Tag Archives: powerpointlessness

All hail the Anti-PowerPoint Party

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Friends & readers of this blog will know how much I detest PowerPoint, or rather the mis-use of it. I can’t say that I thought it was only a matter of time before a political party with a mission to ban PowerPoint would be formed, but via Metafilter, I’ve learned that it has, in the form of the Anti PowerPoint Party of Switzerland.

They claim – rightly in my view – that the use of  PowerPoint costs the economy billions.  If you could calculate human misery, you could add even more figures to that sum. I only have to see the screen and the laptop and I lose the will to live. I can tell just by the way someone holds their computer how bad their presentation will be.

Another bullet for Powerpoint

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I was very amused and heartened to see that one of the answers to the question “Why do 60% of students find their lectures boring?” (an article in the Guardian by a boredom specialist) is the overuse of Powerpoint.

As an avid detester of Powerpointlessness I welcome anything that furthers the cause, but I’m amazed at the inertia of the business and academic worlds on this issue. I wrote that blog in 2003, when there was already a plethora of high-level, high-quality, high-relevance criticism, including the wonderful The Cognitive Style of Powerpoint by the world expert on the visual display of information, Edward Tufte. Yet in all that time, I have seen no sign of the academic or business worlds that I rub shoulders with taking a critical look at Powerpoint and their use of it – and I guess that’s why history, in bullet points, keeps repeating itself.

Powerpointlessness

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From Inc.com via elearnspace, an article – not a moment too soon – called More Power than Point, about the problem with PowerPoint, or rather how PowerPoint has, according to some, become the problem with American business. Russell Wild coins the very lovely phrase “bullet point coma” in another article in Financial Planning. But best of all is Edward Tufte’s analysis of the cognitive style of PowerPoint [this is just a bullet-point resum? of the article by Aaron Swartz), and in particular his complete analysis of a single PowerPoint slide from Boeing about the possibility of tile damage on the Columbia Space Shuttle. Also not to be missed is Peter Norvig’s PowerPoint version of the Gettysburg Address.

I’m relieved to find that I’m not the only one who finds PowerPoint crass, pointless and even sinister, insofar as its main function is to establish and promote hierarchies even where none existed before. In my experience, people in offices only make organization charts and speak in bullet points and jokey clip-art because that’s what Powerpoint can do. When I first saw it, I couldn’t see the point of it, or who would want it.

Then, gradually, I met them, Powerpoint-crazed managers who believed that, to paraphrase Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice, Powerpoint would turn their idle jottings and Ricky Gervais-style aphorisms into “…something that will amaze the whole room, and be handed down to posterity with all the eclat of a proverb”; or in Powerpointese:

Idle Jottings < Power!

  • Amaze whole room
  • Words handed down: posterity
  • “Eclat”
  • = Proverb

    (Slide 1 of 42 )

    24/09/03: Another article about this subject Absolute PowerPoint by Ian Parker, from the New York Times, May 28 2001.