Paper persists because, even in a digital world, paper is still useful. I’ve always felt connected to the power of context in the physical world. I began to search for ways to put digital in its place, to make space for myself to exist outside of it, on my own. In pursuit of transcendence If I were to boil down the purpose of all technological development to one goal, it would be this: Technology helps us transcend the physical world. I’ve written before about a few ways I separate my work time from my personal time, and how I use environmental cues to improve my productivity. It’s paper. I currently have three notebooks, each with their own associations: Work Pleasure Private time They support my ideas, creativity, and productivity in ways I can’t get from a phone or laptop. And having a separate place for thinking and reflection helps me get more out of my digital devices. Different technologies, different contexts When digital began taking over the world, those of us who still valued paper struggled to explain why. Looking for a new paper notebook that also works with your digital devices?
For hundreds of years, paper was the gold standard of written communication.
Anything you needed to record or remember, from love letters to receipts, was printed on paper.
Then digital communication took hold, and we began to believe the age of paper was over.
Why would anyone continue to use paper, when digital is so much more flexible?
Digital information is easier to share, easier to store. Copiers, filing cabinets, and fax machines disappeared into the digital vortex.
But yet, paper persists. And not just because insurance companies and banks are slow to move off legacy systems.
Paper persists because it’s easier to print a receipt than get a customer to enter their email address. Paper persists because an emailed love letter doesn’t have the same meaning.
Paper persists because, even in a digital world, paper is still useful.
Especially for content marketers, paper has an irreplaceable power we can’t ignore.
The power of context
A few years ago, I discovered something strange about the way I used my digital devices.
When I picked up my phone, my fingers tapped their way to Instagram, or to Mail, without me even thinking about it. When I opened up my laptop, my mouse gravitated to open Mail, Slack, or Chrome.
It was as if I was interacting with my devices on autopilot.
And worse, as I started paying more attention to it, I realized this autopilot was actively subverting my intentions. I’d end up on Reddit when I meant to check the weather, Instagram when I meant to Google something.
To break this habit, I started scrambling my icons.
And it worked: With my icons rearranged, I had to think about what I was doing, instead of auto-navigating to familiar apps.
This was my introduction to the power of digital context.
I’ve always felt connected to the power of context in the physical world. Certain lighting helps me feel ready for bed, and wearing shoes helps put me in the mindset to work.
But, during this little app-experiment, I realized that the digital world had contextual power, too. And until then, I had been ignoring it.
This discovery of digital context changed the way I interacted with my devices. I began to search for ways to put digital in its place, to make space for myself to exist outside of it, on my own.
I started waiting to check my phone in the mornings, and made time to journal instead — in a real, paper journal.
I started going on walks, and left my phone at home in favor of a pocket-sized notebook. I put my phone away earlier in the evenings, and spent time instead with a good book.
I found that, in these moments, paper seamlessly took the place of digital … and then some.
Unlike digital, writing in paper notebooks and reading paper books allowed me to control the context and leave the space I needed to think and create.
And through it all, I found myself wondering why I hadn’t seen this sooner.
In pursuit of transcendence
If I were to boil down the purpose of all technological development to…