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Friday, 31 January 2014

To be employed by Department of Social Studies

Yesterday I met with the Head of department at University of Stavanger's Department of Social Studies, Svanaug Fjær. In the academic year 2014-2015 (July 2014 to June 2015) I will be employed as an Associate professor in philosophy, in a 50% position. The occasion is that Jon vegard Hugaas will have research leave. My responsibility will first and foremost be teaching, grading and planning in the department's version of Examen philosophicum (course in introductory philosophy), which has ca. 200 students.

I will thus be affiliated with two departments at UiS, given my existing engagements at Department of Health Studies.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Among the 5 most-publishing scholars in the journal Biosemiotics

To date, I appear to be among the 5 most-publishing scholars in the journal Biosemiotics, which was launched in 2008 and has just completed its 6th volume. On my count, these are the scholars that have published the most articles in the journal the last 6 years (including co-authored articles, and in my case a translated essay):

1. Marcello Barbieri: 12
2. Louis J. Goldberg: 7
3. Luis Emilio Bruni; Morten Tønnessen: 6
5. Gérard Bataill; Maria Ferreira; Anton Markoš: 5

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CFP: Gathering in biosemiotics 14 (London)

This first Call For Papers has recently been distributed by email. To my knowledge there is no event website yet.


Gatherings in Biosemiotics 14
Middlesex University, London (UK), 30 June – 4 July 2014.

The Fourteenth Annual Gathering in Biosemiotics will be held in London from 30 June to 4 July 2014, under the auspices of Middlesex University in collaboration with the International Society of Biosemiotic Studies. The aim of the gathering is to provide scholars and researchers in various academic disciplines with a common platform to discuss the roles played by signs and communication in life processes.

The Scientific Advisory Committee of the 14th Gathering in Biosemiotics invites scholars and researchers from all over the world to submit their abstracts of presentations which are primarily centred on the roles and the significance of signs in life processes. Favoured abstracts will
  • contribute to and elaborate biosemiotics
  • be up-to-date regarding theory, methods and data, and
  • demonstrate understanding of, and refer to, existing works in the field.
Abstracts should be 300-600 words, typed using a standard word processing format (using Times New Roman 12 point font, and setting the page size for A4). Abstracts should be submitted as single page files to the following address:abstracts2014 [a] to be received by no later than 14 March 2013. Please name the abstract file with the author’s (your) surname in capital letters, for instance SEBEOK.doc.

For early registration and any additional information, please contact p.cobley [a]

Monday, 27 January 2014

Letter to the editor addressed to two conservative MPs: "In the oil mist"

On December 12th last year I had a letter to the editor published in the Norwegian daily Aftenposten, Norway's biggest daily newspaper, titled "I oljetåken" [in the oil mist]. The letter to the editor was written in response to a letter to the editor published December 10th, written by two conservative MPs and entitled «Uten petroleumsforskning stopper Norge» [Without petroleum research, Norway stops]. Their letter was in turn written in reply to my December 2nd chronicle in the same newspaper, "Hva slags forskning er etisk forsvarlig?" [What kind(s) of research is ethically justifiable?].

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Ask the philosopher website substantially updated

Today I have updated the website of my commercial alter ego, Spør filosofen [Ask the philosopher] (NB - in Norwegian only). Updates includes the front page, banner image (from the photo studio Depui), business ideas (expanded), talks (simplified) and readings (removed/moved to business ideas).

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Reference to "Umwelt ethics" in Uexküll framing essay

My 2003 article "Umwelt ethics" is referred to in the article Jonathan Beever and I co-wrote as a framing essay to the translation of an 1917 essay by Jakob von Uexküll. Reference:
Beever, Jonathan and Morten Tønnessen 2013. “Darwin und die englische Moral”: The Moral Consequences of Uexküll’s Umwelt Theory. Biosemiotics 6(3): 437447 (online version published September 25 2013, DOI 10.1007/s12304-013-9180-x).
The reference is made on p. 441, in this sentence:
Following Uexküll’s lead in extending consideration to a wide host of nonhuman organisms, a small but growing number of philosophers and semioticians have begun exploring whether and to what extent Umwelt theory might inform animal and environmental ethics, the study of the scope and nature of moral value in the living world (Hoffmeyer 1995; Tønnessen 2003; Kull 2001; Champagne 2011; Beever 2012; Acampora 2013 etc.).

