As awareness of the current unsustainable state of our society increases, it has become evident that immediate action is needed to change this state. Many of the ecological changes that threaten the long-term survival of humans and of other species have anthropogenic origins. Industry's impact and its role in mitigating these impacts is the focus of much discussion and debate. Two industries that are working to deal with these issues are the printing and paper industries. The environmental impacts associated with the entire life-cycle of paper are significant, yet the socially redeeming value of the content printed can be equally as significant. A curious paradox is that advances in information and communication technology (ICT) have long been predicted to lead to a reduction in media use, resulting in the so-called paperless office, but this has not been the case. Until recently, the observed trends worldwide demonstrate that in most countries paper consumption has been on the rise, however in some developed countries there is some suggestion that this trend may be reversing. The work of Sellen and Harper (2002) provides a qualitative explanation of why paper consumption is on the rise. Nonetheless, there is little research that develops quantitative models to explain paper consumption patterns. This thesis leverages Sellen and Harper's qualitative models to develop a system dynamics model to explain the effects and interactions between ICT, the affordances of paper and paper-like technologies, and knowledge work flows. Specifically, the Bass Diffusion technology adoption model and the path dependence patterns of behavior are modified in an attempt to reproduce the paper consumption patterns observed in the United States (US). Sensitivity analysis through the use of a fractional factorial experiment has been performed to identify the most influential model parameters to set the model parameters at values that best represent US data. An assessment of the system dynamic model's utility based on a publically available quantitative study of the amount of original information that is produced and stored each year is also presented in this study. The thesis will close with recommendations to improve the model and for future research work.
Department, Program, or Center
Industrial and Systems Engineering (KGCOE)
Tejada Abreu, Alicia, "Print media paper consumption patterns through a system dynamics approach" (2010). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
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