Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Open, Configurable Workspace and the “paperless office”
Our recent class reading about the “Myth of the Paperless Office” and the case of DanTech reminded me of the recently-built CalIT2 building I used to worked in at UC San Diego.
The layout of the building is very similar to the description of DanTech’s new venue given by Sellen & Harper. It has wide, open spaces with highly mobile furniture that allow people to reconfigure their working environment. Each wheeled desk is equipped with a computer, along with a small, wheeled storage unit to hold documents and office supplies. Hallways around the perimeter are lined with large whiteboards and chairs, encouraging impromptu meetings and contributions.
I did not realize the minimal use of paper in my workplace until I reread this piece. As the authors point out, reducing the amount of paper stored at a desk “[breaks] the shackles” or anchors that tie a user to a bounded physical space. In the case of my former workplace, the open spaces and minimal storage areas, along with the work processes, facilitated the reduction in paper use. However, like the DanTech case, paper is not completely absent from the workplace. As the authors point out, there are many affordances that paper lends to users. In my case, paper was used as reminders of recent tasks or upcoming events, and to take specific meeting notes.
I think paper is too useful to disappear completely from the work environment. Unless technology produces something that can provide/emulate the almost-innumerable affordances and uses of paper, I believe it is safe to bet that paper is here to stay.
On a related note, here are links to descriptions of my Interactive Cognition Laboratory colleagues’ works on similar topics:
I noticed a sharp increase my usage of paper since becoming a student. Even though many readings are provided as PDFs, my fellow students and I tend to print them out as hardcopies. There are just too many affordances that paper provides that current technology doesn't provide.
I personally cannot even 'think' without paper, but I believe this is a good move. Having worked in the industry, I know that being mobile enough to maximise the proximity to one's teammates synergises the efforts and improves the efficiency of a project/product. Having personal file cabinets does anchor one to a specific location. Similarly, managing workflows online and getting rid of the 'get this document signed by 5 levels before getting the approval' leads to huge savings in time and cost.
@Bob: Very funny!
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