DMT I: What is a Map?

Update: 6/6/2022

For the first Deep Map Thoughts (DMT) discussion, a series of documents attempting to define what maps and mapping are.

Create a shared document with notes, comments, questions on the readings, title it DMT II, put it in the shared folder for class (and email me) prior to our meeting to discuss these materials.

1: Mapping as a Process: Making Maps, 3rd ed., up through ch. 1

PDF) Making Maps Introduction & Chapter 1

  • Best if you save the PDF, then view it as two-page spreads (pages side by side)
  • What does it all mean?

2. Maps as Things: What is a Map? 321 Definitions

Article: 321 Definitions

Map: a “spatial representation of reality”

  • spatial: consisting of at least two dimensions and usually referring to geographic space
  • representation: something that stands for something else (in our case, something in the human or physical environment)
  • reality “the state of things as they actually exist.”

Map: “A graphic statement that locates facts.”

  • Graphic: A visual display of marks that stand for something else. An airplane shape on a map implies an airport.
  • Statement: To put forth information, a formal embodiment of facts or assertions.
  • Locating facts: Tangible and intangible phenomena located in geographic space: what we can see (roads, rivers) and what we cannot see (temperature, radiation), varying in amount (population) and kind (vegetation types).
  • But: “My show shoes are in my basement”: is this a map?

Tiny Group Exercise

  1. Sort yourself into groups of 2 or 3 around one computer. Introduce yourselves.
  2. Open up the 321 Definitions of “Map” post on
  3. Open up the WordArt word cloud generator
    1. copy the 321 definitions (the list without the citations and citation numbers)
    1. click on import
    2. paste the 321 definitions
    3. click on shapes and select a circle or square and hit visualize
    4. (you can change options, just hit visualize to reset the word cloud)
  5. Discuss your word cloud and what your group thinks about the definitions of the word “map.”
  6. Round the room discussion.

3: Maps as Arguments about the World: Ce n’est pas le monde

Map: “Maps are Propositions.”

  • What is a proposition?
    • the act of offering or suggesting something to be considered, accepted, adopted, or done.
    • a plan or scheme proposed.
    • a thing, matter, or person considered as something to be dealt with or encountered: Keeping diplomatic channels open is a serious proposition.
    • anything stated or affirmed for discussion or illustration.
    • a proposal of usually illicit sexual relations.

4: Back to Maps as Part of a Process: Right Map Making

PDF) Right Map Making

  • It’s about doing, not defining