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The Myth of the Paperless Office : The MIT Press - Abigail J. Sellen

The Myth of the Paperless Office

The MIT Press

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2002 IEEE-USAB Award for Distinguished Literary Contributions Furthering Engineering Professionalism 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 the Paperless 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.

Industry Reviews

"The case for paper is made most eloquently in The Myth of the Paperless Office... by two social scientists, Abigail Sellen and Richard Harper." - Malcolm Gladwell, New Yorker "The authors approach their subject with academic rigour, observing real organisations to find out how people like to work." - Financial Times

ISBN: 9780262692830
ISBN-10: 026269283X
Series: The MIT Press
Audience: Professional
For Ages: 18+ years old
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 245
Published: 1st April 2003
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 23.1 x 16.1  x 1.6
Weight (kg): 0.34