Meeting on Norwegian Animal Ethics Conference 2014

On January 21st I took part in another meeting (telephone conference) of the organizing team of the Norwegian Animal Ethics Conference 2014. Among other things we decided what kind of venue we'll use. The webpage will soon be updated.

World congress program re-presented online

The preliminary program (in-process) for the 12th World Congress of Semiotics, which will be held in Sofia, Bulgaria, 16-20 September 2014, has been reorganised online. Earlier on all proposed sessions were listed on one and the same page, but now each proposal with an abstract has its own subpage - including my proposed session, "Biosemiotic ethics"

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Monday, 20 January 2014

The Semiotics of Animal Representations gradually completed

It's been a while since I've posted on the book The Semiotics of Animal Representations, but this does not mean I have not been working on it, along with my co-editor Kadri Tüür. Admittedly, there's been some unplanned breaks (some of which due to gall bladder-type problems). Work has been particularly intense around the summer of 2013 and then around Christmas/New Year 2013/2014. For a third year in a row, this book was in 2013, as in 2011 and 2012, the book project I spent the most time on.

Requested revisions were finished and submitted to our series editors in August 2013. Then further revisions, in response to further feedback, increasingly about page layout etc., were made by September. Then we worked with discussing and eventually expanding the index. A revised manuscript was submitted December 23rd, and then following further feedback on page layout reworked and resubmitted January 3rd, 5th and - finally - 13th. Now everything should be in place.

What remains now is the design of cover and back page, then the book should, at last, be printed.

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Last 4 e-compendiums in introductory philosophy revised

The last three weeks or so I have finished revising the remaining four e-compendiums in the introductory philosophy course Examen Philosophicum for nursing students at University of Stavanger's Department of health studies (course code BSNEXP).

Overview of all 12:
Hva er etikk? [What is ethics?] 
Omsorgsetikk og kjønn [Ethics of care and gender]  
Eksistensialisme [Existentialism]
Rasjonalisme [Rationalism]
Empirisme [Empiricism]
Kants erkjennelsesteori [Kant's epistemological theory] 
Hva er vitenskap? [What is science?]
Vitenskapens sosiale dimensjon [The social dimension of science]
Hermeneutikk* [Hermeneutics]
Pliktetikk* [Deontology]
Dydsetikk* [Virtue ethics] 
Konsekvensetikk* [Consequentialism]
 * revised the last few weeks.

All 12 compendiums were originally written by Ingunn Sira Myhre. When produced as interactive PDFs most of the compendiums are 10+ pages.

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Sunday, 19 January 2014

Post on "Wolf play" video clip in Minding Animals blog

On November 12th last year I wrote and got posted "Ulvelek fra Bardu til Discovery" [Wolf play from Bardu to Discovery channel] in the blog of Minding Animals Norway.

See the Youtube clip "Wolf play" here.

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Current work routines - organization of work week in-between child care

There's been some back and forth with the organization of my work week as I have entered the second period of my parental leave. Changes include that 
  • now and until March 15th, at least, I will not routinely work during the daytime at all when my son is at home. Except for during naps and days in which he is in kindergarten (without me accompanying him) during daytime, I am routinely only working after hours, after his bedtime. 
  • But one day a week plus a further evening is relationship time (date with my wife).
  • Thirdly, after a couple of evenings where I tried to put my son to sleep but he only cried himself to sleep (given the sudden absence of his ever-present mother) the first time and didn't sleep at all the second, I now take part in putting him to sleep EVERY evening yet for now leave the finish to my wife. As soon as he's truly calming down with me, I'll start putting him to sleep alone at times. With regard to work this implies that I get ca. 3 1/2 rather than 4 hours work time each working evening.
  • In consequence of pt. 1 I do not plan for a full hour of email and incidental tasks in daytime plus a further full hour in the evening, but only 1 full hour whenever I am working. This occasionally puts pressure on my overall flexibility and ability to go through with all scheduled tasks.
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Thursday, 16 January 2014

Abstract for 1st code biology conference: "Codes and interpretation in perception"

