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Thursday, 29 April 2010

Examiner, University of Stavanger

I have been appointed as examiner (sensor) for Ex.Phil. (introductory philosophy) students at University of Stavanger for a period of one year. In practice, this means that I will correct exam papers in November/December this year. It will be my second time.

Filosofisk Forum - looking back, and ahead

Today Filosofisk Forum (Agder University) had what turns out to be our last event for the semester (a seminar-style talk/discussion about love). Unfortunately Camilla Serck-Hanssen (University of Oslo) has had to cancel her planned talk in May - but we expect to host a lecture by her this autumn in stead.
I have agreed to continue as a member of the steering group this autumn. We'll have to find new student representatives from the fresh one-year philosophy students come September.
Next week we'll have a steering group meeting. Following that, we'll conduct a report on the activities of this semester.

Agents in hiding

I am in the process of contributing, as part of a proposed panel on animal agency, with an abstract to the 6th conference of the European Society for Environmental History (ESEH), to be arranged in Turku, Finland, June/July 2011. The title of my abstract is "Wolf history: Agents in hiding".

Wolf criminology

My abstract "The legality and ethical legitimacy of wolf hunting in Scandinavia" has been accepted for presentation at the 52nd research seminar of the Scandinavian Research Council for Criminology (SCRfC), to be arranged at Hønefoss, Norway, May 10-12.

Research assistant (+100)

I am in the process of signing a new contract (or get my current contract renewed) as a research assistant for the Agder University project Multimodalitet, lesemidler og læremidler (Multimodality, literacy and learning), for another 100 hours.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010


I have updated my CV.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Wolf land online

My article Wolf land has been published online (April 23rd) as part of the special issue of Biosemiotics Semiotics of perception. You'll find it here (full access for subscribers only) - and a free preview here.

Wolf land is in the context of the present article to be considered as an ambiguous term referring to “the land of the wolf” from the wolf’s perspective as well as from a human perspective. I start out by presenting the general circumstances of the Scandinavian wolf population, then turn to the Norwegian wolf controversy in particular. The latter half of the article consists of an elucidation of current wolf ecology related to what is here termed wolf land, and a concluding comment to the now controversial notion of wilderness. The final section of this article further includes identification of changing factors in current Scandinavian wolf ecology in terms of its semiotic niche, and ontological niche, respectively.

Keywords Wolf ecology - Wildlife management - Anti-conservationism - Land - Territory - Wilderness

The following articles have also been published online (print version is due in December):

* Merleau-Ponty’s Concept of Nature and the Ontology of Flesh
Ane Faugstad Aarø
* Ecosystems are Made of Semiosic Bonds: Consortia, Umwelten, Biophony and Ecological Codes
Kalevi Kull
* Autocommunication and Perceptual Markers in Landscape: Japanese Examples
Kati Lindström
* Plant as Object within Herbal Landscape: Different Kinds of Perception
Renata Sõukand and Raivo Kalle
* Introduction to the Special Issue Semiotics of Perception Being in the World of the Living—Semiotic Perspectives
Kati Lindström and Morten Tønnessen

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Introduction to special issue online

"Being in the world of the living - Introduction to the Special Issue Semiotics of Perception", written by Kati Lindström and me, has been published online (April 20, 2010).
The article is accessible in full-length for subscribers only.

This special issue on the semiotics of perception originates from two workshops arranged in Tartu, Estonia, in February 2009. We are located at the junction of nature and culture, and of semiotics and phenomenology. Can they be reconciled? More particularly, can subfields such as biosemiotics and ecophenomenology be mutually enriching? The authors of the current special issue believe that they can. Semiotic study of life and the living can emerge as properly informed only if it is capable of incorporating observations made in natural science, philosophy and cultural studies. The semiotic study of nature entails an experiential turn in the study of life processes. Perception is—or should be—at the heart of the life sciences.

Keywords Animal mind - Landscape - Perception - Semiotics and phenomenology - Uexküllian phenomenology - Umwelt

Special issue "Semiotics of Perception" delayed

The publication of the special issue of Biosemiotics "Semiotics of perception", for which I am a guest editor along with Kati Lindström, has been rescheduled due to a copyright issue. It will appear as no. 3(3), in December. A regular issue will appear as no 3(2) in August.
9 out of 10 articles will be published online in a matter of days and weeks.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Third semioethics interview finished, submitted and approved

The third semioethics interview, "The semioethics interviews III: John Deely: Human understanding in the age of global awareness" was in the main finished the last weekend and finally submitted (with minor changes) this Monday to Nova Science publishers for their forthcoming edited collection "Semiotics: Theory and applications". Wednesday it was accepted for publication.
I have further cleared it for possible cross-publication in their topical journals.
To consider products as processes
To be aware that something exists independently of us
To realize that this planet is what we have
To realize that tomorrow is not a forever thing
To pinpoint who are responsible
To understand the domino effect
To conceptualize reality appropriately
To foresee negative consequences of miraculous technologies

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

GDP: Debate in The Economist

This week's online debate in The Economist concerns the following question:
This house believes that GDP growth is a poor measure of improving living standards.
Utopian Realism wrote:

Dear Sir,
for me it is impossible to answer the posted question with a simple 'yes' or 'no', because two matters appear to be confused at the very root of the debate:
a) whether or not GDP measures (there are various measures) are precise indicators of 'living standards'
b) whether or not growing GDP is a desirable political aim (for already wealthy nations)

It might very well be that the answer to a) is in the main yes, but the answer to b) no (if so, there is an optimal level of GDP, and GDP is not to be maximized, but optimalized).

This possibility, however, presupposes that the debate's term 'living standards' is highly ambiguous, and a poor choice of terms. Which it is. In market terms, GDP measures are quantitative measures (even though they do refer to the 'demand' of economic stakeholders with means). The 'living standard' Oswald has in mind appears to be of a qualitative nature.

The Norwegian philosopher Arne Næss distinguished systematically between 'standard of living' (a quantitative measure of wealth) and 'quality of life'. If such a distinction had been introduced in the polled question, I would have been able to take a stand. As it stands, a 'yes' would imply conceptual ignorance, and a 'no' ethical ignorance.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Animal studies email list

I have joined the email list of the Nordic HAS (The Nordic Animal Studies Network), "a group mainly for scientists and Ph.D. students active in the field of human-animal studies. The network is intended for discussions and exchange of information regarding conferences, seminars and other academic events within the multidisciplinary area of human-animal studies and to facilitate research cooperation among its participants.".

Sunday, 11 April 2010

"Is a wolf..." revised and ready for publication

I have just revised my article now entitled "Is a wolf wild as long as it does not know that it is being thoroughly handled?", not least by adding a 2pp "Closing note: On Arne Næss' philosophy of wolf policies". The article now refers to his 1974 and 1987 articles on the topic.
Humanimalia has confirmed that they will publish my article. I am adding the part on Næss in response to a suggestion from their external reviewer - who liked the questions the article poses. He hopes it will spur debate.

Abstract: The legality and ethical legitimacy of wolf hunting in Scandinavia

I have just submitted an abstract to the 52nd research seminar of the Scandinavian Research Council for Criminology (SCRfC), to take place at Hønefoss, Norway, May 10-12.

The legality and ethical legitimacy of wolf hunting in Scandinavia

This presentation will partake in the session May 11th, “Globalisering i kriminologien og økologisk kriminologi”.

First, I will briefly examine laws and rules regulating wolves in Norway and Sweden since “Lov om Utryddelse af Rovdyr og Fredning af andet Vildt” (Law on Extinction of Carnivores and Protection of other Wildlife) was enforced in Norway in 1845. This section will include comparisons of Norwegian and Swedish management regulations. In Norway, wolves have had the status of a protected species since 1972, but conservation policies remain controversial – and are regularly sabotaged by means of illegal hunting. The same goes for Sweden, which in January orchestrated the first legal wolf hunt for more than a generation.

Second, I will discuss the ethical legitimacy of legal and illegal wolf hunting respectively. How do they compare, in terms of what is justifiable in light of sustainable development etc.? The centrality of this question is evidenced by the fact that a majority of Scandinavian wolves today die in the encounter with a bullet. Even though the motivation of the various shooters varies greatly, the outcome for the wolf is systematically similar. Unlike illegal hunting, legal hunts have the sanction of the law. From a pragmatic standpoint, however, the attempts to negotiate agreement with opponents of conservation policies by allowing or conducting wolf hunts do not seem to have much effect on the level of illegal hunting. Rather than working so as to combat illegal hunting, one could claim that current management strategies rather legitimize wolf hunting as a phenomenon in general.

Academic news in brief VI - Tartu/Tallinn events April 1-8

April 1-7 I was in Tartu, and 7-8 in Tallinn.

