Re: [xmca] Subtleties of Presentation Media

From: Rachel Cody (
Date: Sun Feb 18 2007 - 23:29:14 PST

Hi all,

I wanted to add that I think there is a danger in assuming a superiority
of one presentational form over another or that one form can or should
replace another. People don't all receive media in the same manner, and
one media cannot appropriately reflect all topics. Concerning Powerpoint
in classrooms, some students may be able to follow a lecture better by
viewing the structural outlining is given in Powerpoint. Some may follow
material better if it is laid out in a html format, while other students
may follow it better if there are no "visuals given and they must rely
on their own interpretation/structuring of the material. I also believe
that the same can be said for people presenting. Some people and some
topics find certain media more complementary - speaking about one topic,
using Powerpoint on another, slides on another, and so forth. Media
formats are swapped based on material, audience, presenter, etc.

Also, I apologize if this has been brought up in this discussion and I
missed it, but I saw another layer to David's post. Having TA'd for the
first time last fall, it was very important to me that my students
distinguish between what I had told them and what the professor had told
them. I did not have nearly as much knowledge about the material as the
professor, and I was very aware of that. I wanted my students to put
more emphasis on what the professor had told them while my
commentary/discussion would serve more as a highlighter that could
potentially be false or contradictory. This allowed for the professor's
teaching to serve as something like text while mine would serve as more
like penciled-in notes, easily erased or modified without confusing the
text (at least I hoped!). With something like Powerpoint slides, I would
have wanted my students to distinguish between the professor's original
slides and my comments for that reason.

One could also argue that we're all reappropriating all the time and
have done so long before the advent of the internet. As Wertsch argues
in Mind as Action, there is a myth to individual creation in that it is
embedded in a cultural and historical context.

I also apologize if this email seems very out of order with the ongoing
discussion, my email seems to be coming in erratic waves.

