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I'm currently studying ergonomics and on Wednesday I went to the University of Surrey to attend the Ergonomics Society Student Conference and found that possible careers in ergonomics can involve designing remote controls, various things to do with trains, ergo-gnome-ics, and oh, nuclear bombs.

I consulted Ergonomics, Work and Health by Pheasant and it mentioned that "Victorian public houses commonly had a brass rail around the bar about 6 inches (150mm) from the ground, allowing the drinker to rest each foot on it in turn", so I then went to a pub to test that out.

Ergonomics, Work and Health also has some fascinating information about RSI and writer's cramp:
"Willis (1986) described RSI as a "metaphor for alienation" ".
"Crisp and Moldofsky (1965) go so far as to regard writer's cramp as a psychosomatic manifestation of repressed anger."

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Nuclear bombs! :)

Could you design Nuclear bunkers too?

I'd much rather design nuclear bunkers than nuclear bombs!

maybe you could make the bunkers look like this!

That would be a pretty bunker. :)

Here's one on students from Ramazzini:

"Almost every student who devotes himself seriously to the pursuit of learning complains of weakness of the stomach. For while the brain is digesting what is supplied by the passion for knowledge and the hunger for learning, the stomach cannot properly digest its own supply of foods.... As a rule, then, learned men are liable to fits of melancholia, and all the more when this temperament has been allotted to them originally. We know from observation that those who are genuinely devoted to learnign are lean, wan, lead coloured and want to lead the life of hermits."

I think I must have had Student Disease for the past week, yes? :P

Have you learnt a lot? Being lead-coloured is worrying!


drooooooooooool in an ergonomic puddle

Thank god we've moved on from thinking RSI is an 'all in the mind' type thing, and doctors take it fairly seriously nowadays (in my experience, anyway).

Personally I do think that there can be significant emotional components to RSI, but I believe that the actual phenomenon is completely physiological and should thus be taken very seriously.

I'm very interested in the course you're doing and wouldn't mind a chance to chat to you about it at some point. You're doing Human-Computer Interaction at UCL, right?

There's also a section in Ergonomics, Work and Health called "RSI: The Australian epidemic". The epidemic apparently peaked in 1985/1986 and was "a complex psychosocial phenomenon with elements of mass hysteria". and "emotive terms like "keyboard cripple" were used and comparisons were drawn with AIDS."

I'm definitely glad that RSI is taken seriously these days, even if there is no longer an epidemic.

I am studying Human-Computer Interaction with Ergonomics at UCL, yep.

Edited at 2007-11-23 08:46 pm (UTC)

Being all in the mind doesn't argue against taking it seriously.

Doctors take EHS (Electro-magnetic hypersensitivity) and similar diseases very seriously indeed, but they're obviously all in the mind as numerous studies (most recently an excellent fully controlled study of EHS with many UK sufferers as participants) have shown.

Unfortunately some activists take "it's all in your mind" as a statement of disbelief, as if the evidence that nothing physiological is wrong with these people was actually a bad thing. This is very curious, as clinical depression and many other serious illnesses are also "all in the mind" but we've been somewhat successful in developing medical treatment for them rather than saying "since it's just in your mind we can't help you".

Really RSI is probably treated less seriously (if that's even true) only because mild sufferers are often too blasé about it and even reject simple suggestions for improving their lives (e.g. proper keyboard breaks), so the reaction is much the same as for smokers (doctors get tired of amputating a second leg from a patient who was already told to quit smoking before they lost the first one) or the obese (it's OK that you like food, but if you're going to eat nothing but lard until you're clinically obese, don't expect any sympathy when you have heart problems).

I absolutely fundamentally agree that all forms of mental and physical suffering should be taken seriously by doctors. However, I think that conditions which are entirely psychosomatic are, in practice, less likely to be taken seriously than conditions which have a genuine physiological aspect. That's why I'm pleased that RSI is viewed more as being physiological rather than being 'in the mind'. I'm not saying that it oughtn't to be treated properly if it were entirely psychosomatic, I'm saying that I think it's less likely that it would be.

Are RSI sufferers especially blasé about it? Not in my experience. In my small company of about 25 people, we have two RSI sufferers including myself. Both of us try to be quite sensible about it, e.g. we have software installed that reminds us when to micro-pause, when to take breaks, etc.

(Deleted comment)
POET = Psychology Of Everyday Things?

I used to have a drawer full of remote controls when I worked for a digital TV company. I liked the ones with squishy buttons best.

> brass rail around the bar about 6 inches (150mm) from the ground

A posing rail! Oddly, it allows the body to adopt a more interesting position than upright or slouchy laziness, making one feel at ease, rather than be fumbling for a position to hold without looking suspicious. After all, there is no reason to stay at the bar once you have your drink. Unless you're ogling at the bar wench.

It could also have been installed at a strategic position, together with the hand-rail, to coincide with the position that old pennies settle after hitting the bar wall, thus hiding the dropped penny from the casual impatient search of the punter. The upper bar was placed to ensure a banging of the head while searching from the bar wall direction, and moving away from the bar loses one's place in a highly competitive environment*. So at closing time, this effectively puts the penny in the pocket of the proprietor.

*If your name is Big Bob, then your place at the bar is sacred, marked by the hole in the lino and the shiny patch of the upper bar rail where your belly has rubbed it shiny for the past 20 years. In that case, you'll also have your own stool which is polished to the shape of your bum - which, given your extended patronage, overlaps all the extents of its upper surface. Now there's a subject: ergonomics for the top 5 percentile of big bottoms...

...of course, none of this is true.

Like your new pic btw. I haven't read the above yet. Maybe I should.

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