23 May 02005

Tufte, PowerPoint and oratory

As a result of today's BBC strike, my normal lunch-break listening of The World at One was replaced by a short documentary called Microsoft Powerpoint and the decline of Civilisation.

I wrote about this topic from a different angle in my piece on David Byrne and Powerpoint — still one of the most popular pages on this site — and the radio documentary covered much of the familiar territory, such as the Gettysburg PowerPoint Address and how the format of the corporate sales pitch is built into the style and function of the software.

An interview with Edward Tufte was central to the programme. Now you expect Microsoft representatives to brutalise language by conjuring words like 'impactful': it's part of their brand values, as PowerPoint itself also shows. But Tufte rather undermined his own case — about the loss of 'rich content' and rhetorical skills of oratory that unthinking use of PowerPoint perpetrates — by muttering about the 'sequentiality' of bullet points. Why do people seem to think it makes them sound more impressive and persuasive if they invent ugly new words rather than using the simple, elegant words — in this case 'sequence' — that already exist?

Unfortunately, possibly also as a result of the strike (a.k.a. 'industrial action' or 'strategic leveraging via labour withholdance'), the programme is not available via the online radio player.

Posted by David Jennings in section(s) Miscellany on 23 May 02005 | TrackBack
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