Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Abstract for NoSP 2016: "Synchronicity in human perception of animals"

In the end of November, I composed the abstract below, for Phenomenology and beyond: 14th annual conference of the Nordic Society for Phenomenology, to be held at University of Iceland, Reykjavík,  21–23 April 2015.


Synchronicity in human perception of animals
By Morten Tønnessen, Associate professor of philosophy, University of Stavanger, Norway

Part of the panel "Phenomenological Approaches to the Anthropological Difference”, convened by Cristian Ciocan

This paper presents findings from 13 video-recorded interviews conducted Spring 2015 in Norway focused on the respondents´ perception of wolves and related animals which are often perceived to be in conflict with wolves. The interviews were conducted in the rural municipalities Kautokeino (Finnmark county) and Rendalen (Hedmark county), and the urban municipalities Stavanger (Rogaland county) and Kristiansand (Vest-Agder county). In the interviews, the respondents were shown images, video-clips and audio featuring wolves, elk, dogs, sheep, reindeer and people, and prompted to explain what they saw and/or heard. In the course of these verbal explanations, accompanied by telling body language, it becomes clear how the respondents sought to interpret the media material and e.g. determine the species of featured animals, or understand the situation on display.

I will demonstrate different ways in which human perception of animals is synchronized, and show examples involving simultaneous display of multiple screens and video-recordings. A study of synchronicity in human perception of animals can reveal patterns and tendencies in such perception, and inform us about the respondents´ identity, attitudes and self-understanding. By making use of parameters including geography, demography (gender, age etc.), occupation and hobbies, this study sheds light on the ways in which human self-understanding is always based in part on our ideas about, and perception of, animals.

Acknowledgements: This work has been carried out thanks to the support of the research project Animals in Changing Environments: Cultural Mediation and Semiotic Analysis (EEA Norway Grants/Norway Financial Mechanism 2009-2014 under project contract no. EMP151). Paul Thibault took part in designing and conducting the interviews; Laura Kiiroja contributed by cataloguing the video-recorded interviews.

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