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Monday, 18 February 2013

Kulturverk article commenting on deep ecology debate

In the article "Et dypøkologisk forsvar" [A deep ecological defence], published by the Norwegian online magazine KULTURVERK.COM, Magne Stolpnessæter states the following, in a comment to Espen Gamlund's chronicle (and journal article) "Hva er galt med dypøkologien?" [What is wrong with deep ecology?] - my translation: 
Therefore, deep ecology is just as much about theoretical preparations as it is about relevant practice among a creative minority, for as long as current states of affairs go on. And it is absolutely right as Morten Tønnes[s]en says, that deep ecology needs a solid update. Discussions about tactics versus strategy is a natural place to start.

Interview in Norwegian daily on deep ecology

Wednesday January 9th an interview with me was published in the Norwegian daily newspaper Klassekampen. The context of the interview was philosopher Espen Gamlund's chronicle "Hva er galt med dypøkologien?" ["What's wrong with deep ecology?"], which was published in the same newspaper the day before, along with an interview with Gamlund. His chronicle was a summary of an academic journal article with the same title, published in late 2012 in Norsk Filosofisk Tidsskrift.

The approximate interview text can be read in my Norwegian language blog Utopisk Realisme.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Board meeting and seminar of UiS

Thursday this week I took part in the seminar and board meeting of University of Stavanger. The day included three events:
  1. A joint board meeting with the International Research Institute of Stavanger (IRIS)
  2. A brief regular board meeting
  3. A strategy seminar for UiS, with the board members giving input to the revision process with regard to the university's strategy up to 2020
I made use of my voice at all three occasions, which all took place at the Stavanger Concert Hall. The regular board meeting approved the university's preliminary financial report for 2012, and appointed Elaine Munthe as Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Education, appointed Eric Brun as Head of Department at Department of Industrial Economics, Risk Management and Planning, and re-appointed Truls Engstrøm as Head of Department at the Norwegian School of Hotel Management.

Abstract: The statistician's guide to Utopia 2

This Friday I wrote an abstract titled "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 millennium], for a Festschrift to Professor Guri Larsen and two colleagues (University of Oslo). The article will be a follow-up to my 2008 article "The statistician's guide to utopia: The future of growth".

The abstract is, as the article will be, in Norwegian.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Ask the philosopher: Philosophy business

My commercial website "Spør Filosofen" [Ask the philosopher] is back online, now based on a Wordpress template. In Norwegian.

A plagiarism case

A couple of weeks ago, one of my students at University of Stavanger's Department of Health Studies lost his/her right to study for one year following reported plagiarism at last autumn's exam in Examen Philosophicum. There are currently around 20 such cases each year at University of Stavanger, more than the previous years.

7 exam papers in introductory philosophy graded

February 8th-10th I graded 7 papers in Examen Philosophicum as part of the internet-based bachelor in nursing at University of Stavanger's Department of Health Studies, a so-called continuation exam (for students who were absent due to illness, and for students who failed the regular exam). 

Monday, 11 February 2013

Two e-compendiums in introductory philosophy revised

This weekend I started executing my plan for revising 12 e-compendiums used in University of Stavanger's web-based bachelor in nursing, by revising the two first e-compendiums, titled "Hva er etikk?" [What is ethics?] and "Omsorgsetikk og kjønn" [Ethics of care and gender].

42 master-level exam papers in philosophy of science and ethics graded

January 1st-7th I graded 42 3,000-word exam papers in the master course "Vitenskapsfilosofi og etikk" [Philosophy of science and ethics] at University of Stavanger's Department of Health Studies, for which I was the teacher last autumn.

Book proposal on how to write exam papers

In the beginning of January I contacted the Norwegian publishing house Cappelen Damm Akademisk, whose representative would soon visit University of Stavanger's Department of Health Studies, concerning an idea for a book. I met with this editor soon thereafter, and in the beginning of February I submitted a project description. 