Codes and interpretation in perception

Morten Tønnessen, Associate professor at University of Stavanger’s Department of health studies 
In this talk I present work in progress on the role of interpretation vs. codes in perception, where perception is understood in terms of coherent (unified) subjective experience. I follow Jakob von Uexküll (1956, cf. 2010) in assuming that all organisms except plants and fungi have such coherent, unified subjective experience (i.e. Umwelt experience). 
My starting point is the tripartite Umwelt model (Tønnessen 2011), according to which any Umwelt has two aspects (core and mediated) and some have three (including conceptual). In Tønnessen, forthcoming, I outline the workings of the Umwelt in terms of these three aspects in more detail. We can generally conceive of six types, or categories, of acts, and these can be located within the three different aspects of the Umwelt: 
 Core Umwelt
- Automated acts of perception 
Automated mental acts
Mediated Umwelt 
Wilful acts of perception 
 - Wilful mental acts
Conceptual Umwelt    
- Habitual acts of perception 
- Habitual mental acts  

By automated, I mean the exact and physiologically based matching of something with something else, by wilful I mean the agenda- and interest-driven matching of something with something else, and by habitual I mean the learned matching of something with something else. Whereas conscious animals carry out all six types of acts, non-conscious creatures, in so far as they perceive, only carry out two, namely automated and wilful acts of perception. Habitual, i.e. conceptual acts are reserved for conscious creatures, but even bacteria can carry out wilful acts of perception, i.e. make choices based on interpretation. 
In general terms automated acts can be said to be code-based, whereas both wilful and habitual acts are interpretation-based. An implication of this claim is that the core Umwelt is generally code-based, and that the mediated Umwelt and the conceptual Umwelt are interpretation-based. If this is correct, the interpretive threshold is not located where animals with a nervous system meet creatures without a nervous system, nor where the biotic meets the abiotic. Instead, the interpretive threshold must be located where core experience meets mediated experience (and since these aspects often intermingle, the dividing line is not in plain sight). 
Questions for further investigation include the following: Can coding in automated acts of perception and in automated mental acts be understood within the framework of code biology (Barbieri, de Beule and Hofmeyr 2014)? Particularly, can they be understood as organic codes? While I have only begun reflecting on the notion of code itself, I will relate codes in perception as presented here to the notions of a neural code and of ecological codes. 
Acknowledgement: The research leading to these results received funding from the Norway Financial Mechanism 2009-2014 under project contract no EMP151, “Animals in changing environments: Cultural mediation and semiotic analysis”. 
Barbieri, Marcello, Joachim de Beule and Jan-Hendrik Hofmeyr 2014. “Code biology: A glossary of terms and concepts”. URL:
Tønnessen 2011. Umwelt Transition and Uexküllian Phenomenology – An Ecosemiotic Analysis of Norwegian Wolf Management (= Dissertationes Semioticae Universitatis Tartuensis 16). Doctoral dissertation. Tartu: Tartu University Press. 232 pp. Introduction available online.
Tønnessen, Morten, forthcoming. „Umwelt and language“. Cahiers de l’ILSL[l'Institut de Linguistique et des Sciences du Langage], special issue „Biosemiotic perspectives in linguistics“, edited by Ekaterina Velmezova, Stephen Cowley and Kalevi Kull.
Uexküll, Jakob von, 1956 [1934/1940]: Streifzüge durch die Umwelten von Tieren und Menschen: Ein Bilderbuch unsichtbarer Welten. Bedeutungslehre. Hamburg: Rowohlt.
Uexküll, Jakob von, 2010: A Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Humans with a Theory of Meaning. Trans. of Uexküll 1956 [1934, 1940] by Joseph D. O’Neil. Minneapolis: University of Minneapolis Press.

Not appointed to national committee for research ethics

Today the composition of the new national committees for research ethics in Norway for the period 2014-2017 was made public (see here) as the Ministry of Education and Research announced their appointments. I was not appointed to any of them.

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Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Webstats, Scribd: 14 documents with 1,000+ reads

It's been a while since I've posted statistics about my Scribd page, where there are as of now 43 documents from my hand. As of today these documents have a total of 46,121 views, which means that on average each document has had more than 1,000 views. I have 19 followers and 36 likes.

Ranked by number of reads, this is those with at least 1,000 reads as of today:
1. Utopisk Realisme 2009: 3,759 reads
2. Utopisk Realisme 2010: 2,990 reads
4. Utopian Realism 2009: 1,775 reads
6. Historieløst om klima: 1,582 reads
7. Utopian Realism 2010: 1,486 reads
10. Burlesk vitenskapsparodi: 1,123 reads
13. Tidsvitne omslag [book cover]: 1,010 reads

The latest version of my CV, posted in February 2013, has 944 reads. Latest online version of my bibliography, posted February 2012, has 933 reads.