Take care,

Sonja Baumer wrote:
> HI,
> This thread of discussion that starts with David's story has
> engendered at
> least two issues that don't seem to be much related. One issue seems
> to be
> the authorship and the integrity of digital texts, of how digital
> texts are
> easy to be re-appropriated, re-used and re-purposed. If this is the
> issue,
> then it has not much to do with PPT since almost any text we publish on
> Internet can be easily "cut and pasted" in other people's work.
> Another issue that has been raised is the value of PowerPoint as a
> presentation medium and/or as a didactic device. I want to argue against
> trivializing PPT. As a lecturer I would often use PPT as a visual mode of
> representation. I believe I had some smart things to say but I also
> liked
> to show images, comics, diagrams and films, and used it as a shared
> visual
> object to instigate discussion. As a non-native Engllish speaker I also
> preferred to have a visual backup in case my speech is less audible. Most
> importantly I would specifically emphasize to my students that slides
> were
> not "my notes" about the topic, neither that they could replace
> "their" note
> taking activity. In order to prevent students from copying the slides, I
> would upload them on the class' website. I certainly don't believe
> there is
> a"lecture" that I can put on PPT (or any other medium!) that I want to
> "transmit" to my students.
> Finally I want to point to other uses of PPT in non-academic purposes,
> which
> I believe are also everything but trivial. David Byrne who is both an
> artist and a musician (from *Talking Heads)* has written an interesting
> dvd/book on PowerPoint - see
> as
> a medium for artistic expression. In the Fifth Dimension program in
> Solana
> Beach children would use power point to produce some creative
> animations and
> digital stories. That was in the time when video editing software was
> still
> relatively expensive and less available. For example I observed some
> kids
> who used PPT to produce a digital story "discovering" Kuleshov effect as
> they played with frames that they created...
> I apologize if I have reiterated points already said, but it has
> become hard
> for me to follow this discussion...
> Sonja Baumer
> On 2/17/07, Jay Lemke <> wrote:
>> I was smiling to read of David's discomfiture with PPT. There was a
>> wired article not long ago "Powerpoint is Evil", and Edward Tufte,
>> the godfather of informatic presentation, has a beautiful print essay
>> shredding its design and use.
>> I think about this every time I use, and curse, PPT. If someone else
>> used my PPT slides, my main concern would be embarassment. For me,
>> they are merely a pretext (literally?) for my commentary, _and they
>> change their meaning for the audience because of my commentary_. In
>> fact they have almost no meaning on their own ... they are like the
>> sound-bites of politicians, vague enough to be interpreted in many
>> ways by many readers, and becoming specified with my meanings only
>> when elaborated and contextualized by what I say as I present them.
>> And I often say very different things re-using the same slides in
>> different presentations.
>> I have tried to kick the PPT habit ... it's actually much better very
>> often to create an HTML file and scroll through it, or even hyperlink
>> it with others, but I've discovered that trying to switch between
>> macs and pc's that way is very tricky (not that it's all that simple
>> with PPT either). Movies work better in PPT, I think, and that's the
>> only advantage I know.
>> So why do I use it? because it's fast and I'm busy, because people
>> expect it, because people are satisfied that if I've done a PPT, then
>> I've prepared properly for a talk, and because I usually speak
>> extemporaneously anyway with only an outline of key points. The PPT
>> is more my notes to myself, with some window dressing (images mainly)
>> to keep the audience amused, or distracted from what I'm saying.
>> I never use PPT in class. I create a WORD document with my notes and
>> narrate that to the class, then post it to a class web tools site.
>> Sketchy as it may be, it's far more "textualized" than PPT. Of course
>> I teach almost exclusively doctoral students these days. If I were
>> teaching undergrads, I might as well poison them as let them use a
>> PPT in lieu of classnotes.
>> I think the real popularity, and origins, of PPT arise from people
>> not really having anything to say, but wanting to look good anyway.
>> The more I have to say, the less suitable the PPT format is. I gave
>> up early on adding more and more to a slide, when the font got so
>> small people couldn't read it any more! But it's not just quantity,
>> it's also depth of content that doesn't fit on a PPT. Perhaps a great
>> poet, in the 20th draft, could find some way to make a profound point
>> in 5 -12 words. I am rarely so lucky.
>> What did I do before PPT? I wrote out a whole paper for every talk,
>> highlighted key sections so I could use it like an outline, talking
>> through it, and read short bits that I had worded more carefully than
>> I could reproduce spontaneously. It worked very well, but it was a
>> LOT of work. Especially as I never gave the same talk twice. That is
>> I wrote a completely new paper for every talk. Now I recycle PPT
>> slides the way I once did with overhead transparencies (another
>> superior medium), and weave anew with 50% recycled fibers.
>> JAY.
>> >A few days ago I gave a PowerPoint presentation of my research to our
>> >department. After the presentation, a graduate teaching assistant in
>> the
>> >department whom I've known for a number of years asked me if he could
>> have
>> >a copy of the presentation so that he could follow-up with one of his
>> >classes (some of his students also were at the presentation). I
>> immediately
>> >agreed, but after some debate with myself, I decided to give him hard
>> copy
>> >of the slides instead. The medium of PowerPoint would erode the
>> boundaries
>> >between him and me.
>> >
>> >Here's a snippet from my note to him. I wonder if this phenomenon has
>> been
>> >observed/discussed before in the media literature.
>> >Comments welcome.
>> >
>> >David Kirshner
>> >_______________________________________________
>> >
>> >Hi xxxx,
>> >
>> >I've copied out all of my slides (about 50), and left them in your
>> mailbox.
>> >I'd intended to send you the PowerPoint presentation itself, but in the
>> end
>> >felt uncomfortable about doing that.
>> >It's an interesting media phenomenon. If I give you photocopies of the
>> >slides and you distribute them for discussion to your students, it's
>> very
>> >clear what are the boundaries between my contribution, and yours. The
>> >slides are mine, the discussion is yours. However, the PowerPoint
>> medium
>> is
>> >inherently incomplete. If you present my slides as a PowerPoint
>> >presentation, it no longer is possible to clearly demarcate our
>> boundaries.
>> >That's because the in the PowerPoint setting, the slides are
>> inseparable
>> >from the commentary. Thus it's not possible to distinguish what part of
>> the
>> >commentary is you and what part is me.
>> >
>> >
>> >
>> >_______________________________________________
>> >xmca mailing list
>> >
>> >
>> --
>> Educational Studies
>> University of Michigan
>> 610 East University
>> Ann Arbor, MI 48109
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