The Myth of the Paperless Office

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Overview

Over the past thirty years, many people have proclaimed the imminent arrival of the paperless office. Yet even the World Wide Web, which allows almost any computer to read and display another computer's documents, has increased the amount of printing done. The use of e-mail in an organization causes an average 40 percent increase in paper consumption. In The Myth of thePaperless Office, Abigail Sellen and Richard Harper use the study of paper as a way to understand the work that people do and the reasons they do it the way they do. Using the tools of ethnography and cognitive psychology, they look at paper use from the level of the individual up to that of organizational culture.Central to Sellen and Harper's investigation is the concept of "affordances"— the activities that an object allows, or affords. The physical properties of paper (its being thin, light, porous, opaque, and flexible) afford the human actions of grasping, carrying, folding,writing, and so on. The concept of affordance allows them to compare the affordances of paper with those of existing digital devices. They can then ask what kinds of devices or systems would make new kinds of activities possible or better support current activities. The authors argue that paper will continue to play an important role in office life. Rather than pursue the ideal of the paperless office, we should work toward a future in which paper and electronic document tools work in concert and organizational processes make optimal use of both.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"If you wish to read anything at all on office management, read this book." GuardianUK

"The authors approach their subject with academic rigour, observing real organisations to find out how people like to work." Financial Times

"The case for paper is made most eloquently in The Myth of the PaperlessOffice...." Malcolm Gladwell The New Yorker

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262692830
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2003
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 245
  • Sales rank: 1,328,723
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Abigail J. Sellen is a cognitive psychologist at Hewlett-Packard Laboratories in Bristol,UK.

Richard H. R. Harper, currently Principal Researcher in Socio-Digital Systems at MicrosoftResearch, has explored user-focused technical innovation in academic, corporate, and small company settings. He is the coauthor (with Abigail J. Sellen) of The Myth of the PaperlessOffice (MIT Press, 2001).

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
1 Introduction 1
2 What's Wrong with Paper? 23
3 Paper in Knowledge Work 51
4 Reading from Paper 75
5 Paper in Support of Working Together 107
6 Designing New Technologies 139
7 The Future of Paper 185
Notes 213
References 219
Index 223
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