Submit to Biosemiotics?

Friday, 29 March 2019

Interview day no. 2

All day I have taken part in interviews with selected candidates for the position as Vice-Rector of research at University of Stavanger.

Grading explained

Today I have explained the grading of one exam paper in Ex.Phil.

Thursday, 28 March 2019

Half proposal writing day

Today I had (half) a writing day working on my RCN research application.

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Project proposal feedback

Today I attended a meeting with a researcher from UiS´ Research and Innovation Department getting some feedback on my RCN project proposal "Assessing human and animal welfare in the Anthropocene" (AHAWELL).

Presentation, program for UiS welfare research workshop

Here (in Norwegian) is program for and presentation of the workshop that will be held by University of Stavanger´s Network for welfare research (under establishment). 

Vice-Rector interviews

Today I have taken part in interviewing selected candidates for the position as Vice-Rector of Innovation and Public Relations at University of Stavanger.

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Three meetings today

Toda I have attended the faculty´s leadership group meeting, a planning meeting concerning our work with re-accreditation of the PhD program, and a planning meeting on research assistance schemes.

Monday, 25 March 2019

Welfare network workshop: Invitations sent; program made public

Invitations to attend our workshop April 30th, in relation to the establishing of a Network for welfare research, have now been sent to University of Stavanger and NORCE employees with an interest in welfare research. The workshop will take place 9.00-13.45 on Sola Strandhotell.

I am scheduled to speak 9.10-9.30.

See also:

No article writing day

Today I was supposed to have another article writing day. However, I fell sick last night, losing some 4-5 kilos during the early, horrid night, and have needed rest today - so no writing day.

Sunday, 24 March 2019


I have just shortened and condensed the abstract below (see also original version posted earlier).



Author: Morten Tønnessen
Affiliation: Department of social studies, Faculty of social sciences, University of Stavanger, Norway

Relationality – the ways in which organisms are involved in relations to other organisms – is a crucial aspect of ecology, and biology at large. From the vantage point of Biosemiotics, the logical starting point is to define biosemioticrelations as relations that involve methodical (regular or recurring) sign exchange. Organisms that are connected by such relations are biosemiosically linked. By mapping and describing the biosemiotic relations a specific organism engages in, and thus what it relates to as carrying meaning for it, we by and largely describe what being that organism amounts to. Biosemiotic relationality helps us understand ecological complexity because, in combination with organisms´ biosemiotic agency, it allows for complex, dynamic living systems. Biosemiotic relationality can furthermore help us understand how the individual and ecological level of biological study are interconnected. From the individual organism´s point of view, its particular form of relationality is an expression of its “operating space”, to borrow an expression from Rockström et al. (2009). It is important for the complexity and integrity of ecosystems, and it is also significant for the integrity, and the living conditions, of the individual organism.
In our time of massive anthropogenic environmental change, as succinctly expressed by the term “Anthropocene” (Steffen et al. 2011), a major challenge is to work out how von Uexküll´s “subjective biology” can be applied in the context of global human ecology. From a relational point of view, we can observe that human beings take part in several co-dependent relations with animals, ranging from livestock to pets. We rely on their animal products or social company, and they rely on our good treatment and husbandry, and in some cases our social company. In the current scientific discourse, topics related to individual human and animal welfare are largely disconnected from topics related to environmental sustainability. Biosemiotic relationality can contribute to showing how these different topics are connected. Borrowing again from Rockström et al. (2009), we could set out to determine the “safe operating space” of organisms in terms of their biosemiotic relationality. This would amount to addressing questions such as: To what extent is organism X´s relationality flexible? When considering the significant relations organism X engages in, which ones of these are irreplaceable, and which ones are replaceable or amendable? Under current ecological circumstances, many biosemiotic relations are bended or broken by extreme breeding, automated machine-handling, homogenous social environments, industrial-style indoor environments (in animal husbandry), and depleted wildlife. What are the limits for such bending of significant biosemiotic relations, in terms of environmental sustainability and individual welfare?

Rockström, Johan et al. (2009). Planetary boundaries: Exploring the safe operating space for humanity. Ecology and Society14(2): 32. URL: 
Steffen, Will, Jacques Grinevald, Paul Crutzen, and John McNeill 2011. The Anthropocene: Conceptual and Historical Perspectives. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A369(1938):842–867. doi:10.1098/rsta.2010.0327.

Abstract: "Semiotics in ethology and zoology"

About a month ago I finished the abstract below, for a forthcoming book (chapter).