The book, which would be about how to write exam papers in introductory philosophy, has been work-titled Tankestreker [dashes, or literally 'lines of thought' in Norwegian] or alternatively Hvordan skrive godt - med hode og hjerte [How to write well - with head and heart]. I came up with the idea after having graded close to 1,000 exam papers the last few years. The book would be partly based on my 90-minute course in academic writing.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Norwegian HAS anthology approaching publication

The Norwegian Human-Animal Studies anthology Hvem er villest i landet her? Menneskets forbruk og kontroll av dyr [Who is wildest in this country here? Humans' consumption and control of animals] is approaching publication (scheduled for April). I am editing this book along with Ragnhild Sollund and Guri Larsen, who are both professors of criminology at the University of Oslo. We received preliminary feedback from the publisher, Spartacus forlag/Scandinavian Academic Press, before Christmas and detailed feedback just after New Year. At that stage all chapters were accepted for publication. We re-submitted a slightly revised manuscript (the revision involving all contributors), which now also includes a subject index, this week.

In addition to being one of the editors of this HAS-collection, I contribute with two chapters plus to the introduction. My chapters are called "Hvem er villest i landet her? - Et ulveliv" [Who is wildest in this country here? A wolf's life] and "Menneskeveldet" [The human empire - cf. my English language article The Global Species].

The Semiotics of Animal Representations nearing publication

The book The Semiotics of Animal Representations, which I am editing along with Kadri Tüür, is approaching publication. In December we re-submitted a full and partly revised manuscript, and in January we were notified that all chapters had been accepted for publication. We are currently working with more minute changes (following feedback from Rodopi and proof-comments from contributors) and composing a subject index.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Report from Animals & Philosophy roundtable by John Hadley published

John Hadley, who chaired the roundtable/stucy circle session "Animals & Philosophy" at Minding Animals 2 in Utrecht, the Netherlands last summer, has published a summary of that roundtable in the newsletter of the International Society for Environmental Ethics (ISEE). The report appears on pp. 37-38 of Vol. 23, No. 3 Winter 2012. I was the scribe of this roundtable.

Defining "utopian realism"

In an email exchange via the biosemiotics email list (web address now added to "Some related academic links", right margin) related to my recent blog post "Why I joined the ISCB", Edwina Taborsky asked me to define what I mean by "utopian realism", the name of this blog. My reply read like this:
[A] utopia is commonly understood as a desirable yet unachievable - impossible - future state, e.g. of a society. By "utopian realism", I mean an attitude to the state of the world that is realistic (e.g. attainable, likely) in the long term. In the short term, a state closely resembling status quo is typically what is most likely to occur. In the long term, however, it is often very unrealistic to envision a continuation of a state closely resembling status quo - and conversely, the possible future states of society etc. which we regard as totally unrealistic today, are often more likely to materialize in the long term than is the status quo. A utopian realist, then, is one who takes the long view, who has the courage to fight for desirable ideas and states of affairs (no matter how their short-term prospects look like), and who has the insight that the status quo is just a passing phenomenon.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Why I joined the ISCB

