Paper cut

In a large urban setting on Earth, 2060. Sophia, 10, is watching her grand father clean up and sort things from a dusty closet. “Papi, what’s this?” she asks. “This my dear, is a crayon” he answers absentminded. She continues, “And that?” He realizes that he must pay attention. “Oh that is a sheet of paper with a drawing” and he sees that she waits to know more, but he is not sure if he could find a blank sheet of paper so that he could demonstrate further.

Is it too far-fetched to muse that in 30 years from now, we could find a ten year old child who will have never seen a pen and paper combo ? It is not hard to imagine if you consider the increasingly paperless world many of us live in, be it at work or at home. Computers and mobile devices proliferate and allow us to produce, authenticate, share and store documents without any paper or ink. Even office and home printer sales are decreasing steadily. We now make each single printing device print less than before. That is if we bother to own one at all.

Is there still “trash paper” in the homes, on which children can draw? Do blank sheets of paper now only come from the school? In their play, children often mimic what they see adults do. If grown ups at home or at school no longer use pencils and paper, what will inspire kids to do so?

In 2015, the Washington Post published an article by Michal S. Rosenwald. It describes how the paper industry was developing a campaign and public relations in order to keep the “brand” paper relevant against the odds, and to protect production levels or at least slow down its decline. The article explains how harmful digital culture has been to this product, and how the industry intends to fight back, namely by incrasing paper visibility online, of all places. Now a few years, plus a year of pandemic down the road, and the decline of print and writing paper accelerates. At least that’s what we see in industry reports such as one at Fisher International. As for office and home printers, all bets are off. In the past year, journalist Roberto Torres wondered in CIO Dive Will the pandemic spell the end of the printer? Shortly before that “predictionists” Duncan Stewart and Nobuo Okubo foresaw a rosy future for home printers in the new work from home era: Printer Charming: COVID-19 TMT Predictions. As our relation to the pen and paper combo changes, so it does for children. Print “single sided” and let them draw, for art Sophia sake.

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