How our products invoke a sedentary lifestyle

A commentary on physical engagement in emerging workspaces.

Shreya Toshniwal
Mar 29, 2018 · 3 min read
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Karma-bhoomi | The workplace

My grandfather is a marvellous storyteller. Each time one of us refused to eat that extra spoonful of ghee in our dal-bati, he relayed a story of how they used to pour a bowl of ghee into one bajra roti, mash it up and devour it before heading to work in the fields.

Work in fields, churn buttermilk, grind flour, fetch water, carry hay, milk cows, collect firewood, make dung cakes — work for my grandparents entailed all of these activities and more. Their workplaces ran on a choreography of constant body movements; some strenuous, some not so.

This lifestyle still exists in hamlets where economic means and technological percolation are limited. In such places, people accomplish their daily tasks with the whole body in action, each body part feeling vital to the process.

“In both scenarios, there is no balance in the cognitive complexities of tasks and the physical effort that goes into completing them”

Traditionally, work was physically intensive. Technology’s constant crusade has been to make human work more efficient, less strenuous. How we work and how our workplaces (homes or offices) operate are rapidly evolving. Work has gone from being a physical activity to a mental one.

In rapidly evolving workspaces, a key design question becomes — What does this do to us as humans — to our bodies and our minds? Will we evolve into the jelly-like human bodies visualised in the movie Wall-E; incapable of balancing or walking on our own two feet, rolling around like a ball? Or will our muscles collapse to evolve into beings with enlarged heads and fragile bodies; as a result of hyper-use of our brains and nano-use of the rest of the body?

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Comparing a day in the life of an urban & rural woman w.r.t her activities in a ‘workplace’ & her exercise regime during a given day as studied during visits to a startup office & Kudasan village in Gandhinagar

In a technology enabled workspace, most of our day is spent making things happen at the click of a button from the comfort of our chairs, and all the need for body mobility is crammed into one hour of strenuous workout. When juxtaposed, the rural version of work feels like a more humane and natural way of functioning, where using the body and accomplishing tasks go hand in hand.

How might we design a tech-enabled workspace that engages the entire human body? After all, as Jim Ronh said, Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.

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A life size prototype for a ’Physical-Computing’ device that was made to test how convenient might it be to interact with such devices.

Shreya is a researcher with Treemouse deeply inquisitive about the ways of deriving a social-cultural understanding of the world around us. She is also keenly interested in developing systems for learning, that cultivate an ethic of tolerance and critical thought, and approaches design as a simple language for complex conversations. Always ready for white chocolates, green tea and engaging conversations, you can reach out to her at

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