As promised in the post "ISCB launches annual conference series - 2017 conference to be organised in Norway by me", here comes my blog post "Why I joined the ISCB". The ISCB is short for the International Society for Code Biology. It was constituted/incorporated in Ferrara, Italy, on November 28th 2012, with the following Governing Board/founding members: 
  • Marcello Barbieri (president)
  • Jan-Hendrik Hofmeyr (vice-president)
  • Almo Farina (secretary)
  • Peter Wills (treasurer)
  • Stefan Artmann
  • Joachim De Beule
  • Peter Dittrich
  • Dennis Görlich
  • Stefan Kühn
  • Chris Ottolenghi
  • Liz Stillwaggon Swan
  • Morten Tønnessen
In an email November 30th announcing the establishment of the society, Marcello Barbieri wrote:
Code Biology is the study of all codes of life with the standard methods of science, and this makes of it the sole discipline that can prove the existence of semiosis in all living systems. Its purpose is nothing less than the rewriting of biology in order to include in it the countless codes that appeared after the genetic code and before the codes of culture, together with their theoretical implications. This is the challenge that lies ahead and this letter is announcing the beginning of that momentous enterprise. 
Applications for membership of the Code Biology Society are welcome from scholars of all relevant disciplines, including biology, philosophy, semiotics, cognitive science, information theory, linguistics, anthropology and ecology.
Marcello asked me whether I would be willing to be a founding member of the ISCB in an email October 16th. I replied that my long-time collaborators in Tartu "remain important colleagues and contacts for me, and that is how I would like it to go on as well." Furthermore:
In principle I am indeed interested in being a founding member of the ISCB. But there are conditions. First, before putting my name on any list I would like to see the statutes, or a draft of them, to get a sense of what the society is about and how it will work. Second, you should be aware that I am a person who speaks his mind even when in minority, and in situations such as the one in the ISBS this last year I might feel responsible to speak out (particularly if noone else does), no matter who is in charge and no matter who does things I find worthy of criticism. What I treasure is particularly organisational democrazy, scholarly pluralism, and constructive theoretical synthesis. 
Now, one reason to decline your invitation would be that it is likely that some biosemiotic scholars will misunderstand what me being part of the ISCB implies. Noteworthy, it could be perceived as sidetaking – siding with you personally (against Jesper) or preferring code biology to other kinds of biosemiotics. Therefore, let me make it absolutely clear: I treasure being undogmatic and open-minded, and I do not side with specific persons (only with ideas and principles). I want to contribute to holding all biosemioticians to certain standards, in terms both scientific and organisational. I think that several code biologists, including you, do a lot of valuable biosemiotic work (and I would like to take advantage of that in my own work, and when natural by way of direct cooperation). That is why I am interested in being a founding member of the ISCB. To avoid misunderstandings, however, I would without doubt feel the need to write in public (perhaps in a forum or on a discussion list, or at the very least in my academic blog Utopian Realism) what it implies, and what it does not imply, that I have become a member of the ISCB. My aim would be to not close any doors, and to maintain and further develop contact with interesting biosemioticians of all kinds.
I added, amongst other things, that "[t]ruly constructive synthesis is always desirable, but "compromises" motivated by reaching agreement only is more likely to be contraproductive. The key point at this stage is to aim systematically for constructive synthesis and not to block any ideas simply because they derive from the "wrong" persons".

In reply to my email, Marcello wrote that all that I had written was "perfectly acceptable".

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Why I applied for one job, but not another (the sad state of philosophy of language and mind)

Given that I am 36 and only have a temporary position as Associate professor (at University of Stavanger's Department of Health Studies, where I enjoy working), I am looking for a more long-term position. About a week ago I applied for the job as rector at Nansenskolen (a 4-year appointment), a Norwegian folk high school with some 16 staff and 70 students. 

I considered, but did not apply for, a permanent philosophy position at University of Bergen, since this specific position presupposed specialized research competence in philosophy of language and philosophy of mind, which are both predominantly areas of Analytical philosophy and typically carried out in a way I cannot identify with in the mainstream (as a sidecurrent participant, however, I gladly confess that both of these areas are of course of crucial importance to me as they should be carried out).

ISSILC online

I have added a new link under "Some related academic links", namely to International Society for the Study of Interactivity, Language and Cognition (ISSILC), which was founded in Odense, Denmark last autumn and which website has now been launched. The ISSILC constitution, which I took part in drafting, is also available.

Announcement, program booklet for Stavanger workshop; discussions to be chaired by me

The workshop I am helping organising at University of Stavanger's Department of Health Studies, "Agency in Health Care: Phenomenology and Experience", has today been announced. The event will occur April 15th, and on April 16th Stephen Cowley will give an open lecture titled "Interactivity: Implications for language and cognition". The last week or so I have been working with Stephen Cowley, Paul Thibault, Febe Friberg and Sissel Husebø (all of whom will present at the workshop) to compose and complete a 7-page program booklet which includes abstracts and suggested readings. This program booklet is now available for reading and downloading on Scribd. To register for the workshop, write to my UiS email (see program booklet).

As the program details, I will be chairing two 45-minute discussion sessions, and my book chapter "Semiotics of Being and Uexküllian Phenomenology" is on the list of Suggested readings. 

