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By Abigail J. Sellen

During the last thirty years, many of us have proclaimed the upcoming arrival of the paperless workplace. but even the area large internet, which permits nearly any computing device to learn and reveal one other computer's records, has elevated the quantity of printing performed. using electronic mail in a firm factors a normal forty percentage elevate in paper intake. within the fable of the Paperless place of work, Abigail Sellen and Richard Harper use the research of paper in order to comprehend the paintings that individuals do and the explanations they do it the best way they do. utilizing the instruments of ethnography and cognitive psychology, they appear at paper use from the extent of the person as much as that of organizational culture.Central to Sellen and Harper's research is the concept that of "affordances" -- the actions that an item permits, or provides. The actual houses of paper (its being skinny, gentle, porous, opaque, and versatile) have the funds for the human activities of greedy, sporting, folding, writing, etc. the idea that of affordance lets them evaluate the affordances of paper with these of current electronic units. they could then ask what forms of units or structures may make new forms of actions attainable or larger help present actions. The authors argue that paper will proceed to play an incredible function in place of work existence. instead of pursue the right of the paperless place of work, we should always paintings towards a destiny within which paper and digital record instruments paintings in live performance and organizational approaches make optimum use of either.

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This is more than a funny story. A more serious, consequential issue lies beneath it: in this organization, as elsewhere, people often measure things with symbols. Our anecdote of the paperful office shows that the problem What’s Wrong with Paper? 25 of paper may symbolize other problems. To get rid of paper in an office is not always a question of getting rid of paper per se, but getting rid of whatever other problems paper signifies. Many readers will be familiar from their own experiences of how paper comes to symbolize other things.

Lessons from DanTech The success and learning of DanTech teach us at least a couple of lessons about the symbolic, cost, and interactional problems of paper. The most important lesson is that DanTech fully recognized that “going paperless” was a symbol of change rather than a cause of change. DanTech’s IT managers did not stick dogmatically to notions about reducing paper but rather recognized that getting rid of paper was not always a sensible end in itself. Their focus instead was on changing their underlying work processes, whether through restructuring the processes themselves, changing the physical environment, or changing the artifacts and technologies supporting those processes, including paper.

Second, it was necessary to pro- What’s Wrong with Paper? 35 vide technological tools to support the mobility of project teams within the building. A side effect of this was to put strict limits on the amount of paper that any one person kept. As in all organizations, paper acts as a kind of organizational anchor, tying individuals to the physical location of their documents. If this anchor could be dissolved without removing access to these documents, the physical mobility of staff within the organization could be achieved.

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