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Jack London lamented that he had spent his life as a working class intellectual rubbing shoulders with the underprivileged on tramp steamers, in gold mining camps, on wharves and in warehouses while reading extensively and writing books of serious social and philosophical merit only to be renowned for writing about dogs. It irked him yet inspired me decades later. Eighteen-wheelers, psych wards, factory floors and the halls of academia and corporate America may not be perfect matches to London’s, but they have all been part of my own working class adventures. I have given each my all and done exceedingly well even as each was research for the role of Carl Stevens, Writer.
Professor-in-training (in three fields so far, philosophy, history and psychology), nurse in a psychiatric facility, long-haul truck driver, security guard, waiter, bartender, clerical worker, manual laborer, engineer - they were all working perspectives to enhance reading and writing and the incorporation of life experience with the scholarly to create the self-identity that is now creating novels. Of them all the field variously called human factors engineering, usability engineering or user experience research lures me back with the appeal of studying how people interact with technology. Novels as an art form may be traced back a few centuries; I myself like to start the timeline with Cervantes’ Don Quixote. Mass publishing as a technology may be traced back to Gutenberg’s press. Independent POD internet publishing goes back only a few years. Yet they all unite the experience of a person with a technology and with the written word. And let us not forget that Socrates lamented the invention of the written word itself as a technology altering our experience. This is one of the earliest human factors critiques of a technology and fittingly enough we only know of it because Plato wrote it down. With a heritage like that, when I am engineering all week and writing on the weekends I am really doing the same work every single day.
One could say my life has been about understanding people. This passion for understanding has led me to inhabit different work lives, excel as a student in a variety of fields and create myself through the artifact of the written word. Four novels and a hundred human factors reports speak for the success of this creative self-identity. If a hundred years from now people neglect the layers of substance and only praise my exciting tales of humor and adventure and if I am still alive, then I will be proud to have failed like Jack.
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