Files not meant to see

Surely [digital filing] is more organized. Surely it is more efficient and secure. Surely it is cleaner and more environmentally friendly (especially if we ignore the power required to keep the servers running). On these unearthly planes, it’s harder for people to accidentally stumble across something they weren’t meant to see (darn); no forgotten documents peek out mischievously from a manila folder begging to be read (ooh). No longer does the simple act of rifling turn up something damning or private; it now requires special I.T. skills to sneak such files open.

Yet not being able to find these things — whether we were meant to or not — also means we’ve lost something too.

Tactile and visual memory

As onerous as it might be, the very process of filing things physically helped to organize your work life and your life life. In the same way people acquire and retain information better when handwriting rather than keyboarding, manually going through papers and positioning them in a physical space reinforces the information.

For those with a tactile or visual orientation, placing documents in a particular place imprints them in your brain: the folded corner, the weight and smell of the paper. “I remember putting that memo with the chart here in the back,” you’d think to yourself, making your way to the rear of filing cabinet K-M.