual animals. However, Umwelt theory is fundamentally relational, and therefore also suitable for analysis of more complex wholes. Furthermore, depending on the level of generalization, Umwelt theory is also suitable for analysis of behavioral and experiential dynamics at a group level.
A significant methodological advantage of Umwelt theory is that it is applicable with regard to both human and non-human experience and action within one of the same framework. It is true enough that mapping the human Umwelt requires making methodological specifications of various Umwelt features, but in principle this is the case with the mapping of the Umwelt of any organism.
Given the relational nature of the Umwelt, an organism endowed with an Umwelt is never truly alone. The pertinent questions when mapping Umwelten are: What other creatures does this organism relate to? And of what nature are these relations?
In our age, which many have come to call «the Anthropocene», the human species dominates many ecosystems, and has established a manifold of tightly controlled production systems and resource streams involving or affecting living creatures in both in-door and outdoor environments. In the Anthropocene discourse, the debate rages as to what level of human control is appropriate.
Big picture-notions and planetary perspectives are important, but so is the subjective animal perspective that von Uexküll emphasized. To what extent can these be combined? How are planetary boundaries related to the biosphere understood as semiosphere? Can tipping points, e.g. in climate dynamics, in some cases be understood as being of an ecosemiotic nature?
No matter what we conclude concerning such methodological questions, one can hardly overestimate the effect the human species has even on wildlife. We affect the experience and behaviour of animals by causing environmental changes in land, water and air, by influencing prey densities and the occurrence of natural enemies, and in some cases we also affect animals´ sociality or possibilities for courtship and mating. And towards many species, we behave like an unsustainable super-predator.
In the course of this presentation, I will apply notions such as Umwelt transition, Umwelt trajectory, Umwelt aggregate, and Umwelt alignment, in an attempt to outline some of the most important characteristics of contemporary human ecology. We no doubt affect animal behavior and experience on a massive scale both wittingly and unwittingly. To understand our changing relations to living beings and nature, we must be aware of the different forms relations can take on e.g. for wild, liminal and domesticated animals.

Morten Tønnessen (born 1976) is Associate professor of philosophy at University of Stavanger´s Department of social studies. He has worked with Umwelt theory since his Master degree from University of Oslo (2002), and conducted his doctoral studies at University of Tartu (2011). Tønnessen has published extensively within biosemiotics and human-animal studies, and is currently President of the Nordic Association for Semiotic Studies and Co-Editor-in-Chief of Biosemiotics. Academic (b)log:

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Abstract for JCSW special issue: "Human development, inequality and social risks in Latin-America and the Nordic countries"

I have just finished and submitted the abstract below for our forthcoming special issue of Journal of Comparative Social Work "Welfare in Latin-America and the Nordic countries" (abstracts are due June 25th).
Human development, inequality and social risks in Latin-America and the Nordic countries

Morten Tønnessen
Associate professor of philosophy, Department of social studies, University of Stavanger (Norway)

This article will provide an overview and analysis of human development, inequality and people´s perception of social and economic risks in Latin-America and the Nordic countries. The study will cover the period from 1990 to current times.

With Nordic countries ranking very highly on the UN´s Human Development Index (HDI), comparison with the development of HDI values of the Latin-American countries should be of interest. In addition to analyzing regular HDI data, which details increasing life expectancy and other measures of what is taken to be a good life, I will also review Inequality-adjusted HDI data. Such data have been calculated by the UN since 2010. The original Human Development Index does not take account of inequality, and unadjusted HDI values are therefore best understood as measures of the potential for human development in a country if it had no inequality.

For several Latin-American countries, high inequality levels translate to poorer social welfare than desired. The fight against inequality, and for social inclusion, is a necessary component of the fight for better lives for the entire population of the world´s countries. In my investigation of inequality trends, I will also review data from the World Inequality Report 2018 and other data from the World Inequality Lab at the Paris School of Economics.

After reviewing and comparing human development and inequality data for Latin-American and Nordic countries, I will discuss some indications of people´s perception of economic and social risks in selected countries. This discussion will be based on data from the OECD´s Cross-National Survey on Social and Economic Risks, where surveyed countries include Chile, Mexico, Denmark, Finland and Norway. The OECD survey investigates how concerned people are about e.g. becoming ill or disabled, job-security, income, having adequate housing and access to child care, education, and care services for elderly and disabled family members.

In conclusion I will summarize findings and tentatively identify the main challenges facing the advancement of human development in Latin-America and the Nordic countries.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Letten Prize application

I applied for the Letten Prize 2018. Like 200 or so others.

Grading of four bachelor theses

I have completed grading of four bachelor theses in child welfare, with an external examiner. Grades will only be announced come the deadline June 26th.

Monday, 11 June 2018

"Animal vision" application not funded

The SAMKUL application I took part in, on "Animal vision", was not funded.

See also:

The Greenhouse gets funding for SAMKUL project

A project headed by University of Stavanger´s Dolly Jørgensen, "Beyond Dodos & Dinosaurs: Displaying Extinction & Recovery in Museums" has been given funding from the Research Council of Norway as a SAMKUL project, as one of eight projects nationally (all sorting under the theme "man and nature"). The project is to be carried out as part of "The Greenhouse: An environmental humanities initiative at University of Stavanger". I am a member of the Greenhouse, but not directly involved in Dolly´s project.

Dolly also got funding fot establishing an environmental humanities network called "In the clouds".

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Brief CV updated

I have done a few updates to and some rearrangement of my "Brief academic CV" (see right-hand sidebar). Here´s how the beginning of it looks now:

Paper presentation on changing nature view at Oslo "Jakt i endring" gathering

The last two days, Tuesday and Wednesday, I have attended the first gathering in the more-than-scientific network "Jakt i endring" (one of six national networks on conservation and utilization of outer pastures funded by MILJØFORSK and BIOFORSK). The gathering took place at Oslo Science Park.

On Tuesday, I presented my paper "Jakten på det gode liv - pågående endringer i natur- og menneskesyn".

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Complaint grading for health faculty

Today I reported complaint grading in MHV140 (one exam paper).

Philosophy business

On the last day of May I compiled annual financial report for my philosophy business "Spør Filosofen". I ended with 26.227,91 NOK in income and 4.480,92 NOK in expenses, and thus gross profits of 21.746,99 NOK. Most of the income was writing-related.

Monday, 4 June 2018

Book received

I just got my copy of the book Framing the environmental humanities delivered, with my contribution "Animals in Norwegian political party Programs: A critical reading".

Saturday, 2 June 2018

"Semiotics of hybrid natures" conference: Extended deadline; title of plenary talks

The abstract deadline for the conference "Semiotics of hybrid natures: Anthropogenic ecosystems, multimodalities, transformed umwelts" (Tartu, Estonia 8-10 November 2018) has been extended to June 10th.

Titles of plenary talks are now announced:
  • Nathalie Blanc  (CNRS / Université Paris Diderot -Paris 7, France) – “At the crossroads of senses and meaning, socio-environmental communities”
  • Morten Tønnessen (University of Stavanger, Norway) – “Current human ecology in light of Umwelt theory”
  • Kati Lindström (KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden) – “Generating value in protection policies: Challenge of the Anthropocene entanglements”

Friday, 1 June 2018

Not to grade another UiO master thesis

I have been asked to serve as external examiner for a Master thesis in criminology at the University of Oslo this summer, but due to some relational issues that could raise bias issues, we concluded it was best to forego this.