Hic Sunt Dracones / Strategic Planning Exercise

Summary: As the first activity for Research Methods and Professional Practice, I completed a set of brainstorming exercises. The topics ranged from my goals for my personal portfolio website, to my dreams for the next ten years of my life. A short post inspired by some of those thoughts is shared below. In general, I’m doing some hard thinking about what it looks like to discover/make/survive a nontraditional career, or find the same level of creative satisfaction in a traditional one. I’m looking forward to discovering more about what all of that means to me.

I recently learned (from this not-so-recent article) that the Latin phrase Hic Sunt Dracones, or Here There Be Dragons, is a mostly modern invention. Despite being more romanticization than authentic ancient worldview, the phrase has a lot of power… like a cartographic fortune cookie. Four simple words can hold a lot of mystery, romance, danger, and adventure. (It admittedly helps when one of the words is “dragons”.)

This article resonated with me for several reasons. For one, I’ve always loved the aesthetics of maps, from the mesmerizing details of compass roses to the delicious minimalism of subway diagrams. For another, I’m very into the article’s commentary on how the form and significance of maps has changed since the time of Hic Sunt Dracones: The words remind us how different our modern-day map-making is: Our technology might be indistinguishable from magic, but it does not contain magical creatures… Shot from cameras in the sky, and available on every smart phone, maps are ubiquitous and photographic, and, the creatures they catalog are too small to see.

However, I’m bringing all of this up because of how the article made me reflect on my final year of college and the upcoming transition point in my life. I feel like I’m about to sail into a foggy, uncharted area of a map, labelled with nothing more than some sinister dragon-related meme. At this point, I’m wondering if the meaningful-creative-career promised land I’ve been aiming towards is anything more than a romantic idealization, or a coffee stain on the paper. And if it actually exists, then how many dragons are hanging out in between us, just waiting for me to sail up?

Over the next few years, I want to make my way towards a professional life that intersects technical work and artistic practice, that lets me have a real impact without compromising a strong creative voice, that lets me travel the world while setting solid foundations in Colorado. I want to do that through some combination of narrative & interaction design, computer science, and visual art. Some days, that plan feels as robust as a navigation app. On others, it feels more like a set of scribbled directions on the back of a napkin, about to be incinerated by a dragon. I want to believe that I can make this vague dream a reality, but I know that to make any progress towards that by 2021, I need to get a clearer sense of where I’m going and take some big steps towards it.

Still, in a world of magical tech that can provide step-by-step directions to almost anywhere I would want to physically go on this planet, it’s important to remember the value of uncertainty. Not knowing exactly where I’m going is possibly essential to eventually arriving there. And if some dragons happen to show up along the way… well, wouldn’t that be pretty awesome?

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