No less paperless

Submitted by Isto Huvila on Tue, 10/14/2014 - 14:45

Thomas Erlich and Ernestine Fu wrote recently a short piece on the utopia of paperless office in Forbes with the main observation that we are very far from becoming paperless. As the authors note, quite aptly, we are not quite in a situation when all the affordances of the paper would have been taken over by digital media. It is true that some types of media have been more or less replaced by others, like papyrus or vellum are not used frequently anymore, but even these rather ancient materials have still certain at least cultural uses that are hard to replace with paper. In fact, the take home message of the long-going discussion on the untergang of media types and information carriers is rather simple even if the use of media and mediation of information and knowledge are hugely complicated matters. Things tend to get replaced only when the 'old' does not have anything that would be better (and cheaper, easier) done using the new media. As Erlich and Fu note, it is hard to see that this would be happening with paper in the near future.