A spreadsheet organizes and displays data items. there is no inherent reason that these should be aligned on a grid. A database doesn’t employ a grid, nor does a word processor or a note taker. In fact, it is even possible to imagine a spreadsheet application that adopts a more free-form layout mechanism…


Formula and grid, then, are the source for the specific materialities of spreadsheet forms – their granularity and robustness, their transmissibility and fluidity, their dynamics and interactional limits. These materialities in turn shape and constrain the ways in which spreadsheets are used within organizations, institutions and social settings, to do work, to achieve collective ends, to generate alignment, and get things done. As a representational form, the spreadsheet comes with commitments to particular structures that create not only a way of seeing data but also a way of working with them.

paul dourish

Dourish, P. (2017). The Stuff of Bits. MIT Press.