Footnote on paper

The words we use matter. The way we frame a question constrains the way we think about it and so the range of possible answers we may find. There is skeuomorphism of words as well as of objects.

Paper, documents and files are all words which have acquired the potential to mislead as we move to more digital and less paper-focused ways of working.

Thinking on paper

We used to know where to put things if we thought we might want to find them again later. It was called filing. Filing got less fashionable in government about 15 years ago, not coincidentally at about the time that paper was getting increasingly displaced.

The way we think about and manage work and information has changed a lot since then, but to a surprising extent the idea of paper has survived much longer than the reality – all too often, we organise information as if it were on paper, even when it never has been and there is no expectation that it ever will be.