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« Art Imponderables | Main | Armchair Critic »

January 02, 2003

Free Reads -- Cluttered Desks

Friedrich --

Remember all the talk about the coming "paperless office" some years back? And you know those guilty feelings so many of us have when we look at our cluttered desks? Wouldn't it be nice to finally get organized?

According to The Economist, we should relax about these anxieties. Much that we deal with and think about is unclassifiable, and thus can't be tidily slipped into a database -- either that, or when we've finally decided what category a bit of information belongs to, we're done working with it, and who cares what happens to it. The stacks and heaps of paper you're surrounded by are, in other words, your mind at work. A paperless office would be an office in which no work is getting done -- a dead office.

Sample passage:

As well as giving much-needed succour to those attached to the ecology of their desktops, these studies have some serious implications for managers. If they interfere with people's desktops, they may also interfere with their thinking. Trying to force workers to get rid of clutter and scan their papers into a computer system may be an expensive waste of time. Companies which do this may find that they create large, useless databases full of information that nobody ever uses.

The article is readable here. Does it make you think -- as it does me -- about earlier discussions on this blog about styles of urban planning? On the one hand, the grandly-aspiring, never-to-be-achieved futuristic masterplanning approach (ie., the dream of the paperless office), and on the other, the let-it-take-its-own-shape approach (ie., stacking and piling).



posted by Michael at January 2, 2003


My own desk, with its ever-growing ziggurat of paper, has been compared with the Bermuda Triangle--paper comes in, but doesn't always come back out. (A fixed rule is that none of my subordinates must ever give me a document that they need back.) Regrettably, that may well be an excellent representation of my mind at, er, work.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on January 3, 2003 12:35 AM

Hey waitaminute. Didn't Malcolm Gladwell write basically the same piece when reviewing the same book, I think, for the New Yorker? I think he did.

Posted by: Tank Girl on January 9, 2003 3:47 PM

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