from online computer camp (Camp Mighty Moose)

The Ergonomics of Study Spaces

Kirby Urner
4 min readMay 28, 2020

The office environment gets lots of focus in the literature, but not so much the study environment.

Whereas “more study” is the work we most need people to do in many cases, so many remain fixated on “being done with school” so they can have “real jobs” that don’t require onerous study, like school does.

But then of course many jobs do require hours of study and practice each day, so I’m not suggesting people don’t study on the job. We also have our work-study programs in universities which allow students to advance in their training in the context of an academic program.

Society benefits from educated humans, we’ve learned this.

However, too much focus on study as work, unpaid work in many cases, might get people thinking more clearly about the hard work of studying, and what a Personal Workspace (PWS) or Studio might really look like.

Would you want to take a bus across town to some crowded building where they pack you in like cattle and expose you to strangers in a way most adults won’t tolerate?

That depends on how good the PR is. So far, it seems to be working.

However, once a student has tasted an ergonomic chair, multiple screens, controlled lighting, high bandwidth, and other amenities, will that same hunger be there? Your friends are at home, on screen, showing off their pets and projects. Your favorite teachers are there too.

But no, you need to bus across town and listen to people some state or church has picked to be your teacher. You must perform to their liking. You cannot be trusted to stay home unsupervised, much like your parents cannot be trusted and will not be permitted to avoid the workplace.

The current dystopia, wherein children are asked to relinquish any hopes for a safe private workspace, has to do with coming indoors, from a lifestyle of mostly outdoors. Humans have enjoyed a largely outdoor lifestyle, but for those desk workers able to bear up in a bureaucracy.

The state and church always have a need for such people (“good doobies”), and so schooling became a weeding out exercise, keeping only those able to follow lots of instructions, punctually and accurately.

Those who could not fit the mold of an office human, were in grave danger of being evicted from the cube farm, and discarded, unless maybe they could find work in the slaughterhouses or nail salons.

With the growth of telecommunications, perhaps inhibiting the development of telepathy (but let’s discuss that in another Medium story) more students discovered they were actually learning a great deal from electronic media.

They were wandering in great museums of the world, examining scrolls, taking crash courses in world history, and in so many dimensions completely outstripping their counterparts of but two generations prior.

These students were lapping it up, and didn’t need much supervision.

That world through the computer was endlessly fascinating and parents were finding it harder to get them to eat in some cases, than to make them study, so intent were these students on gaining mastery in ways that mattered (I’m not saying Pokemon didn’t matter, quite the contrary).

Alumni who had never experienced this much accelerated learning, had little feeling for HTML or CSS, couldn’t tell the difference between bit and byte, had started to drift over the horizon by then.

They had given rise to progeny in the meantime, many of whom took up the same ways, simply assuming that everyone would continue wishing to cram into packed classrooms, even long after the invention of TV.

The internet completed the TV revolution, by making it be a place to make friends. You could start friendships online and follow up, or not if impractical.

Getting tossed into an “everybody goes here” tank and made to fend for oneself, was what joining the army was like then too. You had no choice. The adults had all the cards.

They forced you to relive their own childhoods, even though that never really worked out. You were never good enough and they were frustrated living through you.

Putting the focus on the ergonomics of the work-study space, put a lot of pressure on “adult” businesses to justify the obvious void around schooling in their plans.

Apparently no one was serious about budgeting for study spaces or study times, always thinking in terms of work (or so-called “jobs” as we call them in roleplaying).

Work-study was too confusing and the managers procrastinated.

The curriculum was weak to begin with, which partly explains the high confusion level.

People who became CEOs just assumed they would never need to go back to high school again. You went to school, then you got a job, then you retired. That was the way of it.

When all that changed, for a lot of people, a lot of the CEO types didn’t notice, because their own personal assumptions were still working out for them.

Other people might need to retrain but not the heads of major businesses.

That’s not how they were taught in school, so that was the only programming they had to fall back on. The prophecy had become self fulfilling, another vicious circle, until (for some) the light dawned: education is a business and business is educational.

Better academic programs, designed around tours of duty (such as driving a truck for a PhD), would lead to more teaching and less rock lifting in old age.

One could train to be a sage. Scholarship was not punished.

Students who preferred to study in a Personal Workspace and not in some crowded classroom, were more respected, as were the teachers who felt the same way. Why not make room for work-study? What would the ergonomics look like?