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Subject: Re: "Paperless" - was Preserving Media Forever
From: Richard Pearce-Moses <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Records Management Program <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Fri, 3 Oct 2003 08:28:02 -0700
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One of the things I've noticed when talking about electronic v. paper
formats is that people talk in black-and-white terms.  Both have their
advantages, both have their disadvantages.

Paper may last longer than electrons in some instances.  But paper is
subject to fire, pest, and flood.  Stores of electronic documents can be
mirrored offsite in a way that makes vital records management much more
practical (in part because more than just vital records can be preserved.)

The Myth of the Paperless Office by Abigail J. Sellen and Richard H. R.
Harper does a great job talking about the ways people use paper that
electronic versions cannot replicate. It's precisely because some automated
systems fail to account for these subtle functionalities that the system
aren't practical or adopted.  The authors do a study of air traffic
controllers to see how they use the manual system (with paper strips), and
there they find reasons the automated systems don't work.  (They talk about
several other systems.)

It's a great book.

Someone mentioned 'Turn to the third bullet point on page four' on your PDAs
as an example of ease-of-use.

Here's another quick for instance.  If you have a large document in print,
you can dogear a couple of relevant pages and flip back and forth quickly.
Or put a sticky note or paper clip next to relevant sections to serve as a
thumb index.  No equivalent function in many e-docs.

A long-winded endorsement of the book . . .

-- Richard Pearce-Moses
  Director of Digital Government Information
  Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records

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