The answer is a group of islands.
More properly "geography and language", I suppose.
Each section of the image is an 8-letter geographical location or adjective:
1 WOODRING: QR code
2 WATZMANN: Chappe system for semaphore telegraph
3 VICTORIA: just upside-down (and pixelated)
4 TITICACA: Arabic
5 WARUSAWA: Japanese Braille
6 WELIRANG: Morse code
7 MEDELPAD: hexadecimal ASCII
8 SURINAME: Bopomofo
9 SHERWOOD: International Phonetic Alphabet
10 THAILAND: in the negative space
11 SIHLWALD: plain text, spaced out with empty lines
12 GODAVARI: tap code
13 MONROVIA: faces of dice and mathematical operations, decoded with successive results as A1Z26
14 RIONEGRO: higher rows shifted one pixel right
15 NAGALAND: Cyrillic
16 MOLDOVAN: number the inside spaces 1-26, read off each piece as A1Z26
17 MICHIGAN: Shavian
18 SAARLAND: flag semaphore
19 DEMERARA: jigsaw puzzle
20 MANDARIN: Japanese katakana
21 MANDINKA: Moon type
22 EYREWELL: binary in negative space
23 BOTSWANA: Roman numerals in negative space (A1Z26)
24 CANBERRA: Pigpen cipher
25 FUNAFUTI: Futhark runes
26 KINGSTON: Deseret
27 WINNIPEG: each row in the box is binary
28 KIRIBATI: Hebrew
29 SINDARIN: plain text, just really small
30 BELGOROD: T-shaped "arrows" tell the direction of the next letter, and number of pixels behind them tell how far to move.
31 GISHWATI: each row has 26 spaces, read black pixels as A1Z26
32 MISSOURI: Greek
Once all of the places are found,
these fit in 8 categories, having 4 entries each:
$ \quad \bullet $ Mountains: WATZMANN, WARUSAWA, WELIRANG, WOODRING
$ \quad \bullet $ Lakes: VICTORIA, TITICACA, WINNIPEG, MICHIGAN
$ \quad \bullet $ Capital cities: MONROVIA, CANBERRA, FUNAFUTI, KINGSTON
$ \quad \bullet $ Languages: MOLDOVAN, MANDINKA, MANDARIN, SINDARIN.
$ \quad \bullet $ Forests: SHERWOOD, SIHLWALD, EYREWELL, GISHWATI
$ \quad \bullet $ Countries/sovereign states: THAILAND, SURINAME, BOTSWANA, KIRIBATI
$ \quad \bullet $ Rivers: GODAVARI, RIO NEGRO, MISSOURI, DEMERARA
$ \quad \bullet $ Provinces/territories: MEDELPAD, NAGALAND, SAARLAND, BELGOROD
Inside each category all the entries have a common letter in the same position, and no letter position is the same between any two categories. These letters spell out WINDWARD, which refers to the Windward Islands.
Partial (refer to community wiki for notation)
woodring (by OmegaKrypton)
warusawa [braille] (by elias)
welirang [morse] (by elias) - typo in puzzle, a space missing between the last two characters
sherwood (by OmegaKrypton)
Winnipeg (by Gremlin) - binary pixels
SURIBAME(?) (Taiwanese Mandarin Zhuyin) -> I think this one should be SURINAME, but the N character is kinda wonky...
SINDARIN (very pixelated letters)
(Will add more as I figure them out)
As for the meta, I have found that
every geographic location can fit into one of eight categories, with each category having four locations - somewhat like a connect wall. I’ve listed the categories here, along with the locations and the regions they represent:
$ \quad \bullet $ Mountains: WATZMANN (German), WARUSAWA (Japan), WELIRANG (Indonesia), WOODRING (United States)
$ \quad \bullet $ Lakes: VICTORIA (Tanzania/Uganda), TITICACA (Peru/Bolivia), WINNIPEG (Canada), ???
$ \quad \bullet $ Forests: SHERWOOD (England), SIHLWALD (Switzerland), EYREWELL (New Zealand), GISHWATI (Rwanda)
$ \quad \bullet $ Provinces/territories: MEDELPAD (Sweden), NAGALAND (India), SAARLAND (Germany), DEMERARA (Guyana)
$ \quad \bullet $ Countries/sovereign states: THAILAND (Asia), SURINAME (South America), BOTSWANA (Africa), KIRIBATI (Micronesia/Oceania)
$ \quad \bullet $ Rivers: GODAVARI (India), RIO NEGRO (Brazil/Venezuela/Colombia), MISSOURI (United States), ???
$ \quad \bullet $ Capital cities: MONROVIA (Liberia), CANBERRA (Australia), FUNAFUTI (Tuvalu), ???
$ \quad \bullet $ Languages: MOLDOVAN (Moldova), MANDINKA (Ivory Coast), MANDARIN (China), SINDARIN (fictional/Middle-earth)
So the three unsolved clues must fit into one of three categories: lakes, rivers, and capital cities. Maybe that’ll make things a bit easier?
I’ll add this to the community wiki once the other three clues are solved.
A guess at the final answer based on the clues everyone else solved and Gareth McCaughan's predicted method:
So far taking the most common letter in each position gives:
MINDWANAThat's not an island group, but if we look at the second most common letters:
WARRIORDSo if the missing answers allow the second placed letter to overtake the current leader in positions 1, 7, and 8, we get:
WINDWARDfor the Windward Islands.
Rio Negro (every row is shifted to the right one pixel further)
Michigan (in Shavian alphabet)
Gishwati (every row has one pixel, number of pixel corresponds to alphabet number)
Additionally, regarding the final answer,
I think that after all the eight-letter words are discovered, we'll find that there's exactly one letter for each of the 8 positions that doesn't occur in any of the words.
MANDINKA written in Moon type
is Kingston in the Deseret alphabet.
is Belgorod. Start at the beginning of the alphabet. For each arrow, add an offset. Upwards arrows go forward in the alphabet, downward arrows go backwards: start + 2 → B + 3 → E + 7 → L and so on.