It’s B-A-S-S. In one of the more innovative uses of photocopying technology that I’ve encountered (even above and beyond the multi-document auto-collating photocopier at my internship this past summer), this photocopier can scan documents directly into PDF format, which it then emails to you. I have found this shockingly useful and surprisingly simple: The photocopier is already a device that takes raw data and changes its state, but the final product is no longer bound to paper. The message is more important than the medium. Sometimes a short intellectual leap forward, one that makes perfect sense, is even more groundbreaking than a large leap.

I also find this photocopier fascinating because it has an email address. Because we’re conditioned to regard email addresses as belonging either to people (joe.smith@gmail.com) or to automated programs (do_not_reply@amazon.com), there’s a strange mental leap in assigning an email address to a ‘dumb’ physical device. The email address is no longer personal, i.e. no longer human, no longer attached to something with agency. It is a part of our invisible information infrastructure. (Did we make a similar mental leap when people started requesting separate phone lines for their fax machines?)

Until now, email addresses have been like cell phones: Forever portable, but tied to one specific person. Maybe it’s time to regard them like landlines, tied to a place. Imagine a squad car with its own email address, or a taxi cab, to be checked by whomever is driving that day.

What happens when hyperlinks enter the real world?

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