It’s all computers’ fault

We sit rapt in front of them, our entire attention focussed on one small rectangle of flickering light [1], our only movements the sliding of a mouse or the tapping of keys. The result: headaches, eye strain, back ache and even obesity – how many calories do you burn clicking a mouse? And isn’t it striking that most of us hadn’t heard of RSI until computers came along?

The problem is that computers make us operate in their world, which is a much reduced and abstracted form of the real world. We’re set up to get stuff done in the real world using our physical bodies as well as our brains: moving it and ourselves, perceiving it, being aware of ourselves and those around us. Computers handicap us by making us use our brains (mainly) to decipher their ‘version’ of our world. Not only does this mean we need to concentrate more to use them (doing the deciphering), we’re also not using all the intuitive capabilities of our physical bodies. We need computers to operate in our world, the real world.

This isn’t a new idea. The concept of ubiquitous computing was first developed in the late 1980s. Yet it’s understandable why we’ve ended up with this problem. The form and function of computers have been limited by technology. But now we have pervasive wireless networks, fast microprocessors and cheap data storage. So perhaps it’s time the manufacturers put more effort into ubiquitous computing?

[1] Okay, so you can go out and buy some pretty large monitors or even use your computer via vast plasma screens. But in comparison to the size of your entire environment, that which you can perceive around you and interact with, they’re rather small.

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