Researcher Abigail Sellen and her co-author have won the IEEE
Award for Distinguished Literary Contributions Furthering
Engineering Professionalism for their book exploring why the
paperless office has never come to be.
In The Myth of the Paperless Office, Sellen and co-author
Richard Harper say that despite the fact that the paperless
office has been heralded for more than 30 years, the use of
paper has actually increased.
After studying the use of paper by individuals and organizations,
they argue that paper will continue to play an important role
in office life. After all, it is light, flexible, easy to
use and allows people to compare numerous pages at once, something
that is extremely difficult with electronic documents.
So, they say, rather than pursue the ideal of the paperless
office we should work towards a future in which paper and
electronic documents can be used together to get the benefits
of both. The book looks at ways in which we can design technology
to do this effectively.
In a after the book was published in November 2001, New
Scientist magazine described the book as something "all
managers should read . . . It explodes the paperless myth
and highlights the strengths and weaknesses of electronic
And the reviewer at the UK newspaper, the Guardian,
wrote, "If you wish to read anything at all on office
management, read this book."
The IEEE award is given for outstanding contributions through
literary efforts to the advancement of the professional objectives
of the IEEE.
"I think the award reflects the fact that the book has
hit a nerve," said Sellen, who works in HP's Bristol
(UK) lab. "It shows there are lots of us grappling with
new technology, and lots of us who feel a bit guilty about
not letting go of our paper. Judging from some of the email
weve had, the book provides vindication, especially
for people with really messy desks. We argue that you ought
to be proud of your clutter."