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Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Grading of 24 exam papers

About a week ago I graded 24 exam papers in Examen Philosophicum, as part of the internet-/gathering-based bachelor in nursing at University of Stavanger's Department of Health Studies.

Grading of 25 multiple choice tests

Yesterday I graded (passed/not passed) 25 mulitiple choice test in the course Examen Philosophicum (for students taking an internet-gathering-based bachelor in nursing) at University of Stavanger's Department of Health Studies.

Monday, 29 April 2013

3rd issue of the NASS Letter completed and published

Yesterday I prepared the 3rd issue of the newsletter of the Nordic Association for Semiotic Studies (NASS), and today I spoke with co-editor Inesa Sahakyan, going through my contributions and hers alike. The newsletter was distributed today, to more than 200 email addresses, including everybody who have registered for the upcoming NASS conference in Aarhus, Denmark. The 3rd issue of the NASS Letter is 14 pp. including the preliminary program of that conference. It is available in full here (see also previous newsletters).

I furthermore updated the webpage of NASS - and published (and, indeed, penned), both in the newsletter and on the webpage, the NASS board's call for General Assembly in Aarhus (May 30th).

Video interview on human-animal relations available on webpage of Minding Animals

The 37 minute Norwegian language video interview with me on human-animal relations which is part of Anne Helen Robberstad's video installation "Sårbar" [Vulnerable] is now also available for viewing on the webpages of Minding Animals Norway - here.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

My Google Scholar profile page

This is my profile page in Google Scholar - which is verified and public. By following this link you can later click to follow my articles or citations of my articles, and of course get an overview of quite a few of my academic publications. 

According to Google Scholar's count, as of today my publications have been cited 38 times (including 32 times since 2008) - this includes references to my own work. This results in a h-index of 4 (meaning that 4 of my articles have been cited at least 4 times each) and an i10-index of 1 (meaning that 1 of my papers have been cited at least 10 times).
** Google Scholar's citations count overlaps with, but is quite different from my private count, which envelops about 34 citations/mentions to date by others.

Below: Google Scholar's graph showing number of citations per year.

"Wolf play" stats: Seasonal and geographical variations

I have previously posted about my video clip "Wolf play", recorded in Polar Zoo, Northern Norway (which has as of today been viewed 49.476 times) - see:

In the most recent post I noted that 
[t]he ups and downs in views follow the season, with exponential growth throughout the year and then a dive in traffic each Christmas (does anybody know how many videos on YouTube display this pattern - likely due to traffic generating more traffic via increased visibility, combined with a pause in interest for this kind of video during Christmas?).
Here is a more detailed picture of these seasonal variations (weekly number of views, from the clip was uploaded until the last week):

Both in 2011 and 2012 the number of views peaked in week 50 (4.147 and 1.941 views respectively). There's further been a mid-year peak in both 2012 and 2013 - in weeks 24-25 in 2012, with some 800-900 views per week, and in weeks 14-15 this year, with some 900-1.100 views per week. In contrast, there were only roughly 100 views per week in the beginning of both 2012 and 2013, after the hard landing which appears to be coded into YouTube's system.

The map below the diagram shows the countries where the video clip has been viewed the most. Top 5:
1. USA 17.963
2. Canada 3.528
3. UK 2.549
4. Italy 1.888
5. Japan 1.490

Norway is at no. 15 with 628 views.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Contract for another year at UiS signed

April 15th I signed another contract with the University of Stavanger - my third. I will be employed in a 100% position from July 1st to December 31st 2013 and in a 25% position from January 1st to June 30th 2014. As in the current academic year, my responsibility will envelop teaching and grading in Examen Philosophicum - introductory philosophy (regular course in autumn, internet/gathering-based course in spring), and a master course in the philosophy of science and ethics (in autumn).

I started in my position as an Associate professor at Department of Health Studies January 1st 2012. It is in the main related to the research leave of Professor Sebastian Rehnman.

Video interview on human-animal relations in agriculture now online

The interview with me - in Norwegian - which figures in Anne Helen Robberstad's video installation "Sårbar" [Vulnerable] (see previous post) is now available online, on Minding Animals Norway's Vimeo channel. Watch it here.

