Tufte discusses the use of Powerpoint in education, corporations and government bureaucracies, making the claim that it favors format over content, commercializes learning, and harms visual reasoning. He also makes the argument that if the content and quality of the presentation is lacking, then no themes, colors, or images are going to change that fact. He states,“Audience boredom is usually a content failure, not a decoration failure.” While I do agree that, of course, content and quality should be the main focus of the presentation, I also feel that people generally gravitate toward things that are pleasing to their vision. That is why we have the phrase don’t judge a book by its cover, something I find myself quite often doing. I think Powerpoint could be useful in certain settings where both the content and layout is fully developed. However, I have yet to be successful with this in my own classroom. I used Powerpoint in my classroom once last year for a project on the Holocaust. Students had to research an assigned topic and create a presentation where they provided information on the topic as well as used visuals. This year was the first year I had done it and I already know I won’t be doing it again next year. I noticed that students like working with Powerpoint so they obsess over the images, colors, and transitions for the presentation, spending little time focusing on the actual content. When it came time to present the information, it resulted in a boring reading of the information on the slides.
Another idea that I found interesting from his article was when Tufte brings up the use of visuals in Powerpoints and how the data is ultimately useless when it is not side by side, able to be compared. In Tufte’s words, they are filled with “the encoded legends, the meaningless color, the logo-type branding. They are uncomparative, indifferent to content and evidence, and so data-starved as to be almost pointless.” When reading this, I couldn’t help but think what Drucker would have to say about this. Without a doubt, she would agree with the Tufte’s dislike of the linear format of the presentation.
In her chapter, Drucker focuses on interpretive activity, discussing how “innovations in graphic conventions have arisen to support the scholarly activity” but also points out that little has been done when it comes to “imaginative writing practices (182).” Despite this fact, she does believe that the few examples that have arisen indicate that there is much possibility there. She also points out that there have been some great examples of artists and writers that have used visual and spatial writing but that these examples failed to reshape writing conventions that have been in place for far too long. While we use schematic and visual approaches to outline and prepare, the actual composition is generally still linear and traditional. Because of this, we are not giving the composition its full interpretive potential. When thinking about interpretive acts when composition is not done in the traditional sense, Drucker states, “Where and when interpretive acts takes place in the click trail and movement through and across different modalities of display is a pressing question when screen spaces, computational capacities, and constellationary argument and a diagrammatic approach to composition also include the synthesis of many voices, authors, contributions with and without attribution (185).” When so many other factors are put into place, the amount of interpretation that can be done greatly increases. In fact, the amount of interpretive lines that can be drawn are ultimately limitless. In this sense, reading cannot be viewed as just “an act of recovering truth” (191).
After reading both texts, I was left with the following questions:
-Do you think that Drucker would agree with Tufte that Powerpoint is evil?
-How do you feel about the use of Powerpoint in the classroom?
-Do you have any success stories with Powerpoint?
-Is there a way to use Powerpoint to create the kind of nonlinear, collaborative, and visual composition that Drucker talks about?
-Which do you think is true when Drucker asks, “Will we think differently because of the ways interpretation takes shape across networked contingencies. Or are these material conditions producing us as new subjects of a distributed imagination” (191)?