From: Min Seo Riu <email@example.com>
To: S <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: A map of Isla Vista
Yesterday I met a geography major at my friend’s 21st birthday party, and I was utterly charmed by this man who plays Dark Souls and wants to code maps for a living. To my surprise, I learned that cartography is done on computers nowadays. I guess it makes sense that — like most things in life — the manual labor has been replaced by technology, but I was still envisioning something like Lewis and Clark: walking around the terrain and intermittently sketching the topography. I was a little less charmed by the idea of putting some numbers in a computer and coming up with a map, but I think it’s still a unique interest to have.
I asked him if he could make me a map of Isla Vista and he agreed to it. I don’t know if he’ll keep his word, but I’ve been giving a lot of thought about what kind of map I would make if I was so inclined. I think it’s sweet that a map of I.V. would probably look a little different for everybody. If there was one true and objective map of any place, we wouldn’t have a need for cartographers, right? If he ever gets around to making my map, I wonder if it’ll differ from how I see things here.
I think there’s something very intimate about knowing a place so well that you could create a map for it. I’m sure there’s also an unbelievable amount of talent involved (which I unfortunately don’t have), but I’m supremely jealous of those old cartographers whose job it was to canvas new terrain. I wonder if they left whatever place they were mapping with a certain fondness for the landscape. Did they feel like they knew it better than the average person? Could they look back at all the different places they’ve mapped and pick out their favorites with a reason why for each? I should probably have asked the geography major about this, but I felt like it wasn’t the appropriate time to pick his brain about his career. So I’m asking you instead!
As for my personal map of Isla Vista, I think that there are a lot of places I would disproportionately display because of my internal biases: South Hall, the UCSB Library, IV Bagel Cafe, Carrillo Dining Commons, my apartment. I think I would even include (as a very important landmark) the bus stop in front of the road to Albertsons, where we sat for 45 minutes on the curb waiting for public transportation that never actually came. Or maybe I’d highlight the walk to T’s house: a route so engrained in my memory that I could probably make it there blindfolded and walking backwards. If I could make it as impossibly detailed as I wanted, I would mark the uneven piece of sidewalk that I always trip over while walking down Pardall Road, so that our new freshman would be prepared for the treacherous journey to class. And the trees that tower over you in the little alcove between South Hall and Girvetz Hall would have their own special spotlight.
The more I think about it, the more I can visualize my map of I.V. and all the routes to my friends’ houses, my workplace, my classes. I wish I could draw it out for you, so you could see how I view I.V. too. I think you’d like it, even if it might seem a little inaccurate to you.
I think I’d like it if you drew me a map of Isla Vista too. I’d want to see our college campus through your eyes, and trace the routes you walked the most. Do you think our maps would look very different?
Your new cartography enthusiast,
A version of this article appeared on p. 12 of the Nov. 10, 2022 print edition of the Daily Nexus.