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Blog - Deborah Caulfield

Are you sitting comfortably? Or are you sitting properly?


How to sit properly. Digital image. Deborah Caulfield 2018.

I’ve been seething about seating for ages.

My first Access to Work assessment was in 1998. The man in the posture shop said they had the perfect chair – a ridiculously enormous contraption big enough for two of me. But what did I know? (K’ching!)

Since then I’ve had many more encounters with a range of ‘experts’, all with qualifications in how to sit properly in chairs.

Expert: You’re leaning over to one side.

Me: It’s how I sit.

Expert: You shouldn’t.

Me: Oh.

Expert: You’ve got one hip higher than another.

Me: Oh.

To be fair, one lovely assessor spent a day measuring me up for a bespoke chair that was quite good (I won’t say comfortable). It cost more than a thousand pounds. Her company went out of business. I still have the chair.

One time I asked for an adjustable height desk, but the assessor’s report made no mention of it. The optimum solution, they said, was a chair that went up high, and a footstool. A big fat complaint to the AtW boss got me the desk. I still have it.

So this is my first proper go at ergonomics, a pseudo-science that purports to fit environments around the needs of people, even though ergonomists are ruled by the tyranny of normal.

But thinking is changing. Turns out there’s no such thing as the ideal posture, even for people without fucked-up spines like mine.

However, most chairs and tables are made to standard dimensions. A lack of adjustability makes me the problem.

Standard height of chairs. Digital image. Deborah Caulfield 2018.

So here’s my first attempt at addressing the issue, artistically.

The poem is a flarf, constructed from the results of an internet search for ‘how to sit properly’. I enjoy this process a lot.

The first picture is a digital collage made from a screenshot consisting of seven rows of thumbnail images, the result of typing ‘how to sit’ in the Google search bar. In a photo editing programme, to the screenshot I added four self-portraits from my self-sitting series (can you find them?) plus a few extra ticks for me.

The second picture is just a screenshot (nothing added or taken away) of images resulting from Googling ‘standard height of chairs’.

I think these are OK, although I’m not yet done with this issue.


people ask
how to sit at a computer
how to sit properly at a desk
what is the right sitting position
what is the correct sitting position
how can I improve my posture at my desk
how to sit properly at a computer with pictures
what is the correct position to sit at the computer

people say
sit up straight
with resting arms
keep your knees in line
the chair somewhat reclined
adjust the seat so your feet are flat
properly sit with your hips pushed back

sit up straight
sit up straight
sit up straight with a nice straight back

people ask
how should I stand
what is proper
what is correct
how can I improve

people say
stand up straight
stand up straight
stand up straight with a nice straight back

not a flat lower back
not a pelvis tucked in
not a sideways curve
not an outwards curve
not a head bent forward
not an excessively convex spinal curve
not exaggerated
not abnormal
not a twisted malformation

stand up straight
stand up straight
stand up straight with a nice straight back


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Deborah CaulfieldRichard Downes Recent comment authors
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Richard Downes

Aye!!! thanks for the introduction to flarfing. I think i should like to flarf about a bit. Also the stand up stright bit resonates with me as someone who got used to stooping so as to listen to the little people. Its punchy.

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