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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: