Finally confirmed: PowerPoint makes you stupid
I've seen it countless times. Otherwise intelligent colleagues, students and
leaders of important organization stand up to give what turn out to be
remarkably silly presentations on topics that could be rich in substance.
A significant part of the problem has to do with the popularity of the beguiling
but vastly limited PowerPoint program that has become the norm for talks
everywhere, from middle schools to academic conference to corporate boardrooms.
Now a panel investigating the the explosion of the Columbia space shuttle
has determined that the focus and judgment of NASA managers may have
undermined by excessive reliance on PowerPoint. The New York Times
"In August, the Columbia Accident Investigation Board at NASA released
Volume 1 of its report on why the space shuttle crashed. As expected, the
ship's foam insulation was the main cause of the disaster. But the board also
fingered another unusual culprit: PowerPoint, Microsoft's well-known
NASA, the board argued, had become too reliant on presenting complex
information via PowerPoint, instead of by means of traditional ink-and-paper
technical reports. When NASA engineers assessed possible wing damage
during the mission, they presented the findings in a confusing PowerPoint
slide -- so crammed with nested bullet points and irregular short forms that
it was nearly impossible to untangle. ''It is easy to understand how a senior
manager might read this PowerPoint slide and not realize that it addresses
a life-threatening situation,'' the board sternly noted.
PowerPoint is the world's most popular tool for presenting information. There
are 400 million copies in circulation, and almost no corporate decision takes
place without it."
* * * * * *
The story goes on to cite Edward Tufte, expert on graphical presentations
of data and ideas, who criticizes an obvious feature of PowerPoint: its use of
skimpy, low resolution bullet points that actually contain very little information.
To this I would add the tendency speakers who use PowerPoint to repeat
the words on the screen, e.g., "Conclusions from our Strategic Planning Process,"
rather than say anything of substance.
This is additional evidence of a larger malady -- widespread deteroriation of
social intelligence caused by excessive reliance on computers. "New media