Semiotics in ethology and zoology
Morten Tønnessen
Zoosemiotics, the semiotic study of topics of ethology, zoology and other animal-related fields, historically emerged as a precursor to biosemiotics and ecosemiotics, with common roots in the Umwelt theory of Jakob von Uexküll (1921, 1934), among other sources of inspiration (see e.g. Kleisner 2008). Thomas Sebeok (1972, 1990) coined the term, established von Uexküll as a key figure in zoosemiotics, and made initial connections between semiotic theory and animal studies. In contemporary times, Dario Martinelli (2010) and others have developed a history of zoosemiotics as well as contributed to expanding and further developing the range of semiotic studies of animals (see also Maran et al. (eds.) 2011). 
Key developments in semiotic approaches to animal studies in recent years have their origin in Italy, France, the Czech republic and Estonia, among other countries. Attempts at synthesis with related fields or approaches have been made e.g. with regard to ecology and ecological economics (Farina 2012), Actor-Network Theory, posthumanities, anthropology, and Human–animal studies/anthrozoology. Other developments are related to work contextualizing Umwelt theory, e.g. within philosophy (phenomenology – Buchanan 2008; philosophical anthropology – Brentari 2015), or criticizing the classical version of Umwelt theory while aiming to update it (e.g. Tønnessen 2009). Furthermore, zoosemiotics has been contextualized within ethology (e.g. Maran 2010).
Critical discussion and integration with related approaches is now resulting in novel models and methods, many of which originating in a growing number of case studies (e.g. Maran et al. 2016). Focus is shifting from objective descriptions of differences in sensory apparatus, communication channels etc. to more dynamical representations with more emphasis on interaction (e.g. Lestel 2011) and hybridity, thus challenging mainstream dichotomies. Particularly, there is rising interest in human–animal interaction, increasingly tied to an ethical outlook.
In the near future, work is needed that 1) connects semiotic studies in ethology and zoology with issues in global human ecology, 2) develops flexible zoosemiotic tools and methodology for application by field ethologists, veterinarians, zookeepers etc., and 3) makes further connections with phenomenology, ethnography, and anthropology by developing tools and methodology tailor-made for studies related to human agents and their dealings with animals. Today, zoosemiotics is arguably the theoretically and empirically soundest approach to “taking the animal´s perspective”.

Buchanan, Brett (2008). Onto-Ethologies: The Animal Environments of Uexküll, Heidegger, Merleau, and Deleuze. New York: SUNY Press.
Brentari, Carlo (2015). Jakob von Uexküll: The discovery of the Umwelt between Biosemiotics and theoretical biology(Biosemiotics 9). Springer.
Farina, A., 2012. A Biosemiotic perspective of the resource criterion: toward a general theory of resources. Biosemiotics 5 (1), 17–32. 
Kleisner, Karel (2008). The semantic morphology of Adolf Portmann: A starting point for the biosemiotics of organic form? Biosemiotics1(2): 207–219.
Lestel, Dominique (2011). What capabilities for the animal? Biosemiotics4(1): 83– 102.
Martinelli, Dario (2010). A Critical Companion to Zoosemiotics: People, Paths, Ideas, (Biosemiotics 5). Berlin: Springer.
Maran, Timo (2010). Why was Thomas A. Sebeok not a cognitive ethologist? From “animal mind” to “semiotic self”. Biosemiotics 3(3): 315–329.
Maran, Timo; Martinelli, Dario; Turovski, Aleksei (eds.) (2011). Readings in Zoosemiotics, (Semiotics, Communication and Cognition 8). Berlin: DeGruyter Mouton.
Maran, Timo, Morten Tønnessen, Kristin Armstrong Oma, Laura Kiiroja, Riin Magnus, Nelly Mäekivi, Silver Rattasepp, Paul Thibault & Kadri Tüür (2016). Animal Umwelten in a changing world – Zoosemiotic perspectives(Tartu Semiotics Library 18) (eds. Timo Maran, Morten Tønnessen & Silver Rattasepp). Tartu: Tartu University Press.
Sebeok, Thomas A. (1972). Perspectives in Zoosemiotics(Janua Linguarum. Series Minor 122). The Hague: Mouton de Gruyter.
Sebeok, Thomas A. (1990). Essays in Zoosemiotics(Monograph Series of the TSC 5). Toronto: Toronto Semiotic Circle; Victoria College in the University of Toronto.
Tønnessen, Morten (2009). Umwelt transitions: Uexküll and environmental change. Biosemiotics2: 47–64.
von Uexküll, Jakob (1921). Umwelt und Innenwelt der Tiere. (2nd ed.) Berlin: Verlag von Julius Springer.
von Uexküll, Jakob (1934). Streifzüge durch die Umwelten von Tieren und Menschen: Ein Bilderbuch unsichtbarer Welten. Hamburg: Rowohlt. Reprinted in Jakob von Uexküll & Georg Kriszat (illustrations) 1956 [1934/1940], Streifzüge durch die Umwelten von Tieren und Menschen: Ein Bilderbuch unsichtbarer Welten. Bedeutungslehre, Hamburg: Rowohlt.

Region Stavanger´s Ambassador Prize 2018 received for organizing NASS XI

On Thursday March 21st I attended the "ambassador reception" of Region Stavanger, enjoyed a 2-course meal, and received Region Stavanger´s "Ambassador Prize for 2018" for organizing the 11th conference of the Nordic Association for Semiotic Studies (held in June 2019). About a dozen people received such prizes this evening.

The prize consists of a diploma and a statue of sorts. 

