Tuesday, January 28, 2014

CFP: Gatherings in Biosemiotics 14

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] biosemiotics.org 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] mdx.ac.uk.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Session on Biosemiotic ethics at 12th World Congress of Semiotics

Dear all,

I have taken the initiative to a session (either a study session or more likely a roundtable, depending on the interest) at the 12th World Congress of Semiotics (Sofia, Bulgaria, 16-20 September 2014) entitled "Biosemiotic ethics". Abstracts for individual presentations can be sent directly to me. The description of the topic of this session is as follows (see here for other proposed sessions):


Biosemiotic ethics
Morten Tønnessen, University of Stavanger, Norway (mortentoennessen AT gmail.com)

A dozen to 20 years ago, two of the most central biosemioticians, first Jesper Hoffmeyer and then Kalevi Kull, addressed connections between biosemiotics and ethics. The last ten years a new generation of scholars have started working out a biosemiotic ethics. The foundational idea is that if all living systems are semiotic, then biosemiosis can serve as basis for justifying attribution of moral status to human and non-human individuals and to various ecological entities. Most of the scholars involved in this endeavor have taken Jakob von Uexküll’s Umwelt theory as their starting point. Recent relevant publications include a translation of Uexküll’s 1917 article “Darwin and the English Morality”, with a framing essay entitled ““Darwin und die englische Moral”: The Moral Consequences of Uexküll’s Umwelt Theory”.

Relevant questions for discussion include but are not limited to the following: In what ways does a biosemiotic ethics potentially take us beyond sentience-centered approaches? Does biosemiotic ethics represent a new form of consequentialism, or should it be placed within some other tradition? What ramifications do different views on the semiotic threshold have within the context of normative ethics? Is there (something akin to) normativity in the very constitution of the Umwelt? Does the semiosphere at large (qua biosphere) have intrinsic value? And what, in terms of biosemiosis, is the origin of value?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Questionnaire from Biosemiotics - and info about the biosemiotic glossary project

Dear all,

on behalf of the journal Biosemiotics, I refer you to a questionnaire which we now distribute in the biosemiotic community in preparation of the biosemiotic glossary project. The editorial team of Biosemiotics, which counts Alexei Sharov, Timo Maran and myself (note that in parallel Marcello is finishing the final issues he is responsible for the next few months), has decided to go through with this project, and that I will be its handling editor.

The genre for the resulting publications will be invited review articles. The first, standard-setting review article, on the notions ‘agent’ and ‘agency’, will be written by me personally. One review will be published in each regular issue of Biosemiotics – in other words, usually there will be two review articles per year. The first article will appear in no. 3/2014. Each article will review one or more terms.

While I am the handling editor for these review articles, all three of us will be involved in decision making. We will routinely discuss and decide on what term(s) to review next, what author(s) to invite to write each review, etc. As part of the editorial process, each review article will, when submitted, be distributed to the members of the editorial board of Biosemiotics and further to those cited in the article, for feedback. This will be part of the basis for our editorial decision concerning whether the review is ready to be published or needs revisions.

A survey in the biosemiotic community will be conducted in preparation of each review article. The associated questionnaire, which is to be returned to me as handling editor, will be distributed to a wide range of biosemioticians, including but not necessarily restricted to/via the members of the editorial board and advisory board of Biosemiotics, the biosemiotics email list (biosemiotics@lists.ut.ee), the board members of the International Society for Biosemiotic Studies (ISBS), the board members of the International Society of Code Biology (ISCB), and the Biosemiosis blog (http://biosemiosis.blogspot.com/).

The invited author(s) will in each case be tasked with describing the outcomes of the survey associated with their review article, and to do so systematically and in an unbiased manner. However, when it comes to synthesis and suggestions, they will have the freedom to propose their own view even if it contradicts the general/popular understanding. In the writing process, all assigned authors are expected to conduct an extensive literature review on their own as well.

All respondents to the first survey in the biosemiotic community are, as part of the survey, invited to propose specific terms to review. Suitable terms should be quite concisely used by several biosemioticians, and if the terms are in more general usage as well, the biosemiotic usage of the terms should somehow stand out from general usage.

