Sunday, November 22, 2015

CFP: Special Issue of Biosemiotics: Constructive biosemiotics

Call for Papers
Special Issue of Biosemiotics (Springer): Constructive biosemiotics.

The journal Biosemiotics (Springer) is preparing a special issue on “Constructive biosemiotics” guest-edited by Tommi Vehkavaara and Alexei Sharov. By the epithet “constructive“ we are referring to a naturalized approach to agency, normativity, and knowledge that emphasizes the primacy of activity and real construction of the cognitive agents themselves as opposed to the view to agents as mainly passively or mechanically reacting. The aim of the Special Issue is to integrate such constructive approach with biosemiotics so that organisms and perhaps other types of living systems are considered as agents that construct their “knowledge”, i.e. their habits of interpreting signs, their own functional structure, and their environment (that typically includes other agents) they are interacting with. Such constructive perspective is present to some extent in the works of theoretical classics of biosemiotics, especially of Jakob von Uexküll (concepts of functional circle and Umwelt), Gregory Bateson (cybernetics and information), and C.S. Peirce (meaning of sign as constructed by its interpreter). In this special issue we welcome also other constructive starting points – not so often employed in biosemiotics – like Jean Piaget’s constructivism, Richard Lewontin’s emphasis on construction over adaptationism, autopoietic approaches, cybernetics, General systems theory (Ludwig von Bertalanffy), evolutionary epistemology, and interactivism (Mark Bickhard) as far as they are somehow applied to biosemiotic problematics.

Independently on the chosen semiotic terminology (e.g., sign, representation, meaning, or information), constructive biosemiotics understands the referents of these terms as being constructed by biosemiotic agents. Either these referents are materially constructed (composed) by the agent, or some already existing and available material items are identified and taken into service by the agent so that only their semiotic roles are constructed. In both cases, material items are merely vehicles of their semiotic functioning that are picked up for use according to the actual needs of the agent. That would mean to take the organism or agent point of view in its interaction with the world. The activity of agents is controlled by their subsystems that are goal-directed or embodying some normative functional criteria, which in some cases enables the agent to judge and detect the success of its semiotic operations. Although the developmental or short-term time scale is more natural in constructive view, we suggest that constructive biosemiotics should expand to the evolutionary dynamics, evolvability and (re)construction of receptor and effector subsystems of agents, and the whole evo-devo problematic. E.g. what is the role of agential constructions in longer term time scales (e.g. Baldwin effect) and whether or in which sense there can be said to be evolutionary agents (lineages, populations, etc.) capable of learning (evolutionary epistemology, vertical biosemiosis).

The special issue of Constructive biosemiotics welcomes papers that emphasize the constructive perspective in biosemiotic processes at functional and evolutionary time scales. The central question is how biosemiotic agents or systems are constructed and are constructing their semiotic behaviors like 
1. cognitive interactions (meaning formation and communication),
2. navigation in the environment (functional or intentional movements),
3. functional reconstruction of the environment (e.g. niche construction, moulding the other agents),
4. self-maintenance, self-modification, and (recursive) self-production of (semiotically) functional structures or scaffoldings (e.g., constructive development of full-scale competence), and
5. self-identification and -determination (e.g. the normative functioning of immune systems).

A further question concerns the criteria of agency. While organisms are usually understood as the prototype of biosemiotic agents, it can also be considered whether (or in which sense) it would be reasonable to consider also some other kind of biological unities – individual cells, organs, or populations, species, lineages, etc. – as agents capable of these behaviors. The special issue welcomes theoretical works, empirical findings, and metatheoretical considerations that employ constructive perspective biosemiotically relevant way.

Timetable and technical requirements:
- Deadline for submitting tentative titles and abstracts: January 2016
- Deadline for paper submission: September 2016
- Electronic publication ahead of print: January-February 2017
- Paper version, Issue #2, August 2017.
- Recommended length 7,000 words. Figures and tables are welcome (if possible).
- Contact with editors by e-mail: or

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Call for contributions: "Rhetorical Animals: Boundaries of the Human in the Study of Persuasion"

Shared on request:

Rhetorical Animals: Boundaries of the Human in the Study of Persuasion

Alex C. Parrish (James Madison University)
Kristian Bjørkdahl (Rokkan Centre for Social Studies)

In recent years, humanists and social scientists have shown increasing interest in human-animal relations – to the point where many now speak of an ‘animal turn’ in the humanities and social sciences. Across history, psychology, anthropology, literature, sociology, philosophy, and law, an interdisciplinary field of human-animal studies has been forming. Certain common themes run through this diverse field, not least the reproduction of human-animal difference, and the conditions and the implications thereof.

Despite the long history of language use as a marker of such difference, the academic quest to investigate the boundary between human and nonhuman has, somewhat surprisingly, not taken root within rhetorical studies – at least not until now. For this edited volume, we therefore call for chapters that investigate the place of nonhuman animals in the purview of rhetorical theory; what it would mean to communicate beyond the human community; how rhetoric reveals our ‘brute roots.’ In other words, this book invites contributions which enlighten us about likely or possible implications of the animal turn within rhetorical studies. Would such a turn imply, for instance, that rhetoric needs a nonanthropocentric reconfiguration? The question, perhaps, is this: What difference would it make to the discipline if we assumed that nonhuman forms of communication were as interesting as human ones?

For this volume, we invite contributions from a variety of academic perspectives that help elucidate how rhetoric can benefit from and contribute to human-animal studies. Abstracts of no more than 300 words should be submitted, with a brief biography, to Alex Parrish at and to Kristian Bjørkdahl at The closing date for submissions is 10 June 2015. Successful applicants will be notified by 20 June 2015. Full chapters are due 20 January 2016.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

2nd CFP, extended abstract deadline March 15th: "Animals in the Anthropocene - human-animal relations in a changing semiosphere"

The Second Call For Papers for the conference "Animals in the Anthropocene: Human-animal relations in a changing semiosphere" (Stavanger, Norway, September 17-19th 2015) has appeared (see conference webpage and 2nd CFP).

Extended deadline for submission of abstracts (oral presentations): March 15th 2015. Please submit your abstract to

Keynote speakers: Almo Farina (Italy), Gisela Kaplan (Australia), Dominique Lestel (France), David Rothenberg (USA), Bronislaw Szerszynski (UK) and Louise Westling (USA).

The conference will feature 7 theme sessions:
– “Animals mediating the real and the imaginary in the past” (chairs: Siv Kristoffersen & Kristin Armstrong Oma, Museum of Archaeology, University of Stavanger, Norway)
– "Animal representations in popular culture and new media" (chairs: Kjersti Vik & Lene Bøe, University of Stavanger, Norway)
– “Animals, semiotics, and Actor-Network-Theory” (chairs: Silver Rattasepp & Timo Maran, University of Tartu, Estonia)
– “Global species” (chair: Morten Tønnessen, University of Stavanger, Norway)
– “Humans and other animals, between anthropology and phenomenologies” (chair: Annabelle Dufourcq, Charles University, Czech Republic)
– “Understanding the meaning of animals“ (chairs: Forrest Clingerman, Ohio Northern University, USA & Martin Drenthen, Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands)
– “Wild animals in the era of humankind” (chair: Morten Tønnessen, University of Stavanger, Norway)

Submitted abstracts will be considered for a planned book to be published in Lexington Books´ series "Ecocritical Theory and Practice".