Bird Atlas: The Cartography of Meaning (Book)
(2022) ·
experiment #0202203101921 ·


Title : Bird Atlas: The Cartography of Meaning
Author : JT Bullitt
Size : 8.5”×11”
Pages : 72pp. (magazine format)
Preview & buy : Blurb

From the Preface:

Bird: n. two-legged feathered winged vertebrate, egg-laying and usually able to fly

What is a bird? We know it when we see it: the feathers, the wings, the song. But what is a feather? What is a wing? A dictionary can take us only so far, as each definition raises new questions and invokes more words, each of which in turn requires definition. The word “bird” quickly blossoms into a web of interconnections that expands exponentially until the entire dictionary has been exhausted. Does this bring us any closer to understanding a bird?

The maps of Bird Atlas explore these questions, illuminating the bird not as a fixed entity, but as an unbounded thing, a unique pattern of connections and relationships with the rest of the universe. In witnessing these complex ramifications of simple questions we become explorers of unfamiliar linguistic terrain, cartographers of meaning.

In Bird Atlas I’ve arranged the approximately 35,000 words of an Oxford Wordlist Dictionary clockwise along the perimeter of a circle. The word “bird” appears at the bottom. From there, curved lines radiate outward through the dictionary, connecting “bird” to each word in its definition. Each word in that definition connects to its own definition words, and so on, up to four degrees of separation from the starting point. The most frequently visited words are labeled. The size of each dot denotes the number of connections to or from that word; its color indicates the part of speech.

Altogether, Bird Atlas spans more than two thousand words, with more than four thousand connections between them.

Sample Pages from the Book:


  • 2022.04.30 - 2022.05.01 : Somerville Open Studios, 2022