Only Touching the Surface: Creating Affinities between Digital Content and Paper

Despite the wide-ranging recognition that paper remains a pervasive resource for human conduct and collaboration, there has been uncertain progress in developing technologies to bridge the paper-digital divide. In this essay we discuss the design of a technology that interweaves developments in new materials, electronics and software, and seeks to provide a cheap and accessible solution to creating new affinities between digital content, in whatever form, and ordinary paper. The technology and its design draws from a broad range of field studies, including research in classrooms and museums. These delineate the requirements and considerations that inform solutions to enhancing paper whilst preserving its integrity. The paper also discusses a naturalistic experiment, an evaluation in a museum, where we assessed the technology and the solution. We also chart the progressive development of this solution and the ways in which seemingly simple actions and issues became reconstituted as highly complex technical and analytic problems.
Publication Reference
Luff, P., Heath, C., Norrie, M.C., Signer, B. and Herdman, P.: "Only Touching the Surface: Creating Affinities between Digital Content and Paper", Proceedings of the Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW 2004), Chicago, USA, November 2004