myth of the paperless office

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Rob Maslin

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Dec 21, 2008, 3:54:12 PM12/21/08
to Design and Behaviour
Hello

I am writing my thesis at the RCA on the positive impact Behavioral
Design can have on the environment. The starting point is that I feel
technological innovation, such as improved efficiency, is used to
maintain our current lifestyles instead of making an effort to change
our habits. To show the significance of designing for behvaioural
change I want to show the problems technology has created due to not
understanding its behavioural implications.

The best example I can think of is the myth of the paperless office.
Technology such as printers and email have not solved the problem of
office waste, but instead made waste more efficient (according to John
Thackara).

Can anyone suggest a some good material on this or maybe a better
example of how technology has unintentionally had a negative effect on
the environment because it did not take people into account?

Kind Regards
Rob Maslin

Cameron Tonkinwise

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Dec 21, 2008, 4:13:16 PM12/21/08
to design-and...@googlegroups.com
Just in relation to the paperless office, well
critiqued from a design point of view by Sellen
and Harper in _Myth of the Paperless Office_
(MIT, 2001), there do seem to be some more recent
shifts in that direction. These appear to be
generational evolution, both in terms of people
(becoming more trusting of and habituated to
screen-based work) and technology (better screens
and reading/editing/designing software, larger
more redundant memory devices, etc). See:
http://www.economist.com/business/displaystory.cfm?story_id=12376821
So, in terms of Sellen and Harper's argument,
which centers around the Gibson/Norman idea
of an affordance, it is important to remember
that these are social conventions, that can
be, over-time, created - perhaps not 'designed'
though. See Alan Costall 'Socializing Affordances',
_Theory and Psychology_ Vol.5, No.4 (1995)
Cameron

Adrian Short

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Dec 22, 2008, 4:50:56 AM12/22/08
to design-and...@googlegroups.com
2008/12/21 Rob Maslin <robm...@gmail.com>:

> The best example I can think of is the myth of the paperless office.
> Technology such as printers and email have not solved the problem of
> office waste, but instead made waste more efficient (according to John
> Thackara).

From what I remember of Sellen & Harper's book, the motivation for the
paperless office isn't/wasn't to reduce material waste but to make the
organisation more efficient in terms of staff productivity and to
present a "modern" image of the organisation to the outside world. The
latter has played out in some organisations' insistence that paper not
be used at all as detailed in case studies in the book, ironically
with dreadful consequences on productivity for "knowledge"
organisations.

Design and technology often don't so much solve problems as create and
exploit opportunities and meet individuals' and organisations' needs
for image and status displays. I think it's fair to say that motor
vehicles have had a significant impact on the environment, but people
don't use them just to travel their pre-car journeys. They will go
further compared to a slower form of transport provided that they can
do so within a reasonable time period and they will also habitually
drive journeys that are less efficient and even slower than other
available transport options.

In architecture, consider the environmental impact of heating,
ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems that make otherwise
uninhabitable buildings viable. Traditional buildings often use
thermally-massive materials to insulate against both heat and cold,
employ a shallow profile to enable daylight to light entire interiors
without having to resort to artificial lighting during the day, and
come with windows you can open if you want fresh air! Traditional
buildings are generally low enough so that opening the windows doesn't
present a structural risk from wind load. The economic and stylistic
demand for modern buildings with very different forms (eg. glass-clad,
deep skyscrapers) has only been able to be satisfied due to
energy-intensive HVAC systems. It has also enabled types buildings to
be built where their form is inherently unsuitable to the geography of
their location. For example, compare the contemporary skyscrapers and
dispersed urban grid of Dubai with the vernacular architecture and
urban design of the region.

Some info on the environmental benefits of traditional architecture
from Quinlan Terry:

http://www.qftarchitects.net/1024index.html

For a contemporary approach to eco design employing the same
principles, BedZed is a good place to start:

http://www.bioregional.com/programme_projects/ecohous_prog/bedzed/bedzed_hpg.htm

--
Adrian Short
http://adrianshort.co.uk/

mweisburgh

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Dec 28, 2008, 2:13:22 PM12/28/08
to Design and Behaviour
Here is a good example about traffic:
http://scienceblogs.com/cognitivedaily/2008/12/new_book_on_the_psychology_and.php



On Dec 22, 4:50 am, "Adrian Short" <adrian.sh...@gmail.com> wrote:
> 2008/12/21 Rob Maslin <robmas...@gmail.com>:
> http://www.bioregional.com/programme_projects/ecohous_prog/bedzed/bed...
>
> --
> Adrian Shorthttp://adrianshort.co.uk/

jo...@pixily.com

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Jan 29, 2009, 8:10:08 AM1/29/09
to Design and Behaviour
Hi Rob,

This is interesting. I guess I have an example of a solution where we
have tried to pull out all the barriers to going paperless for
consumers and small businesses. Our service, www.pixily.com, takes
away the excuses for not going paperless becuase we offer so many ways
for people to get their paper and electronic documents into our
system. They can mail their documents to us and we'll scan and shred
them, they can scan themselves and upload to their account, and they
can upload their electronic documents so ALL of their documents can be
searched, shared and downloaded from their secure online account.

I think the biggest challenge is education of the masses. Do they
know about these services? Do they have some kind of emotional
attachment to their paper documents? Do they really want to spend
time/money to go paperless?

I hope this information is helpful.

Regards,

- John

Adrian Short

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Jan 29, 2009, 8:33:14 AM1/29/09
to design-and...@googlegroups.com
2009/1/29 jo...@pixily.com <jo...@pixily.com>:

> Our service, www.pixily.com, takes
> away the excuses for not going paperless becuase we offer so many ways
> for people to get their paper and electronic documents into our
> system. They can mail their documents to us and we'll scan and shred
> them, they can scan themselves and upload to their account, and they
> can upload their electronic documents so ALL of their documents can be
> searched, shared and downloaded from their secure online account.

Useful in itself, but that's not the "paperless office". It's a
high-volume scanning and document management system.

> I think the biggest challenge is education of the masses. Do they
> know about these services? Do they have some kind of emotional
> attachment to their paper documents? Do they really want to spend
> time/money to go paperless?

Assuming the genuinely paperless office is actually desirable (perhaps
you could explain why it might be), the biggest challenge is
developing tools to manipulate and disseminate documents on a computer
which have comparable affordances with pen and paper.

This is a very hard problem which has had many tens of millions of
research dollars devoted to it. It's nothing to do with scanning,
indexing or document retrieval. Microsoft, Adobe, Xerox etc. don't
seem to have it cracked yet and I doubt you have either.

Being in the business, I presume you have read Sellen and Harper's
book. What is your response to its main conclusions?

Regards,

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