Some 2 years ago only 7 documents had more than 1,000 reads (but note that some versions of my CV and bibliography may reach 1,000 + and then be removed when updated). My blog collection for 2009 for Utopisk Realisme is leading now as then, attracting close to 1,000 reads per year. The most read academic article, The Statistician's Guide to Utopia: The Future of Growth, has in comparison had only 600 reads the last couple of years combined. The bio-translator - interview with biosemiotician Kalevi Kull has had close to 800 views the last 2 years, Om fluer og filosofi [interview with Arne Næss] only 2-300.

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Scheduled interview on animal ethics in Nationen not appeared

In August last year the Norwegian Daily Nationen asked for an interview with me on animal ethics (in my capacity as chair of Minding Animals Norway) which was to fill 2 pages in the newspaper on October 4th. Photos were taken by the newspaper in the end of September, on campus at University of Oslo's Department of Biosciences (at the time I was attending the workshop "Humanimals: Examining Histories and Productions of Animal-Human Relationships") - but the interview appointment was then cancelled due to illness. The newspaper then told me they would get back to me as soon as the journalist was back to work. 

I am still hoping this interview will materialise.

Monday, 13 January 2014

To speak at Norwegian Animal Welfare Day

The Norwegian Animal Welfare day - "Dyreverndagen" in Norwegian (not to be confused with World Animal Day or the International Animal Rights day ... puh) will be arranged (by a working group under Minding Animals Norway) in Oslo on April 26th 2014, at Ingensteds. I have agreed to be one of the speakers. Website and program follows later on.

Member of ISSILC

Friday, 10 January 2014

Research cooperation with Aarhus University

This week I met with Njord Solberg at the University of Stavanger, where a research study will be carried out by him and Karl Møller, both master students at Aarhus University in Denmark, in the period February 15th-20th. I have assisted by booking a room where the study, which involves a number of interviews, will take place.

Allotment letter from the ministry to UiS received and read

A few days back I received and read the allotment letter from the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research to the University of Stavanger, which is to be distributed to all board members (I am currently second deputy representative for temporarily employed education and research staff). The letter, which is part of the ministry's "management dialogue" (styringsdialog), details the government's educational and research policies and relevant financial dispositions for 2014.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

NyTi mentoring concluded

This week I met with my teacher supervisor in the context of University of Stavanger's NyTi program, Associate professor Margrethe Jernes, for the fourth, fifth and sixth time - the fifth when she observed and evaluated my teaching on Wednesday. My participation in the NyTi program for newly employed staff is thus concluded.

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12 hours of teaching

Tuesday and Wednesday this week I taught for 6 and 6 hours respectively in the introductory philosophy course Examen Philosophicum (course code BSNEXP) which is part of the web-based bachelor in nursing at University of Stavanger's Department of health studies. This week's gathering was the first of two this semester, the second follows in the second half of February.

Board meeting of Minding Animals Norway attended

Monday this week I took part in, and chaired, the regular, bimonthly board meeting of Minding Animals Norway. The organisation has not had many membership requests lately, but has plenty of plans for activities this year. Topics included new routines for the Minding Animals Norway blog, where all board members will contribute in the time to come.

Biosemiotics no. 6(3) - transitional issue

Returning home after having spent three days at the University of Stavanger, I found Biosemiotics 6(3) - December 2013 - in my mailbox. This is the first of two transitional double issues, edited by Marcello Barbieri (6(3) includes a Special Issue on "Origins of mind" guest-edited by Liz Stilwaggon Swan). On p. 2 I am still listed as a member of the Editorial Board, and further listed among the Editors-in-Chief: Marcello Barbieri, Timo Maran, Alexei Sharov and myself. From 7(2) forwards Biosemiotics is edited by Alexei, Timo and me.

Biosemiotics 6(3) furthermore includes two articles with my involvement, see below.