Monday, 4 February 2013

Interest exemption granted in PhD study period

A few days back I got the reply on my application to Statens lånekasse for utdanning, the Norwegian governmental bank for education, to be granted exempt from interest on my student loan for the period covered by my PhD studies (2007-2011). The answer was positive, though the exempt could only be granted for 3 of the 4 years due to a maximum quota of 10 years of interest exemption altogether. My student loan debt now amounts to some 27.000 Euro, after the about 4.000 Euro in interest exemption has been subtracted from the loan.

Plan for revision of e-compendiums

The internet-based bachelor in nursing at University of Stavanger's Department of Health Studies is making use of e-compendiums - PDF files that can talk (sic) and have have other interactive qualities. As responsible for Examen philosophicum (BSNEXP), the course in introductory philosophy, I am also responsible for an ongoing revision of these e-compendiums, which in my course number 12 and some 100 pages altogether. Yesterday I outlined a plan for this revision, which will take place over the next three weeks and be concluded by February 24th. I will keep all thematic e-compendiums and not add any, and focus on revising language (rather than content) and on adding some more interactive elements. The e-compendiums have originally been written and composed by Ingunn Sira Myhre.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Academic reporting 2012 - CRIStin

Yesterday I reported publications and other academic activities in 2012 to CRIStin, Current Research Information System In Norway. My reporting, which sorts under University of Stavanger, included 18 activities, namely
  • Three scientific book chapters, one of them co-written
  • Two abstracts printed in a book
  • One co-edited collection of scientific essays
  • Seven scientific presentations in international conferences/seminars/ a workshop
  • One scientific presentation at a Norwegian research seminar
  • One guest lecture
  • One public lecture
  • Two media appearances (interviews)
Of these, however, only two activities, specifically two book chapters, will count in the Norwegian scoring system that ranks researchers in terms of publications and that is the basis for some of the funding received by universities and other edutational institutions.

Regular teaching and such is not included in this reporting scheme (in 2012 I further gave two bachelor courses and one master course, and graded some 400 exam papers). 

Abstract for NASS VIII: "The ontogeny of the embryonic, fetal and infant human Umwelt"

Yesterday I wrote the abstract "The ontogeny of the embryonic, fetal and infant human Umwelt", which has been submitted to NASS VIII: Sign Evolution on Multiple Time Scales, to be held in Aarhus, Denmark, May 29-31. The abstract is tied to the proposed theme session "Biosemiotic Perspectives on Sign Evolution and Development", organised by Kalevi Kull, Timo Maran and Riin Magnus.


Paper submission:
The ontogeny of the embryonic, fetal and infant human Umwelt

In this presentation I will outline the three first stages – namely the embryonic, fetal and infant stage – of the lifespan of our subspecies Homo sapiens sapiens in Umwelt terms. Umwelt transitions, defined as lasting, systematic changes within the life cycle of a being from one typical appearance of its Umwelt to another, will be identified. Comparison will be made with the general, shared Umwelt of mammals (Mammalia). This enables us to pinpoint some uniquely human developmental traits.

In terms of the tripartite Umwelt model, the presentation will cover the early development of the core Umwelt and the mediated Umwelt, and the emergence of a conceptual Umwelt. The designated phase of human development envelops the gradual emergence of various senses, the emergence and fine-tuning of Umwelt objects, early phases of human individuation, and early sociality.

Birth, an individuation event per se, arguably represents the most significant of all Umwelt transitions at the individual level. But by that point the more-than-human Umwelt gradually becoming human has already developed for some nine months. What is it like to be an embryo? What is it like to be a fetus? In the womb, the Umwelt of the embryo and later the fetus is intimately tied to that of the mother. Which, then, is the most useful term in this analysis – communication (between the two), or auto-communication (within the whole that is the pregnant woman)? At any rate the mother is the progeny’s first landscape – the mother’s body represents Earth, nature, as first perceived. Human sociality, furthermore, emerges gradually, starting in the fetal stage, perhaps when the voices from beyond our first landscape are first heard and engaged with. We start interacting with others long before we become aware of who we are.