By RNC, December 2004
This essay relates to an idea I call Card Map. As the name implies Card Maps allow us to locate card-tricks, to position them graphically on a coordinate system. A simple prop, that illustrates the relation between tricks, their mutual distance, their conceptual vicinity. Here, below, is the simplest form of a card map. Before we'll discuss its benefits later on, let me briefly introduce the concept. Please have a look at the picture below.
A simple Prototype Map
How to read it?
First of all, assume that the big rectangle represents a map onto which boxes with trick-names are placed. You will probably recognize these tricks and realize that they are of very different nature. To be more precise, one can assign attributes such as individual, generic, abstract and material to the tricks. Consider that these attributes can be arranged in two pairs: individual vs. generic and abstract vs. material. This allows us to regard the attributes as the poles of axises that span a rectangle. Each trick can now be classified according to these attributes and placed upon the rectangle. The map of tricks is drawn.
To illustrate this, let's start in the lower left corner of the rectangle.
|Tricktype||Corner||indiv.-generic Axis||abstr.-material Axis|
|Adivinations "Think of a card"||lower left||individual||abstract|
|Card to Wallet||upper left||individual||material|
|10 Cards to Pocket||upper right||generic||material|
Archetypes of Card Magic.
Many other tricks can be placed onto the map, most probably between these four poles, which I like to consider my private Archetypes of Card Magic. Here are some samples for selected other tricks:
Those are just a few examples. Any other card trick can be assigned its position within this map.
Guidance and Orientation
What's the motivation for all of this? Card Maps reveal the mutual relations among tricks. This may be related to an entire repertoire, to the more limited scope of a book or the trajectory drawn during a 10-minute table-act. Just as geographical Maps help you to orient yourself through a territory, a Card Map helps you orient yourself through the universe of card tricks.
The practical benefits may get obvious considering the common expression: one picture says more than thousand words. Here are some valuable ideas for practical applications:
One word about the exact positions. There is plenty scope for interpretation. Coordinates assigned to the tricks may vary based on the way one interprets the trick. Indeed, I like the fact that this subject may open doors for discussions. But remember, the first ancient maps of the Egypts and Greeks didn't fully match today's satellite-drawings. But they already worked out well.
Also consider that the axises favoured by myself may be substituted by alternative criteria. Currently they work out for myself, but Magic may have more than just the four directions geographists must deal with. For some of you eventually different criteria work out better, for example:
- routine type of structure vs. single plot structure
- spectator participation vs. pure monologue by magician tricks
Also, I admit difficulties in introducing the at-the-card table type of tricks, sucker demos, poker plots, dealing procedures. In fact, this may just mirror a common understanding that those types of tricks, as entertaining and impressing they may be, can be considered slightly outside of magic. What about finding criteria suited for only those sort of tricks to generate specific Maps for At-the-Card-table tricks!? Sleight-of-hand is a universe with many planets and just one single Map won't do.
Another issue worth to mention: Think in trick-types first. Pre-populate the Map with the generic trick types. Then superimpose the individual tricks. It's quite interesting to observe how a consistent picture gets generated.
Concerning the practical benefits, I suggest to further use a colour code to indicate which tricks you master, which ones you decide to focus on, which ones you want to study and of course which ones you may just ignore (weekends are 5 days too short to get it all). Colour coded Maps can substantially help you to set and manage your priorities.
All this would be incomplete without working samples, pure theory only made for the academics. Not what we really want, therefore feel invited to have a look at the Sample Maps page.