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Dead medium: Inuit carved maps
From: ghb@spot.Colorado.EDU (George H. Brett II)
Source(s): Papanek, Victor. "The Green Imperative: natural design for the real world." Thames and Hudson, 1995.
ISBN 0-500-27846-6.

Chapter 11: The Best Designers in the World? pages 229-231.


"Three-dimensional maps of coastlines were carved of wood as long as three hundred years ago. These Inuit charts were usually carved from driftwood and are made to be felt rather than looked at.

"Usually the actual landmass has been highly abstracted == it is the *edges* that can be 'fingered' on a dark night in a kayak. Since they are made of wood rather than paper, they are impervious to the weather, and will float if they are accidentally dropped overboard; being three-dimensional they are more functional in terms of accurately rendering shorelines to people in boats or kayaks."

There is an illustration of two of the wood maps on page 231.

This section has an interesting preamble about Inuit spatial sensibilities and how they relate to their sense of direction. As Papanek says:

"This radically different orientation system has been cited by both Marshall McLuhan and Edmund Carpenter as a result of Inuit living in an aural, acoustic, non-linear bubble of space* == in a society that is moving directly from a pre-literate to a post-literate (electronic) mode, and has not be moulded by linear thinking.**"

*my note -- he references this as snowscape melded into a white clouded sky that has no visible horizon.

** Papanek's notes:
Marshall McLuhan, 'No Upside Down in Eskimo Art,' McLuhan and Papanek (ed.) Verbi-Voco-Visual Explorations, New York, 1967.

E. Carpenter, in *Oh, what a blow that phantom gave me!* New York 1972, tells a nearly identical story as did Peter Freuchen in *The Arctic Years,* New York, 1958.

Cheers, George

George H. Brett II