  • 00.33- Biosemiotikk [Biosemiotics]
  • 01.22- Å være bonde [To be a farmer]
  • 04.19- Å være tjent med [To benefit from]
  • 07.43- Forhold til dyr [Relations to animals]
  • 14.31- Kjøttforbruk [Meat consumption]
  • 20.04- Interessekonflikt [Conflict of interest]
  • 26.59- Gandhi [Gandhi]
  • 31.05- Følelser [Feelings]
  • 34.37- Fremtiden [The future]

Friday, 26 April 2013

Election to UiS board lost

This year's election to the board of the University of Stavanger representing temporarily employed education and research staff was conducted April 11th-17th. I was one of three candidates, along with those who have served as my deputy representatives since last autumn. Information on the candidates was published on the webpages of UiS. Unlike last year the electoral program I submitted was this time included, along with biographical info.

But to no avail. As the election results show, I got only 9 votes, while Clemens Furnes got 14 and Kristian Thorsen 28. There were 5 blank votes. This means I got only 16-18% of the total vote, while Furnes got 25-27% and Thorsen a wopping 51-55%. I will thus be the 2nd deputy member to the board of UiS in 2013-2014.

My last board meeting will find place in mid-June, in Copenhagen.

See also:

New address for my UiS profile page

My profile page at the webpages of the University of Stavanger, where I work as an Associate professor in philosophy, has (in the UiS' process of updating the design etc. of its webpages) moved to a new address, which is to be found here. Permalink in the sidebar to the right.

Unfortunately several of the links I provided do not appear any more.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Video installation opened at Hå gamle prestegard; includes interview with me

February 14th I met artist Anne Helen Robberstad in relation to her video installation art project "Sårbar" [Vulnerable], which deals with the topic of vulnerable animals in animal husbandry and vulnerable farmers, particularly in the Norwegian region of Jæren in the South-West of the country. Recordings resulted in a 36-minute interview with me in the form of a monologue. It features as one of 8-10 similar interviews or portraits that in combination (and partly run in parallel, from different angles) make up the video installation.

"Sårbar" opened, along with two other exhibitions in different formats, at Hå Gamle Prestegard Saturday April 20th. 200 people were reportedly present. The exhibitions will be on display until June 2nd.

The interview with me, with deals with different aspects of Human-Animal Studies and relations, was conducted in my capacity as Chair of Minding Animals Norway and Associate Professor in philosophy at University of Stavanger

"Beyond sentience" article in progress; follow-up discussed

The writing of "Beyond sentience: Biosemiotics as foundation for animal and environmental ethics", co-authored by Jonathan Beever and myself, continues. As reported in January the abstract for this text has been submitted to a prospective anthology in metaethics to be edited by John Hadley and Elisa Aaltola. The last we heard from the editors was that it is not completely certain that this book project will materialise, due to a lack of submissions. At any rate the deadline will only be at the end of the year.

Yesterday Jonathan and I talked via Skype to discuss our further collaboration on this piece. We agreed that we will write this text whether or not the mentioned book project materialises (and secondarily submit it to an ethics journal), becase this is a text that it is important to both of us to develop. We further sketched a time plan, divided into phases of thinking - reading - writing (completing by the end of the year), and discussed possible topical developments. It is quite likely that we will end up making this article primarily metaethical and a follow-up more normative.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Another round with Norwegian bureaucracy

After receiving an acceptance letter from NAV, the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration, with regard to my application for parental leave, some three weeks ago, another letter awaited me as I returned from the NoSP conference in Copenhagen. NAV now claims that either me or my wife still has the right for a number of days of parental leave, beyond what we have already applied for. They furthermore ask me to confirm that I will have the parental leave that they accepted in the letter as of three weeks ago - and - even though they have confirmed in writing that this was all settled now - whether or not my wife will have 20 % or 0 % in the periods that I take my parental leave.

Given that I'm tired of being annoyed with NAV, and that they have previously confirmed our original applications in writing, I choose this time to not regard this as a problem. We will likely reply that if we do indeed have the right to further parental leave, I will take that leftover leave in early 2014 (when I'll only have a 25 % contract).