The deadline for returning the attached questionnaire is December 15th. It should be sent to my email address (mortentoennessen AT gmail.com or alternatively morten.tonnessen AT uis.no).

My best,

Morten Tønnessen
Co-Editor-in-Chief of Biosemiotics

PS: The questionnaire is available via my Academia.edu page, here.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Why I joined the ISCB (a call for unity among biosemioticians)

The ISCB, the International Society for Code Biology, 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 [me]
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".

Monday, October 29, 2012

CFP: Sign evolution on multiple time scales (NASS 8, Aarhus 2013)

First Call for Papers and Theme Sessions of the Eighth Conference of the Nordic Association for Semiotic Studies (NASS):
Sign evolution on multiple time scales

We hereby invite submission of abstracts for oral or poster presentations for the Eighth Conference of the NordicAssociation for Semiotic Studies (NASS) to be held at the Center for Semiotics, University of Aarhus, Denmark, May 29th – 31st, 2013.

The theme of this year’s conference is the evolution of signs, and will thus – among many others – address the following questions:
  • What are the basic mechanisms and conditions for the emergence of new signs and sign systems (such as codes, notational systems, verbal and sign languages, gesture, graphical symbols, pictorial expression, etc.)?
  • To which extent should we search for these mechanisms at the level of biology, culture, cognition, phenomenological experience or interaction?
  • And what are the relevant features of signs themselves making them emerge, survive and propagate in contexts of communication?
The conference brings together international scholars from a range of disciplines each addressing these questions in relation to particular time scales ranging from biological and cultural evolution to ontogeny and online social interaction. Presentations should address aspects of how signs and sign systems emerge and develop on different time scales. Topics include, but are not limited to:
  • Sign emergence and development on an evolutionary time scale
  • Sign emergence and development on a cultural historical timescale
  • Sign emergence and development on an ontogenetic time scale
  • Sign emergence and development on online interactive time scale
  • Cultural perspectives on sign emergence and development
  • Cognitive perspectives on sign emergence and development
  • Dynamical systems perspectives on sign emergence and development
  • Phenomenological perspectives on sign emergence and development
  • Neurological perspectives on sign emergence and development
  • Biological perspectives on sign emergence and development
Invited Plenary Speakers:
Jordan Zlatev (Lund University)
Fatima Cvrckova – (Charles University, Prague)
Bruno Galantucci (Yeshiva University, NY)
Susan Goldin-Meadow (University of Chicago)
Winfried Nöth (University of Kassel)*
Luc Steels (Vrije Universiteit Brussel)*

* NB: Not yet confirmed
Paper submissions:
Abstracts should be no more than 300 words and should be sent as an attachment to kristian@nordicsemiotics.org in doc, docx, ort or pdf format. Please do not include name or contact details in the text file. Specify in a cover mail your Title, Name, Affiliation, and whether the abstract is intended for oral or poster presentation. Please also indicate if your abstract should be considered part of a theme session (if you are taking part in organizing one) and if you would be willing to present a poster if the abstract is not accepted for oral presentation. 
Deadline:  January 31
Theme Sessions proposals:
Proposals for thematic sessions should contain an abstract of no more than 300 words describing the theme. It should also specify the name and affiliation of the organizer(s) and a list of people that would potentially like their presentation to be part of the theme session (IMPORTANT: each participant should still submit her own individual paper abstract that will go through regular peer review). The theme session proposal should be send to kristian@nordicsemiotics.org as an attachment in doc, docx, ort or pdf format. Please specify in a cover mail the Title, Name(s) and Affiliation(s) of the theme session organizers and the title of the theme session proposal. Theme session organizer(s) may be contacted about the potential inclusion of additional papers from general submission if these seem to fit the proposed theme.   
Deadline: December 31
Important Dates
  • October 15: First Call for Papers and Theme Session Proposals
  • December 1: Second Call for Papers and Theme Session Proposals
  • December 31: Deadline for theme session proposals
  • January 31: Deadline for abstract submission
  • March 15: Notification of acceptance
  • May 29 – May 31: Conference
Scientific Committee:
Luis E. Bruni (Aalborg University)
Jordan Zlatev (Lund University)
Göran Sonesson (Lund University)
Sara Lenninger (Lund University)
Torill Strand (University of Oslo)
Morten Tønnessen (University of Stavanger)
Riin Magnus (University of Tartu)
Ahti-Veikko Pietarinen (University of Helsinki)
Tommi Vehkavaara (Tampere University)
Bergljot Kristjansdottir (University of Island)
Sigrún Margrét Guðmundsdóttir (University of Island)
Svend Østergaard (Aarhus University)
Riccardo Fusaroli (Aarhus University)
Frederik Stjernfelt (Aarhus University)

