CMSC 838G - Spring 2003
Prof Guimbretiere

Advanced usability: People, paper and computer


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Class description:

In this class we will try to understand how people, paper and computers relate to each other. Looking at a recent comment published in The Economist (November 9-15th 2002):

"Born in the late 1960s, the concept of the paperless office seized the imagination, but never actually arrived. Instead, world consumption of office paper has more than doubled since the early 1980s-mainly because digital technology not only failed to replace paper, but, ironically, made printing easier."

It seems that the goal of a paperless office is still out of reach. Yet new technologies like the Tablet PC, the Anoto pen system and the emergence of large interactive surfaces such as the Stanford Interactive Mural might profoundly change the relationship between people, paper and computers.

The class will not focus on how to supplant paper altogether, but instead on how to design new interfaces, which narrow the gap between the digital and the paper world.

Class format

This class will focus on conducting a research project. After an in-depth exploration of the current literature, each student (or small group of students) will conduct independent research projects. Projects might include designing and evaluating a new interaction technique, designing and running a user study comparing existing system, or performing an ethnographic study.


The primary textbook for the class will be "The myth of the paperless office" by Sellen and Harper but we will also rely extensively on published papers.

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