"Introducing Uexküllian phenomenology" presented - PPT available online

Thursday last week I presented my paper "Introducing Uexküllian phenomenology" at the 11th Annual Meeting of the Nordic Society for Phenomenology (Copenhagen April 18-20), in the session "Phenomenology, science, and technology", chaired by James Jardine  (see full program). Some 18 people attended. Feedback was positive.

See also the abstract, previously posted here in Utopian Realism.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Article to be written to special issue of Agora: How unique/distinctive is the human kind?

In February I was contacted by Roar Høstaker, guest editor of a forthcoming Special Issue of the Norwegian academic journal Agora (Ragnar Myklebust, the guest editor of another forthcoming Special Issue of the same journal, had contacted me a couple of weeks earlier, and communicated my name to Høstaker). The theme of the Special Issue is "livspolitikk" (politics of life - something akin to yet narrower than Foucalt's 'biopolitics').

The theme of my contribution, which is due February 1st 2014, will be the question of how unique/distinctive the human kind is in comparison with other animals/creatures, based on Umwelt theory (and secondarily - or in parallel - Jakob von Uexküll's own view in this context). It is further likely that I willl touch upon David Abram's book Becoming Animal and Dominique Lestel's claim that the animal is the future of Man. The Special Issue will appear as Agora no. 3/2014.

"Wolf play" now seen 47.000 times

My video clip "Wolf play", from a research visit to Polar Zoo (Bardu, Troms, Norway) in March 2010, reached 10.000 views in November 2011 and some 33.000 in July 2012. By now it has been shown 47.214 times, meaning it has been shown an additional 14.000 times since last summer.

The ups and downs in views follow the season, with exponential growth throughout the year and then a dive in traffic each Christmas (does anybody know how many videos on YouTube display this pattern - likely due to traffic generating more traffic via increased visibility, combined with a pause in interest for this kind of video during Christmas?).

The video clip has received 132 thumbs up (likes) and 3 thumbs down (dislikes), and has generated 60 comments on YouTube.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Uexküll translation project completed - to be published in Biosemiotics

About a month ago Jonathan Beever and myself finished our cooperative Uexküll translation project, involving two articles:
  • "Darwin and the English Morality", translation (by me, with English language editing by Jonathan) of Jakob von Uexküll's 1917 essay "Darwin und die Englische Moral"
  • the framing essay "“Darwin und die englische Moral”: The Moral Consequences of Uexküll’s Umwelt Theory", written by Jonathan and me
Both articles will be published in the journal Biosemiotics - online this autumn and in print in early 2014. The two articles were resubmitted with minor changes made on April 2nd.

See also: Abstract for 13th Gathering in Biosemiotics: "Uexküll in translation: "Darwin and the English Morality""

Further info on Estonian-Norwegian research project application

As promised in the post Contribution to Estonian-Norwegian research project application, here's further info about that application (titled "Animals in Changing Environments: Cultural Mediation and Semiotic Analysis". The application was submitted in mid-March. The duration of the prospective project is September 2013 - April 2016, and the expected total cost 202,686 Euro, of which about half would go to the Norwegian donor project partner, headed by me. While the Norwegian research team as mentioned involves three researchers (me, Paul Thibault and Kristin Armstrong Oma), and would be hosted by the University of Stavanger, the Estonian team based at University of Tartu's Department of Semiotics would include:
  • Timo Maran (PI)
  • Riin Magnus
  • Silver Rattasepp
  • Nelly Mäekivi
  • Kadri Tüür
  • two unnamed master students
A total of 10 researchers would thus be involved. In other contexts I have collaborated with all the five Estonian researchers named above.

The project would include the following four case studies:
  1. animal agency in nature writing as a medium of communication
  2. representations (both problematic and romanticizing) of large mammals, especially wolves, and especially with regard to conflicts with a) sheep, b) reindeer and c) hunting dogs
  3. agencies and conflicts of interest in zoological gardens as an environment for mediated communication (in cooperation with Tallinn Zoological garden)
  4. adaptation of guide dogs to changing environments
I would be involved in 2) and 3).

