Saturday, March 23, 2002

the persistence of paper
I've been looking at imaging and document management software a lot. So much of technology seems geared towards ridding offices of paper. Easy access to information at the fingertips is the promise of technology. No more need for scrambling through stacks of pages on desktops.

But, it's possible that paper will continue to hold a place in the workspaces of many of us. It simply can fill a role at times that a computer monitor can't. A look of its role in the work of an air traffic controller:
This is, of course, a difficult conclusion for us to accept. Like the managers of the office-technology lab, we have in our heads the notion that an air-traffic-control center ought to be a pristine and gleaming place, full of the latest electronic gadgetry. We think of all those flight strips as cluttering and confusing the work of the office, and we fret about where all that paper will go. But, as Sellen and Harper point out, we needn't worry. It is only if paper's usefulness is in the information written directly on it that it must be stored. If its usefulness lies in the promotion of ongoing creative thinking, then, once that thinking is finished, the paper becomes superfluous. The solution to our paper problem, they write, is not to use less paper but to keep less paper.
So, maybe it's not the paper that I need to be worried about getting rid of, but rather the filing cabinets.
- William Slawski

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