“Cognitive scientists say it’s impossible for us to multitask as well as we think we can. The brain cannot do two things at once and do them equally well. When it comes to presentation design, we can’t read text on the screen and listen to the speaker while retaining all of the information. It can’t be done.”
“If you want to create visually interesting slides, less is more. Slide design guru Nancy Duarte recommends following a three-second rule. If viewers do not understand the gist of your slide in three seconds, it’s too complicated.”
“PowerPoint Polemics; Speculative Slideware on the Future of Images” is still on display over at The Photographers’ Gallery, London.
Lets (giggle) about that title for a second.
The exhibition introduces 15 commissioned PowerPoints to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Microsoft’s release of PowerPoint. One is my DCT: SYPHONING, the 1000000th interval.
If you cant make the jump over to London, Photographers’ Gallery has actually made the great effort to not just publish descriptions but also embed download links to all PowerPoints, so you ‘only’ need to actually open a PowerPoint to see the show at home.
My PowerPoint is probably one of the biggest files. Its huge, more like a video slideshow. For the static images, you can also visit my flickr set: https://www.flickr.com/photos/r00s/sets/72157659618711460
“To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Microsoft’s release of PowerPoint, the Media Wall, in partnership with the Goethe-Institut London, has commissioned 15 artists, scientists and theorists to playfully consider the politics and aesthetics of slideware, while speculating on the future of image production.”
A powerpoint presentation is a container of frozen content. It reflects ideas and relationships that were fresh long time ago, when you created the presentation. Following a dead PPT impedes actual thinking. Ideas must follow old paths, and your mind is constantly readjusting to the old structure.
When trying to create a meaningful message for your audience, ideas must be fresh, establishing connections with new events and knowledge.
An old, fixed structure doesn’t allow thinking to evolve in order to be actual and alive.
Black/white-boards are hidden behind the screen
It is common that whiteboards have been covered by the installation of a screen for the data projector. It is natural, when trying to explain a concept, to draw schemes and diagrams. This drawings reflect your actual line of thought, they are in fact materialized thought. They are so powerful and important that some artists have used them as an artistic medium, and they have been preserved in the case of some important scientists and thinkers.
The physical impediment of the screen blocking the board cuts away the possibility of this drawings and artifacts. We need to draw. We need to give shape to our thoughts live.
Image browsing allows for free, unrestricted navigation
When using an image browser app instead of a presentation, you jump between folders opening up the images you need, following your mind wandering through your content while you talk. Images are previously stored in a well named folder structure. The sequence of images comes determined by your discourse, and not the other way around. The route is not pre-determined, it comes out spontaneously following your reasoning and associations.
(Image browsers as ACDsee, Xnview…)
Image searching on the web opens up to the unexpected.
Looking for images on Google Images or a similar service offers relational exploration, a method that parallels associative thinking. Google knows what you are looking for better than you do. It is part of your expanded and connected mind, your external brain extension. Rely on it’s knowledge and let you go with the information flow. Ehen looking for a certain image, you’ll find some related material that can enrich your discourse, establishing fresh connections with meaningful content.
Unexpected porn could be a minor problem, always possibly taken with humor.
This realtime processes can serve as a model for you audience, learning from your ways of searching and establishing connections between data and different information sources. You expose your mind and your thinking mechanisms, reinforcing the importance of the process over the finished product.
Edward Tufte sounds pretty conclusive: “Power Corrupts. PowerPoint Corrupts Absolutely” was the lede to his 2003 article PowerPoint is Evil, that summarizes (while ramping up the rhetoric) his Cognitive Style of PowerPoint (pdf) booklet. Jean-Luc Dumont contends that Slides Are Not All Evil(pdf) in his apparent riposte, even though Tufte’s opinion on Powerpoint turns out to be more nuanced than his titles (eg. if you need a software to present some images in a projector, Powerpoint might be okay). I believe that we at Powerpointers Anonymous agree with Edward Tufte’s assessment that Powerpoint abuse leads to undesirable or outright dangerous consequences, but still there’s something that I personally find a bit unsettling about the absolute terms in which Tufte presents it and Dumont contends it: as evil.
Framing Powerpoint as evil betrays a techno-determinist perspective that might detract from the issue at hand: the personal responsibility involved in the use of technological tools. Powerpoint is not the work of Satan (despite how Microsoft was usually described in the 1990s), casting a spell on its hapless users. Powerpoint was developed by people responding to (what they perceived) people needs, but most importantly Powerpoint is chosen and used by people. Casting software as evil, rather than as the neutral tools they are, does not advance the issues of personal choice and responsibility in its use; perhaps it’d be much more constructive to say certain software is just bad: unintuitive, limited, presenting too narrow a set of possibilities to its users. Or perhaps Powerpoint is just what people want: no Powerpoint, then there’s Keynote, no Keynote, then there’s Google Slides. In that case, it’s analogous to boxed wine or a deep-fried hotdog: something bad that people want; and History has shown it’s better to persuade people to drink responsibly and eat some vegetables rather than just casting alcoholic beverages as the Sweat of Satan.
(Of course one could always cast Powerpoint as a truly evil technology of the class including AK-47s, landmines, nuclear weapons and, to Hollywood studios, Popcorn Time. But then you’d have to heavily regulate software development and maybe even outlaw general purpose computers, leaving participation in technological development in the hand of the few. Not the best solution, IMHO.)
Therein our responsiblity: not to say Powerpoint is evil, but rather to show why it is a bad software tool for most purposes it’s often used (though it might be an excelent tool for making art). Tool use is a negotiation between the user and the technologies, so we can point beyond Powerpoint (pardon the pun), to the better options – for thinking, for making, for presenting – that may exist.