1) Thursday April 1st the deadline for submitting abstracts to the special issue of Hortus Semioticus "Semiotics of nature" expired. All in all we received 3 English language abstracts. We expect to see them all materialize.
2) Friday April 2nd I presented the 30m PP "Territory vs. confinement: The Umwelten of free-range vs. captive wolves" at a 6 hour Research seminar in zoosemiotics and animal representations.
3) During the seminar, I agreed with Silver RATTASEPP and Nelly MÄEKIVI to include the latter (possibly as a replacement of the former) in the planned co-work with Estonian wolf ethologist Ilmar ROOTSI. An initial meeting has yet to take place - perhaps in June.
4) After the seminar, researchers of the project Dynamical zoosemiotics and animal representations had a meeting (at Vilde) where we first of all made plans for the April 2011 conference Zoosemiotics and animal representations. I agreed to co-edit the proceedings (expected spring 2012) with Timo MARAN, which we aim to get published in book form by an international publisher. The proceedings will envelop selected conference contributions only.
5) Monday April 5th I guest-lectured in Riin MAGNUS' English language MA course in ecosemiotics. The topic was "More-than-human needs: The needs of the living". We discussed two papers:
- Arne NÆSS & Ivar MYSTERUD: "Philosophy of wolf policies (I): General principles and prelimenary exploration of selected norms"
- Alf HORNBORG: "Vital signs: An ecosemiotic perspective on the human ecology of Amazonia"
6) After the seminar I discussed the topic of animal play during lunch with MA student Arlene TUCKER. She'll write a term paper on fish play.
7) I then met with Riin MAGNUS to prepare our Hortus Semioticus interview with Kalevi KULL.
8) Tuesday April 6th I met 2 hours with visiting professor Walter GULICK for consultation. I am a student in his course "The philosophy of Michael POLANYI". Polyani seems quite useful for my thesis work etc.
9) After reading another chapter in GULICK's forthcoming POLANYI reader - which we use as course material - I went to class (generally I take this course as a reading course. A term paper will have to be conducted in May).
10) A while after the course, I returned to Department of semiotics to conduct the interview on biosemiotics with Kalevi KULL, together with Riin MAGNUS. 1hr50min of recordings.
11) Finally, in Tallinn, Wednesday April 7th, I met with Allan GROMOV in Keskkonnaministeerium, the Estonian Ministry of the Environment, to discuss possible cooperation on climate issues.
You'll find the first five "Academic news in brief" postings here.

Minding Animals International (MAI)

I have gotten in touch with Minding Animals International, the people behind the 2009 Newcastle/Australia conference and the forthcoming 2012 conference in the same series to be arranged in Utrecht. Concretely, I have been added to the MA Email Network.
MAI aims to promote integration/development of contact between researchers in the field of animal studies on one hand and advocacy groups promoting environmentalism, animal rigths etc. on the other. Importantly, their vision is to support attempts to integrate the environmental movement and animal rights groups - though MAI's work is in the main theoretical/scholarly. A crucial task!
You'll find their Objectives & Principles here. Except for a few bizarre ideas, such as the topic of "Animals and the Queer Communities" (no offence to either party), it's all good.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Webpage for zoosemiotics conference (2011)

The international conference Zoosemiotics and Animal Representations, to be arranged in Tartu April 2011, has launched its official homepage.

Our call for papers has deadline September 15.

Thanks to Katre Pärn for designing the webpage.

ResearcherID profile

I have registered with a profile at ResearcherID (here). ID: B-1482-2010.

Since I am not at any of my institutions, I have not yet been able to add publications.


With background from philosophy, I currently work mostly within the framework of semiotics, in the tradition of biologist Jakob von Uexküll (1864-1944). My main topic is human-nature relations. Consequently everything from conservation issues and philosophy of science via cultural representation of animals and economic growth to future studies is of interest to me. Reworking ontology is our greatest challenge.

Join James Hansen's email list!

A few days back it was announced that climate scientist James Hansen has been awarded this year's Sophie prize.

I have been on his email list for a year or so now. You can join it here.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Philosophy/history of ethology workshop materializing

The Sydney workshop on ethology that I was invited to not so long ago got funding, and will materialize. This will be my first visit to Australia (and the second continent I visit on the Southern hemisphere).
NAME: History and philosophy of ethology -- International
Collaborative Workshop
PLACE: Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia
LIKELY TIME: February 22-4, 2011
Thanks to Juipi Chien (Taiwan) for making connections between people...