If you were interested in the basics of cartography and you did a simple google search for what are the "parts of a map", you'd get a conflicting list of the essential "5 parts of a map", the "7 elements of a map", the "9 features of a map", up to "10 features of a map". For students just approaching the subject you can see why the lack of consensus could be concerning. When we've given talks at schools for history or geography classes we like to underpin the entire topic with a simple definition...
"A map is an act of communication. It's a language with a hierarchy of topics, shown in symbols."
A map, like language, is understood through a culture and a context. And sometimes an effective map could be a just set of a few lines and a dot, without any of the "essential parts", and yet, can communicate quite clearly. That's the power of such a symbolic language in the right situation. Over time we've come across numerous maps that don't include many of the key "7 elements of a map" and yet are acclaimed and important stages along the evolutionary development of human understanding of our world. We're interested in how maybe a map doesn't fit the textbook definition, but still gets the job done.
This joint project stems from conversations with Curtis Wright and his creative curiosity. He had suggested looking at the ideas and approaches that don't neatly fit into the regular streams of cartography and we got excited just hearing his title "Is It A Map?/What Is A Map?". We're grateful for the chance to work in conjunction with him and to get to stretch out into some new frontiers. (We have jokingly refer to him as "Curtis The Younger" because he has such memory, energy, spirit of innovation, vision... he's the much more enviable "2.0 version" of a certain older Curtis, a.k.a Curtis the elder)
The following listings are our submission for "What Is A Map", these visualizations may utilize a lot of the mechanics of standard maps, or innovate on how they show points of identity and proximity... but they get the job done.