Tuesday, December 27, 2016

CFP for special issue on the Extended Synthesis

For a Special Issue of the journal Biosemiotics: Semiotic Aspects of the Extended Synthesis

The journal Biosemiotics (Springer) is preparing a special issue on “Semiotic Aspects of the Extended Synthesis” guest-edited by Andrew M. Winters. While the field of biosemiotics is concerned with the origin and development of natural semiotic systems, much of the discussion has been framed in terms of Darwinian frameworks, including the Modern Synthesis. Non-Darwinian views were held by Uexküll and, more recently, Darwinian views have been supplemented in important ways by Kull, Hoffmeyer, and Barbieri. Many biological phenomena, such as transgenerational epigenetic inheritance, have yet to be explained in terms of these evolutionary theories. In the 1980s, biologists aimed to develop an Extended Synthesis to build upon and replace parts of the Modern Synthesis to better accommodate and explain these observed phenomenon. Given recent discussions of the Extended Synthesis, this Special Issue aims to understand the extent to which biosemiotics is commensurate with burgeoning developments in contemporary biology by exploring how core features of biosemiotics are either consistent or at odds with those accommodated by the Extended Synthesis.  

The Special Issue of “Semiotic Aspects of the Extended Synthesis” welcomes papers that analyze specific semiotic processes within the Extended Synthesis, assess the general tenability of understanding biosemiotics in terms of the Extended Synthesis, or explore the relationship between biosemiotics and the Extended Synthesis. Papers in the form of theoretical works, empirical findings, or metatheoretical considerations are welcome.  

Some potential questions to be explored in this Special Issue include
How does the extended synthesis differ from Darwinian evolution and the modern synthesis in its impact on biosemiotics? 
Does niche construction involve the construction of signs? 
How does semiotics contribute to evolutionary-developmental biology? 
Do signs further enhance plasticity and accommodation? 
Are signs replicable? 
Do signs and semiotic systems evolve? 
Are signs capable of emerging and contributing to multilevel selection? 
To what extent are candidate signs (e.g., genes) involved in genomic evolution? 

Technical Details and Timeline:
Paper Proposals (Title and Abstract) Due January 31st, 2017
Notification of Acceptance February 28th, 2017 
Paper Submissions Due September 30th, 2017
Final Drafts Due January 31st, 2018
Electronic Publication February 2018
Print Version Issue #2 August 2018
Papers should be no more than 7,000 words (minus abstract and references)
Instructions for authors can be found here
Submit abstracts and contact the editor at andrew.winters@sru.edu

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Helping Jesper

Dear friends and colleagues,

We are sorry to have to write to you today to inform you that our mutual friend and colleague, Jesper Hoffmeyer, suffered a cerebellar stroke on August 2 of 2016, which has left him considerably impaired physically, though his higher mental faculties appear to have been for the most part spared. The damage to his cerebellum is such that Jesper lost his ability to swallow, speak, see normally and use most of the right side of his body at the time of his stroke four months ago and has been confined to hospital and rehabilitative care centers ever since. 
   Happily, he has been making great progress since that time and, while still tube-fed and wheelchair bound and unable to swallow or coordinate his eye muscles together enough to effectively read, much less write, he has expended extraordinary effort in the speech therapy that he has been given such that now, with great effort and concentration, he can make his messages understood. 
   He has also made great progress in regaining a lot of voluntary muscle control, and can move his trunk, head, limbs and hands at will, and can even propel himself some distances in his wheelchair. All of this progress is extremely encouraging, and is the result not only of Jesper's own heroic efforts at recovery, but of the intensive physiotherapy training that he has been receiving in the Danish healthcare system for the last four months.

The very, very serious problem that we are writing to you about today is this:

The Danish healthcare system puts a limit on how much post-stroke in-residence care it will provide to people who are over the age of 65 years old, who, it is felt, need only enough such care as to be able to make their wishes known to their caretakers such that they can live a quiet life being taken care of by family in their homes. 
   Such a  scenario is not the case at all in Jesper Hoffmeyer's case, who, at 74, is still he active newspaper columnist and public intellectual in Denmark as well as, of course, the leading voice and expert on the discipline of Biosemiotics worldwide. In fact, Jesper was actually working on translating his latest book in Danish, "Doubtful: Seven Things We Used to Believe In" into English at the time that the stroke occurred, and seeing this project to completion remains one of his most pressing concerns.

