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Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Google Group to discuss annual Nordic HAS conference

This email was distributed to some 20 people today:
Dear all,

it was a pleasure to see so many of you (us) at our Nordic Human-Animal Studies networking session in Utrecht, during the Minding Animals conference. First, here are some links:
* Nordic HAS Network: write to [Tora Holmberg] to join email list
* Dyreetikkonferansen (Oslo, September 21) (register here)
* The research seminar "Dyr, menneske og mat - dyreetikk i landbruket" (Oslo, September 22 - abstracts due 31/8)
* Nordic HAS portal (all suggestions welcome)

Most importantly, at the informal meeting in Utrecht we came up with the idea of initiating an annual, rotating Nordic Human-Animal Studies conference, perhaps starting in 2013. In order to facilitate the discussion about how this can be done, I have established a Google Group, "Nordic HAS conference". The group's email address is [...]. Inside Google Groups you can choose how often you want to receive emails. Questions for discussion include:
* Who are willing and able to organise the first conference, in 2013?
* How should choice of venue routinely be made? (cf. below)
* Do we need to organise a Nordic NGO, or a network of established national NGOs and networks?
* Is there so much interest in Dyreetikkonferansen and the associated research seminar event (see above) that we could hold a planning meeting in Oslo 21/9 or 22/9?

Feel free to pass this email on to others. The recipients of this initial email will be invited to join the Google Group, others can join as well.

My best,

Morten Tønnessen

Webpage for Norwegian animal ethics conference

The forthcoming conference Dyreetikkonferansen (the animal ethics conference - to be held in Oslo, Norway, September 21st) now has a website: You can read about the conference (in Norwegian) here and register here.

Dyreetikkonferansen aims to be an annual conference. The topic this year is "The animal behind the food and the human behind the consumer". I am part of the organising team (via Minding Animals Norway).

Abstract: "Beyond the anthropocentric (aka linguistic) mistake: Languaging as if nature mattered"

This is my abstract for the 1st International Conference on Interactivity, Language and Cognition (Odense, September 12-14).


Beyond the anthropocentric (aka linguistic) mistake: Languaging as if nature mattered
Morten Tønnessen

“How easy it is for inherited concepts to stifle our senses!”
Abram 2010

“[F]orgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Luke 23:34

Daniel Everett suggests that discourse entails dark cognitive and cultural matter, namely what is not said but is still somehow in discourse. How can we study the «dark matter» of our enlightened worlds? Can we escape the tunnel-sight on language?

To simple-minded humans (philosophers included), language largely constitutes reality. And yet language is free to evolve at the inkling of an eye, the hunch of a confused mind. Without a doubt, language does in many senses open the world up to us – but it also conditions and constrains us. Homo sapiens sapiens is a creature that organises ecological reality in linguistic categories – both perceptually and behaviourally. It is very “natural”, therefore, to commit the anthropocentric mistake, namely to reason (erroneously) that human reality is practically all there is. We tend to think in terms of language, and in terms of language, all is language. All is human language – all is human.

What we do not realize, when committing this mistake, is that it is not only our species that judges, that categorises, that is different, and so forth. It takes a brilliant (and somewhat ludicrous) mind to differentiate between the world as we see it and the world as it may be beyond (underneath, beneath) language. The anthropocentric – or indeed linguistic – mistake, then, consists in mistaking human reality for reality as such. Misjudging the nature of reality, we misjudge our nature – living nature – human nature. In consequence, even our own distinctive nature is obscured. Is there a way out of this ‘house of language’?

Perhaps there is. I suggest that language rather than being external to the human Umwelt (von Uexküll), as fellow biosemioticians Sebeok and Hoffmeyer have suggested, is internal to it. If so, then in a sense language is perception (and action) – and often perception (and action) is language. If cognition is situated, embodied, extended and distributed, then we must be able to be “thinking with animals” (Daston and Mitman (eds) 2005) in a literal sense. In fact, aren’t we already? Examples to this effect will be provided, demonstrating that we are indeed enmeshed in a cultural meshwork (Thibault 2011) – which was never merely human – as well as in a natural meshwork.