If you have any questions or comments related to the conference organization, please email Kristian Tylén: kristian@nordicsemiotics.org

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Biosemiotics symposium June 2012

Nordic Semiotic Paradigms – NASS 25 years

Where do Cognitive, Bio- and Existential Semiotics Meet?

A symposium at the 27th International Summer School for Semiotic and Structural Studies (Imatra, Finland – June 8-12, 2012)

Within the days June 8-12, 2012, the symposium “Nordic Semiotic Paradigms – NASS 25 years: Where do Cognitive, Bio- and Existential Semiotics Meet?” will be arranged in Imatra, Finland, as part of the 27th International Summer School for Semiotic and Structural Studies. NASS’ president Luis Emilio Bruni will chair the anniversary symposium, which will take place at Hotel Valtionhotelli.

The Imatra ISI symposium marks the 25 year anniversary of the Nordic Association for Semiotic Studies (NASS). The venue of the anniversary symposium, Imatra, is appropriate given that it was at a meeting in this Finnish town that NASS was founded in the summer of 1987. The first Executive Committee of NASS counted representatives from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. The current board, elected at the Seventh Conference of the Nordic Association for Semiotic Studies in Lund in May 2011, involves Ordinary Representatives and Supplementary Representatives from these five countries and further Estonia.

The theme of the NASS anniversary symposium draws on the work of several notable Nordic scholars in the fields of cognitive semiotics, biosemiotics and existential semiotics. These are all promising, novel, dynamic subfields in contemporary semiotics. Neither of them are but regionalparadigms – rather, Nordic researchers have been instrumental in establishing and consolidating them at an international level, with a sphere of influence which by far exceeds the Nordic region. How has Nordic semiotics come to be so influential? And, as the title of the symposium asks: Where do these fields meet? A number of scholars are involved in both cognitive semiotics and biosemiotics, and there is clearly a thematic overlap in-between the two. And what of existential semiotics – on what points does it overlap with biosemiotics, and with cognitive semiotics? Furthermore, how can these various Nordic paradigms acquire informative inspiration from each other, and find common ground to cultivate further? Despite differing inclinations and academic taste, such a project should not be unattainable, given that cognitive semiotics, biosemiotics and existential semiotics are all concerned with the semiotics of life.

The symposium/research seminar will consist of papers presented by both invited lecturers and participants. The aim of the summer school is to offer the participants both up-to-date research and an opportunity to discuss their projects with leading specialists in various fields. The duration of presentations will be 30 minutes, and the working languages of the seminars are English, French and German. Active participants – i.e., participants presenting papers, must register by April 15th. Passive participants can register until April 30th. Active participants must send a short Curriculum Vitae and a one-page abstract of his/her paper toinfo@isisemiotics.fi and submit the registration form online. Passive participants must submit theregistration form online by April 30, 2011. Participation fee for the whole summer school is 200 EUR (this covers lunch and two coffees a day June 9–12 and an elegant evening reception and buffet on June 9th). For payment instructions and information about accommodation, see the pages of The International Semiotics Institute (ISI).

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Antennae: The Journal of Nature in Visual Culture

The current issue of Antennae, Issue 17, Summer 2011 (http://www.antennae.org.uk/) is a special issue on plants called 'Why Look at Plants?'. It contains an essay - 'Aspects of Plant Intelligence' by Anthony Trewavas of Edinburgh University. The essay references many names with which readers of this blog will be familiar. Being an Art History journal, the issue is full of beautiful illustrations.