See also:

And finally see also:

Friday, 3 January 2014

NASS members' page: Articles freely available online, and more

Late last autumn the Nordic Association for Semiotic Studies (NASS) launced a members' subpage. My info reads like this:

Academic blog: Utopian Realism

Academic articles freely available online:
Tønnessen, Morten 2003. Umwelt EthicsSign Systems Studies 31 (1): 281-299.
— 2009. The Semioethics Interviews I: John Deely: ‘Tell Me, Where Is Morality Bred?’Hortus Semioticus, number 4 (August 2009): 57-80.
— 2009. Signs Grow – But Should They? Semioethics and the Dominant Semiosis of Homo sapiens sapiens (= Meditationes Semioticae I). Hortus Semioticus, number 4 (August 2009): 81-84.
— 2010. The Bio-Translator – Interview with Professor in Biosemiotics Kalevi Kull. Co-written with Riin Magnus. Hortus Semioticus 6: 77-103. Includes full bibliography of Kalevi Kull’s biosemiotic publications.
— 2010. Is a Wolf wild as Long as it Does Not Know that It Is Being Thoroughly Handled? Humanimalia – a journal of human/animal interface studies 2(1) (Fall 2010): 1-8.
— 2011. Umwelt Transition and Uexküllian Phenomenology – An Ecosemiotic Analysis of Norwegian Wolf Management (= Dissertationes Semioticae Universitatis Tartuensis 16). Doctoral dissertation. Tartu: Tartu University Press. 232 pp. Introduction available online.
— 2011. Fra by og land, mann mot mann til visjon 2040 [From city against countryside, man against man to vision 2040]. Kulturverk (online magazine), published in three parts Nov. 13Nov. 17 and Nov. 24.

Blog stats 2013

No. of pageloads, 2013 (change from 2012):
1 (2) Utopian Realism [academic blog] 6.252 (+676)
2 (1) Utopisk Realisme [political, Norwegian language blog] 4.379 (-6.161)
3 (3) SemioPhenomenon [site for the Tartu phenomenology meets semiotics workshops in 2009] 166 (-1) 
4 (4) The Schopenhauer Experience [existentialist electronica] 144 (+8) 
2013 was likely the first year where this blog, Utopian Realism, was my most visited blog, overtaking my Norwegian language blog Utopisk Realisme. As the numbers show, however, this is due to a sharp decrease in visits to Utopisk Realisme rather than to the small increase in visits to Utopian Realism. Combined the four blogs mentioned above had 10.941 pageloads, which is 5-6.000 fewer than in 2012.

All-time no. of pageloads (here numbers conflict - these are from the bottoms of the blogs themselves):
1. Utopisk Realisme 49.524
2. Utopian Realism 26.566
3. SemioPhenomenon 3.814
4. Kardemomme Tidende 1.784
5. The Schopenhauer Experience 1.024
Grand total: 82.712 pageloads, on this count.

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Thursday, 2 January 2014

44 master-level exam papers graded

In the days preceding Christmas Eve I graded 44 exam papers in the master course "Vitenskapsfilosofi og etikk" (Philosophy of science and ethics, course code MHV140) at University of Stavanger's Department of health studies. Reported to the university a couple of days back.

Readings 2013

This last year, in 2013, I read some 7,096 pages of academic literature (with author known), according to my notes (not so much). This is not much different from the 7,310 pages I read in 2012.

As in 2012, Jakob von Uexküll was the scholar I read most "about" - this time ahead of Aristotle, Kant, Husserl and Gadamer (top 5).

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Full reference for book review "Discourses gone astray"

During my recent reporting of academic activities in 2013 including publications, I came across the print pagination of my double book review "Discourses gone astray: Restoring animality, humanity, and language". Full reference:
Tønnessen, Morten 2013. Discourses gone astray: Restoring animality, humanity, and language. Book review. Journal of Multicultural Discourses 8(3): 255-259 (published online July 1st 2013, DOI: 10.1080/17447143.2013.810631).
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Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Graded parental leave, part 2

Starting today and lasting until March 14th, I'm on 75 % graded parental leave (combined with 25 % employment contract with University of Stavanger's Department of health studies - until June 30th; 10 % research contract starting March 15th).

Academic reporting 2013 - CRIStin

A couple of days ago I reported my publications, conference presentations and media appearances in 2013 to CRIStin, Current Research Information System In Norway. My reporting, which sorts under University of Stavanger, included 30 activities (vs. 18 in 2012), namely

  • Eleven academic publications (three of them co-written) including a co-edited book, book chapters, a preface, journal articles, and two book reviews
  • One report
  • Seven scientific presentations in international conferences/seminars/workshops
  • Two guest lectures
  • Eight media appearances (interviews)
Up to 6 of the publications will count in the Norwegian publication point system.

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