Problem Solvers, Critical Theorists and the Inuit

I think that Smith and Kuhn have different viewpoints of ontology. While Smith takes a “problem solving” approach, Kuhn approaches it with a more “critical theory” approach. That is, that Smith accepts the structure of the system and works within in it, while Kuhn attempts at a complete restructure. I personally found the Kuhn article a little more difficult to process, but I did find it interesting that he focuses on language and logic theory. I also noted that while Kuhn suggests that there are “Ontology designers” who appoint what may be included in GIS language and or experience. Contrary to this, Smith infers that our ontologies are subconscious and are created through our personal life experiences. He mentions (as other classmates have cited) that someone who is exposed to plains and fields might have a different impression of a mountain range.

ClimateNYC also mentions this, and I will add that not only would an Inuk have difficulty describing a desert, but it has been noted by many anthropologists that Inuit have an extended vocabulary for certain types of snow and ice. Professor Colin Scott (McGill) suggests they might have four, five or six separate words describing snow; all dependant on the temperature and moisture content etc.  This concept is foreign to even Canadians. I personally can only think of two; wet snow (slush) and normal snow (these days snow is almost non-existent and ice may soon replace the word snow).

Both authors take interesting standpoints. Personally, I like Smith’s perspective. I believe that Ontologies occur without conscious effort. They are formed through many years and experiences, each one contributing to a personal ontology of a thing or concept. I’m not sure that it is entirely correct to categorize and engineer a proper set of rules and defined ontologies.

Andrew “GIS” Funa

*I would prefer to not use the term Eskimo as it has been tied to certain negative connotations (that in itself may been ontological)

*I also will add that ClimateNYC infers that Inuit do not live in the desert, but just to be picky, I will add that they more often than not, do in fact live in a desert per se.


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