Abram, David 2010. The Discourse of the Birds. Biosemiotics 3(3): 263-275.
Daston, Lorraine and Mitman, Gregg (eds) 2005. Thinking with Animals: New Perspectives on Anthropomorphism. New York: Columbia University Press.
Thibault, Paul 2011. First-Order Languaging Dynamics and Second-Order Language: The Distributed Language View. Ecological Psychology 23: 1–36.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Festschrift to Kalevi Kull: Contents, university press presentation

The Festschrift to Kalevi Kull (cf. previous posts on my contributions and the public announcement of the Festschrift) is published by Tartu University Press. This is how the book is presented on their webpage:
The collection of essays dedicated to the 60th birthday of Kalevi Kull, Professor of Biosemiotics at the University of Tartu, comprises twenty innovative articles in biosemiotics and nearby fields. Contributions have grown out of authors’ unpublished research materials, unconventional approaches or sketches of articles. The list of authors includes internationally renowned biosemioticians, Kalevi Kull’s co-thinkers and students. Among topics shared by many articles are attention to the borders of biosemiotics while pointing to the connectedness of the subject matter of biosemiotics and the human cultural sphere, emphasis on the dialogic nature of academic theories as well as human lives, and focus on the identity of biosemiotics and its ethical implications. The collection includes a bibliography of Kalevi Kull’s academic writings in English.
The book is beautifully illustrated by Aleksei Turovski, and is sold online for as little as 10 Euro plus postage.

Contributing authors:
  • Kati Lindström, Riin Magnus, Timo Maran and Morten Tønnessen (introduction)
  • Donald Favareau
  • Anton Markoš
  • Myrdene Anderson
  • Yari Neuman
  • Morten Tønnessen
  • João Queiroz
  • Alexei A. Sharov
  • Terrence W. Deacon
  • João Queiroz, Frederik Stjernfelt and Charbel Niño El-Hani
  • Almo Farina
  • Søren Brier
  • Susan Petrilli and Augusto Ponzio
  • Ekaterina Velmezova
  • Winfried Nöth
  • Claus Emmeche
  • Paul Cobley
  • Timo Maran
  • Riin Magnus
  • Jaan Valsiner
  • Jesper Hoffmeyer
  • PLUS a bibliography of Kalevi Kull's scientific publications in English

Updated brief academic CV

I have updated my "Brief academic CV" (see right margin below). The new, updated and shorter version reads like this:

  1. Associate professor (25% > 100%) at University of Stavanger (Department of Health Studies) in 2012
  2. Doctoral degree from University of Tartu (Department of Semiotics), Estonia. Title of PhD thesis (defended December 15th 2011): "Umwelt Transition and Uexküllian Phenomenology. An Ecosemiotic Analysis of Norwegian Wolf Management"
  3. A main researcher in Timo Maran´s research project (2009-2012) "Dynamical Zoosemiotics and Animal Representations" ( ETF/ESF 7790)
  4. Main organizer of the Tartu workshops on the semiotics/phenomenology of perception (Feb. 2009), and co-organizer of the international conference "Zoosemiotics and Animal Representations" (April 2011)
  5. Guest-editor with Kati Lindström of special issue of Biosemiotics (3(3)), 'Semiotics of Perception' (2010), and with Riin Magnus and Nelly Mäekivi of special issue of Hortus Semioticus (no. 6), 'Semiotics of nature' (2010)
  6. Editor with Timo Maran, Kati Lindström and Riin Magnus of "Semiotics in the Wild: Essays in Honour of Kalevi Kull on the Occasion of His 60th Birthday" (Tartu University Press 2012)
  7. Editor with Kadri Tüür of "The Semiotics of Animal Representations" (Rodopi, forthcoming), and editor with Guri Larsen and Ragnhild Sollund of the Norwegian HAS anthology "Hvem er villest i landet her?" (Spartacus, forthcoming in 2013)
  8. Member of the editorial board of the journal Biosemiotics
  9. Chair of Minding Animals Norway, secretary of the Nordic Association for Semiotic Studies, supplementary representative in the board of University of Stavanger

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Contributions in Festschrift to Kalevi Kull - references

I have two contributions on the Festschrift to Kalevi Kull, which was launched on July 17th, namely the introduction and the text "Introducing semetics" (I further took part in compiling the bibliography of Kalevi Kull's scientific publications in English). Here are the references:

  1. Maran, Timo; Lindström, Kati; Magnus, Riin; Tønnessen, Morten (eds) 2012. Semiotics in the Wild: Essays in Honour of Kalevi Kull on the Occasion of His 60th Birthday. Tartu: Tartu University Press. 212 pp.
  2. Lindström, Kati; Magnus, Riin; Maran, Timo; Tønnessen, Morten 2012. Kalevi Kull and the rewilding of biosemiotics: Introduction. In Maran, Timo; Lindström, Kati; Magnus, Riin; Tønnessen, Morten (eds), Semiotics in the Wild: Essays in Honour of Kalevi Kull on the Occasion of His 60th Birthday, Tartu: Tartu University Press, 7-13.
  3. Tønnessen, Morten 2012. Introducing semetics. In Maran, Timo; Lindström, Kati; Magnus, Riin; Tønnessen, Morten (eds), Semiotics in the Wild: Essays in Honour of Kalevi Kull on the Occasion of His 60th Birthday, Tartu: Tartu University Press, 47-54.

Festschrift to Kalevi Kull presented at 12th gathering in biosemiotics

Around 18 o'clock on Tuesday July 17th, at the end of the first session of the 12th gathering in biosemiotics, in Tartu, Estonia, Timo Maran, Kati Lindström, Riin Magnus and I presented the book Semiotics in the Wild: Essays in Honour of Kalevi Kull on the Occasion of His 60th Birthday to Kalevi and the public at large (with perhaps 70-80 people present).

The four of us are the editors of this volume, which features 20 short contributions written by biosemioticians, an introduction, and a bibliography of Kalevi Kull's scientific publications in English (1977-2012, and counting). The book is published by Tartu University Press.

Presentation held at 12th gathering in biosemiotics

On Saturday the 21st of July I presented my paper "On the notion of induced semiosis - with emphasis on anthropogenic semiosis" at the 12th gathering in biosemiotics, in Tartu, Estonia. There were some 50-60 people present. My paper was the first of three on an Uexküllian theme, in the very last session of the gathering.

The notion of "induced semiosis" was introduced by Alexei Sharov in 2010, and I consider it a valuable addition to biosemiotic vocabulary.

Presentation held at Language and Life seminar

On Tuesday 17th of July I presented my paper "A foray into the hinterland of language: In search of the dark matter of our enlightened worlds" at the seminar "Language and life", which was convened by Stephen Cowley and served as a pre-conference event associated with the 12th gathering in biosemiotics. Due to several cancellations Stephen and I were the only ones who presented, but there were also group discussions. My presentation lasted for some half hour, and was followed by half an hour of discussion. Around 40 people were present. This was the first official activity of the Language and Life research cluster in the Distributed Language Group.

Roundtable chaired at Biosemiotics and culture seminar

On Monday 16th of July I also chaired the concluding roundtable of the seminar "Biosemiotics and the study of culture", for 1 hour and 20 minutes, with Nelly Mäekivi. Besides general discussion, Katya Mandoki and Kalevi Kull gave introductory remarks and Timo Maran summed up.

Presentation held at Biosemiotics and culture seminar

On Monday 16th of July I presented my paper "In the gaze of the other: Describingcultural affordances by conducting comparative Umwelt mapping in animal studies" in the seminar "Biosemiotics and the study of culture", convened by Timo Maran, in Tartu. The seminar was a pre-conference seminar associated with the 12th gathering in biosemiotics. There were around 30 people present. Each talk was devoted some 40 minutes including discussion.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Monograph named Being and Sign

My monograph in-progress, in the wake of my PhD dissertation "Umwelt transition: Uexküllian phenomenology - An ecosemiotic analysis of Norwegian wolf management" (cf. post of September 19th 2011 - and note revised time schedule), has been named Being and Sign: Umwelt Theory for the 21st Century

It was on July 22nd, in Tallinn, that I named it thus, on my way back from the 12th Gathering in Biosemiotics. The title is meant to refer to 1) phenomenology, 2) (bio)semiotics, and 3) Umwelt theory/Uexküll.

CFP: Non-human in social sciences (III)

A third conference (November 17-18) is upcoming in the non-humans in anthropology series in Prague, established by Marco Stella and colleagues. The call for papers, with deadline September 10th, is to be found here.

Due to my wife's pregnancy I'll unfortunately not be able to come this time either.

Wolf play video

My video clip "Wolf play" on YouTube is regaining frequent views somewhat again, after it spiralled to ca. 30.000 views ahead of last Christmas, only to nosedive at New Year. Currently it has been viewed 33.144 times, 1.457 of which the last 30 days.

Views per day, the last 365 days.