Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tangible and Virtual

Just ended a three day training session for work. Not for my usual sort of job but a more "get your hands dirty" kind of job. It was a really fun, class. Most of the students were desk workers like me, but there were two guys who were the supervisors for the type of job we were training for and had real life experience, as did the instructor.

It was fascinating, they had these stories of real life situations where being careful about safety meant the difference between life and death, or stories about things they built with their hands, or stories about hard work on the job and the connections with their co-workers who stood by their side through the hard work.

On the last day of the class in another "just talking about stuff" session one of the other desk workers students said, what I had been thinking in the back of my mind, "I'm trying to think of any good cubicle stories and I can't think of any." It isn't that there aren't any, but so much of what we do is solitary, or so very intangible that it is hard without the context and a like understanding to see the passion or realness of the struggle.

There are some that come up, but there is no working hard in the rain (unless there is a leaky roof) and lots of jobs don't directly touch people's lives or essential services. Sure we have our struggles and challenges, and they seem as real...but when you try to share them in the telling it is hard to find the bridge.

Now I'm not hanging up my desk job apron and going out to look for something more physical to do for work. Society and day to day life just as essentially relies on these software systems and applications as they rely on the physical layers. However, how much do we see the impact of what we do, of the code we write. How does it impact other people's lives. And how does the virtual become graspable beyond those with the specialized knowledge. Is that possible or has it become too complex.

In a sense the stories that they told were modern day moral stories. How easy can we make modern day moral stories of our lives and our actions and our projects? And then, how long does it take before we can look back and see that what we did today was a great story. So maybe today is making a good moral story for tomorrow, but its worth looking and seeing if your cubicle or coffee shop story will be something to share down the road, and if not why?