Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Presentation in the Age of Web 2.0:: Do You Still ♥ PowerPoint?

I've struggled with my particular position on PowerPoint/Keynote presentations. I'm familiar with the 6 year old argument against PowerPoint by Tufte::
"Several hundred million copies of Microsoft PowerPoint are churning out trillions of slides each year. Slideware may help speakers outline their talks, but convenience for the speaker can be punishing to both content and audience. The standard PowerPoint presentation elevates format over content, betraying an attitude of commercialism that turns everything into a sales pitch."
As an academic, I know that many students come to expect them and they can help to structure information--for the presenter. It's also part of the language and logic of organizations, offering a document that readers can quickly scan to get the gist of something and that can be used to communicate key points from a longer document or body of knowledge. It was refreshing to see Richard Swedberg give a presentation without slides at ASA and it was interesting to listen the cadence and rhythm of his talk, which got me thinking again about PowerPoint and communications.

Of late, for the classroom and for consulting, I've switched to creating wikis-like pages {above} after seeing a colleague, José Marichal, use them. I use the pages to structure content and foster face-to-face and discussions. While this would be more difficult back in 2004, the ubiquity of WiFi has made web-based presentations more feasible. This is in addition to using blog posts as fodder for discussion. I like the interactivity potential and the ability for students and clients to engage in dialog with me or amongst themselves after the presentation is done. In the past, I've seen students engage in collaborative knowledge generation on course-specific discussion boards, but there's a hesitance to do so in a "frontstage" fashion. I know there's a lot of "backstage" sharing of information in private among groups of students. I'm still looking into various wiki-based solutions that I can host securely on my own website that have good multimedia capabilities {any suggestions would be greatly appreciated}, as I'm convinced that presenting information in this fashion helps to develop knowledge, as opposed to disseminate information.

I do admit that when I've used slides in the past, I've summarized what I considered key textual information. I think my more useful slides have been effective use of charts and tables and images. My dream web application would allow users to upload files {PDF, JPEG, BMP, etc., which could also include PPTs} and links to pages using a drag-and-drop interface.

Does PowerPoint have its place? I think so.

I remember seeing David Byrne's PowerPoint "art" in Wired back in 2004 and thought it was more gimmick than substance. To Byrne, the ease-of-use and ubiquity of PowerPoint make it a contender for an everyday art medium. I suppose. But, by by that token, crap lying around as fodder for found object art should be equally valorized as a medium, given its "potential." Nevertheless, Byrne is right in that the PowerPoint is typically part of a presentation, as opposed to being the presentation.

This architecture presentation on Keynote is like a mini-movie or video game and could stand alone without a presenter::

The rich multimedia shows how dynamic content can enhance a speaker's presentation. In my opinion, whether or not you like his politics, a master at this is Al Gore::

The multimedia complements the points being made, as opposed to redundantly offering up talking points. I think we're all for software that facilitates the creation of multimedia without a steep learning curve.

Twitterversion:: newblogpost:: The Presentation in the Age of Web 2.0:: Do You Still ♥ #PowerPoint? @Prof_K

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