Friday, 22 March 2019

Spring´s sixth article writing day

Today I had this Spring´s sixth article writing day. I did a little of this and a little of that - resubmitting "The ethics of laying hen genetics" after some rearrangements, and working on literature lists for three different articles, one of which finished and two in process.

Thursday, 21 March 2019

RCN proposal writing day

Today I have had my second-ish writing day for the Research Council of Norway FRIPRO-version of my research project application "Assessing human and animal welfare in the Anthropocene" (first submitted to the ERC Consolidator Grant scheme, in February). 

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Welfare talk scheduled for presentation at UiS workshop

On a workshop held by University of Stavanger´s Faculty of social sciences on April 30th, I will give a presentation work titled "Velferdsutviklingen i de nordiske landene og globalt" (The welfare development in the Nordic countries and globally).

Board meeting of Network for gender research chaired

Today I have, for the first time, chaired a board meeting of Network for gender research (Nettverk for kjønnsforskning), in my capacity of Vice-Dean of research at University of Stavanger´s Faculty of Social Sciences. 

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Three meetings and a supervision session

Today I have attended the faculty leadership group meeting, chaired a meeting in the faculty´s Doctoral committee (my third), attended a meeting in preparation of another meeting I´ll chair tomorrow, and supervised a MA student.

Monday, 18 March 2019

3 papers graded

Today I have graded 3 papers for the continuation exam in "Philosophy of science and research methods".

Research Committee meeting attended

Today I attended the meeting of the Research Committee (Forskningsutvalget) at University of Stavanger. As Vice-Dean of Research at Faculty of Social Sciences my attendance is compulsory, along with that of the Dean.

Friday, 15 March 2019

3 exam papers graded

today I have graded 3 exam papers submitted for the continuation exam in Ex.Phil. at Department of social studies.

Professor update on profile pages

I have updated my Orcid ID page with my current title (Professor). Also my UiS profile page now has the updated title.

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Spring´s fifth article writing day - welfare article revised

Today I have had the Spring´s fifth article writing day, and finished revising my article "Human development, inequality and social risks in Latin-America and the Nordic countries", which is written for a forthcoming special issue of Journal of Comparative Social work titled "Welfare in Latin America and the Nordic countries".

Ethics of laying hen genetics article submitted

Our article "The ethics of laying hen genetics" (by Mia Fernyhough et al.) has been submitted to PLOS Genetics.

Paper accepted for presentation at 19th gathering in biosemiotics (Moscow)

I have been notified by the organizers of the 19th gathering in biosemiotics, to be held in Moscow in July, that my paper "How relationally connects the individual and ecological level of biological study" has been accepted for oral presentation.

IHSRC abstract accepted for presentation (Molde)

Joakim Jiri Haaland has been notified that our abstract for IHSRC 2019, to be held in Molde in June, has been accepted for oral presentation.

See also:

UiS news story in relation to full professor promotion

Yesterday a news story titled "Opprykk til professor" (Full professor promotion) was published on the webpage of University of Stavanger, see here. The story is written by Karoline Reilstad.

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Three meetings today

Today I have attended a meeting of the appointments committee for the new positions as Vice-Rector of Research and Vice-Rector of Public Relations and Innovations, where we selected who to invite for interviews. I also attended a planning meeting in relation to establishment of a Network for welfare research, and had an annual performance appraisal meeting with my Head of Department.

Google Scholars: Cleaning up?

Google Scholar totals sometimes go back and forth. While I was registered with 369 citations and an i10-index of 11 on February 16th, I now have 351 citations (and an i10-index of 9) according to my profile page - including the first citation registered in 2019.

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

To join editorial board of "Environmental and Sustainability Indicators"

I have agreed to join the editorial board of the Elsevier journal Environmental and Sustainability Indicators.

Three meetings and then some

Today I have attended the Faculty of social sciences´ leadership group meeting, chaired a start-up meeting with two PhD scholars and supervisors, and attended the meeting of the appointments committee responsible for the position as head of department at the Norwegian School of Hotel Management.

Monday, 11 March 2019

3 meetings and supervision

Today I have attended three meetings, including a meeting with the UiS Business school in relation to cooperation on a PhD program, and a meeting on evaluation of the faculty´s writing retreats/seminars. I have also had a PhD supervision session.

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Three meetings and an interview

First on campus development (specifically the functionality of Kjell Arholms hus). Then on the possibility of making cotutelle agreements on PhDs (collaboration between universities). Then on accreditation of the faculty´s new PhD program. And finally an interview in relation to my professor promotion, soon to appear on the University of Stavanger´s internal web.

Wednesday, 6 March 2019


Today I have had a work lunch, and also attended a meeting in relation to the faculty´s reorganizing of its PhD studies. Plus plus.

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Fourth article writing day

Today I had this Spring´s fourth article writing day, working on revising my article "Human development, inequality and social risks in Latin America and the Nordic countries".

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Last day in Havana

Friday: This was the fifth and last work day in Havana, in relation to our NORPART project "Cuban and Nordic Welfare". All days we have worked with our partners from University of Havana´s Department of sociology. It has been a really nice stay both with regard to work and otherwise.