Yet because of these rules, Jesper's state-sponsored in-residence care and speech, swallowing and voluntary motor control therapy will end this Wednesday, Dec 19 - at which point he must pay his own way to be treated at the Vejle Fjord Rehabilitaion Center, at a basic room day charge of 17,000 Euro ($19,000 USD) per month, plus another 30,000-50,000 Euro ($35,000 - $55,000) for tests ... which is approximately 80,000 Euro ($85,000 USD) for the two months physical therapy that he needs before his motor skills and eye coordination are good enough to allow him to continue his speech and swallowing therapy at home -- and, as is his wish, to be able to read and write with colleagues again and to continue his research and publishing on Biosemiotics.

As the friends, colleagues and intellectual kindred spirits of Jesper Hoffmeyer, we would like to be able to help him and his family at this time, so we have set up this blogpost a simple-to-use donation guide in the hopes of helping them offset these extremely expensive rehabilitation fees this holiday season. There is no set minimum or maximum contribution amount, and every contribution given will be gratefully appreciated, so please feel free to forward the link to this blogpost far and wide.

You can donate to this fundraising effort by using either PayPal or TransferWire (both of which take credit card payments) or even via your own bank's wire services, as you choose. 

To donate via TransferWise, please go to: https://transferwise.com/transferFlow#/enterpayment and provide the following information:

Name:    Ingeborg Skriver
Bank name:    Nordea 
Bank/Branch number:   2340
Account number:   3490950078
Please include the word "Jesper123" in the message to the recipient field in order to make the family's accounting work easier.

To donate via PayPal: Go to this site (you don't need sign-up if you don't have an account):
Please include the word "Jesper123" in the message to the recipient field in order to make the family's accounting work easier.

Friends who have visited Jesper lately relate that he is extremely touched by, and grateful for, all the kind wishes that have been sent his way by his many friends, fans, and colleagues from around the world. He has mentioned, too, even prior to this email, that should he be able to finish his new book this year, he wants to include in it an acknowledgement of all the people who have supported him during this exceedingly difficult time.

On behalf of Jesper Hoffmeyer, then, if we may, we thank you all for whatever contribution you are able to provide him with at this time, and we wish you all a happy holiday season and continued good health.

Mette Miriam Böll, Luis Bruni, Paul Cobley, Don Favareau, Claus Emmeche, Kalevi Kull and Frederik Stjernfelt, for the International Society for Biosemiotic Studies.

Monday, November 21, 2016

CFP: Session "Biosemiotics in dialogue" at 13th World Congress of Semiotics

CFP for the session “Biosemiotics in dialogue”
IASS/AIS 13th World Congress of Semiotics “Cross-Inter-Multi-Trans” (Kaunas, Lithuania, 26-30 June 2017)

Conceptually, biosemiotics is the semiotic study of living systems. In essence, biosemiotics is already more-than-semiotic as well as more-than-biological – it is interdisciplinary in nature, and builds on synthesis between ideas and theories from various fields. In this session, we will look at the history as well as future of biosemiotics in its relating to various fields.

More specifically, we look for answers to the following questions: What are the historical, methodological and conceptual ties between biosemiotics and neighboring disciplines? How can fruitful theoretical synthesis in form of biosemiotics best be achieved? How can biosemiotics draw on ideas and perspectives from neighboring fields of endeavor? What can other fields in semiotics and beyond learn from biosemiotics? How can biosemiotics in the best way take part in solving essential scientific problems of our time?

For participating, please register to the World Congress with indication of participation in the session “Biosemiotics in dialogue” and send your abstract also to timo.maran [@] ut.ee. Please note that the registration deadline is November 30, 2016.

