Documents, even electronic ones, hark back to days where information came printed by necessity. The format and construction of a document, even an electronic one, is designed to maximise the communicative potential of a sheet of paper. This paradigm has survived for so long because it's a great one. Even when we all started using computers that lived in boxes on our desks the paper analog fit with our screens and keyboards. Even our tablet computers capitalise on the same developed and refined practices. This blog does, as do innumerable e-books.
It seems a little odd to me now that our more formal communication is still bound to these rigid formats, to essays and reports and columns, when we have the capability at any moment to capture any volume and format of data. We can collect video and audio at a moment's notice. We can transmit entire databases in seconds. We have the capability to translate and render raw data into glorious visualisations at the tap of a screen. In real time. Interactively.
I think we've even started to see some of this movement in formats such as iBooks Author, which move a little beyond pages of text with embedded media. Perhaps some indie games have shed a little light on the possibilities only with a prescribed narrative rather than a living dataset or ever-growing anthology of stories. In science fiction movies we see characters access information with the wave of a hand; sorting through data with gestures and intelligent, predictive, context based, displays.
I can't help but think we're holding on to paper even as we make it obsolete. We build documents out of the desire to formalise communication rather than excel at it. We could do so much more.