The Culture of Paper, Information and Power

An Irish Example

in Anthropology in Action
Author: Lee Komito 1
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  • 1 School of Information and Library Studies lee.komito@ucd.ie

The analysis of electronic versus paper documents, especially in the context of computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW), has often focused on affordances, issues of design and implementation, and work practices. Issues of culture are often understated in such studies. Yet, like any object of material culture, the use of paper files, as well as an aversion to electronic information sharing, is conditioned by the cultural and political background of a society. This article will suggest that the persistence of paper files in a section of the Irish civil service during the 1990s had much to do with issues of accountability and a cult of expertise, in which papers files, as material objects, were deployed on behalf of claims of expertise and power. This intertwining of power, politics and information is a feature of Irish society, and the discourse of expertise and power is a theme that permeates many aspects of Irish culture.

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Anthropology in Action

Journal for Applied Anthropology in Policy and Practice

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