With kind regards,

Kalevi Kull,
Morten Tønnessen,
Timo Maran

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Introduction to biosemiotics posted in Springer´s blog LifeScienceToday

A brief introduction to biosemiotics, "Biosemiotics: Making sense of nature", co-written by me, Alexei Sharov and Timo Maran and largely based on three of our editorials for Biosemiotics has been posted in Springer´s blog LifeScienceToday.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

3rd Entry in the Biosemiotics Glossary Project: INTENTIONALITY

Dear Friends in Biosemiotics,

In 2014, Morten Tønnessen and the editors of Biosemiotics officially launched the Biosemiotic Glossary Project in the effort to: (1)  “solidify and detail established terminology” being used in the field for the benefit of newcomers (2) to, by involving the entire biosemiotics community, “contribute innovatively in the theoretical development of biosemiotic theory and vocabulary” via the discussions that result (Tønnessen 2015).

Towards those ends, I have assented to collate your contributions to the next entry to be included in the Glossary project, which is the important and deeply debated notion of intentionality.
And to make it as easy as possible for you to share with us your own perspectives on this concept, we have set up a very simple online survey for you to access, and to simply click through our list of pre-given responses OR to add in new responses of your own, to the exact extent that you like.

PART 1 of this survey consists of 5 simple short answer QUESTIONS regarding the notion of intentionality, as it may be conceptualized from a biosemiotic perspective, and may be accessed by clicking here:https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/MKHPT97

PART 2 of the survey asks you to consider how the term intentionality has been conceptualized in a small number of previously published QUOTES and to click on the response that best reflects your opinion of their suitability for use in biosemiotics. This part of the survey can be accessed by clicking here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/T66XDMH

Again, you should feel free to reply to either or both parts of the survey, as you like, and even within each part of the survey, you can choose which questions to answer and which to ignore. Any and ALL feedback you can give us will be helpful for our purposes on compiling this Glossary, as discussed in more detail in the attachment below.

For as understood in the everyday sense of the term, intentionality refers to deliberate, purposeful action – “to have in mind as a purpose or goal” (Merriam-Webster) “volition which one is minded to carry out” or, more broadly, “ultimate purpose; the aim of an action; that for which anything is intended” (OED). While in philosophical and phenomenological terms, following Brentano, “Every mental phenomenon is characterized by what the Scholastics of the Middle Ages called the intentional (or mental) inexistence of an object, and what we might call, though not wholly unambiguously, reference to a contentdirection toward an object (which is not to be understood here as meaning a thing), or immanent objectivity” (1874[1995]:88-89).

More colloquially, this oft-used sense of the word intentionality refers to “The property of a thought or experience that consists in its being consciousness ‘of’ or ‘about’ something” (MacIntyre and Smith 1982: xiii).

Biosemiotics, in its concern with explaining the emergence of, and the relations between, both biological ‘end-directedness’ and semiotic ‘about-ness’ (or what John Deely calls “being towards another” [2001:478]) in nature, would seem a fertile field for re-conceptualizing the notion of intentionality, and thus the online questionnaire seeks to survey and to document the current thinking in the field about this concept.

To encourage maximum response, we have endeavored to keep the online questionnaire short, using multiple choice response buttons in Part 2 and with even the longest of the 5 short answer questions appearing in Part 1 asking for only a one, or at most two, sentence response. You may also choose to respond anonymously, if you wish.

As you can see, we have endeavored this year to make the submission of your Glossary responses as easy as time-efficient possible, so we do hope that as many members of the biosemiotics community will take the few minutes needed to fill out this short online survey and to help us get a sense of how this elusive and important concept should (and perhaps should not) be conceptualized in biosemiotics.

We ask that you kindly do fill out this survey at your earliest convenience and, ideally, well in advance of our annual Gatherings in Biosemiotics conference, which begins on July 4, 2016 in Prague, so we may begin discussing some of the preliminary results of the survey together with one another at that time.

Thank you all once again for your participation in this project. We very much look forward to hearing your thoughts soon!

With all best wishes,

Don Favareau for The Biosemiotic Glossary Project