According to the Norwegian Research Council, 170 applications have been submitted (in Norwegian - for English text, see the Estonian Research Council) in response to the call of the Norwegian-Estonian Research Cooperation Programme. Some 3 million Euro is available for funding selected projects. This means the success rate will be only 6-7 %. Results will be announced in mid-August.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Abstract for 13th Gathering in Biosemiotics: "Uexküll in translation: "Darwin and the English Morality""

A few days ago I was notified that the Advisory Board of the International Society for Biosemiotic Studies has accepted the abstract "Uexküll in translation: "Darwin and the English Morality"" for an oral presentation at this summer's Gathering in Biosemiotics (Castiglioncello, Italy, June 4-8). Jonathan Beever and myself are the authors or the paper, which will be presented by me.



Tønnessen, Morten1 and Beever, Jonathan2 (to be presented by Morten Tønnessen)

1 Department of Health Studies, University of Stavanger (Norway)
2 Department of Philosophy and Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, Purdue University (USA)

This presentation will include excerpts from “Darwin and the English Morality”, an English translation of an essay written by Jakob von Uexküll and published in its original form as “Darwin und die englische Moral“ in 1917 (Deutsche Rundschau 173: 215-242). The English translation, which has been conducted by Morten Tønnessen supported by English language editing by Jonathan Beever, is forthcoming in Biosemiotics along with a framing essay entitled ““Darwin und die englische Moral”: The Moral Consequences of Uexküll’s Umwelt Theory”, co-authored by Jonathan Beever and Morten Tønnessen.

Uexküll’s essay concerns the relation between German and English morality, framed by an application of his biological theory to the human cultural context. Uexküll’s 1917 critique of what he calls the “English morality”, written during World War I, points the contemporary reader toward important implications of the translation of descriptive scientific models to normative ethical theories. A key figure motivating biosemiotics, Uexküll presents here a darker side: one where his Umwelt theory seems to motivate a bio-cultural hierarchy of value and worth, where some human beings are worth more than others precisely because of the constraints of their Umwelten. The first English translation of this essay gives scholars access to Uexküll’s lines of thought, historical context, and normative interpretations. It is particularly pertinent for contemporary attempts to develop a biosemiotic ethics based, among other things, on the Umwelt theory.

Uexküll’s critique of Darwin refers to the latter’s treatment of the origin of morality in The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex (1871). “The source of morality”, writes Uexküll, “is, according to Darwin, precisely this feeling of sympathy, in its relation to the susceptibility for praise and blame, which initially extends only to members of one’s own tribe, then in time, after the merger of different tribes to a people, to all fellow countrymen.” He cites Darwin’s words: “Sympathy beyond the confines of man, that is, humanity to the lower animals, seems to be one of the latest moral acquisitions”. In a central passage, Uexküll then observes:

It is not, as Darwin holds, an artificial barrier that is an impediment to the extension of moral consideration to all peoples and to the lower animals. Rather, the ethics that is founded on praise and blame is itself the barrier for the extension to fellow creatures whose praise and criticism one neither hears nor takes any note of.

Election to the UiS board: Electoral program

Now in April I am running for reelection as the representative for temporarily employed education and research staff in the board of the University of Stavanger (which I have been since the autumn of 2012). Here is my electoral program:

a) Morten Tønnessen
b) 37 years old
c) Associate Professor in philosophy at Department of Health Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences
d) Background: Tønnessen has been the representative for temporarily employed education and research staff in the UiS board since the autumn of 2012. He defended his doctoral degree in semiotics/philosophy – with a case study on Norwegian wolf management – in 2011 at the University of Tartu (Estonia). Tønnessen has held several NGO positions (he is currently Chair of Minding Animals Norway (, secretary of Nordic Association for Semiotic Studies ( and board member of International Society of Code Biology (, and he works interdisciplinarily. In capacity of being a philosopher/semiotician who has been doing research on biological/ecological phenomena for some ten years, he has connections to the humanities as well as to social science and natural science. Academic blog:

e) Morten Tønnessen will keep working for:
  • Increased internationalisation (enhanced research mobility included)
  • Higher aspirations for research (publication points, citations, participation at international conferences etc.)
  • Good conditions for interdisciplinary research and educational activities
  • A green university

See also Norwegian text.