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Against the tyranny of PowerPoint: Technology-in-use and technology abuse

by Yiannis Gabriel
Organization Studies ()
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Over the past five years, PowerPoint has emerged as a powerful piece of communication technology, having profound consequences on presentations (business and educational), classroom communication and, possibly, on the nature of lecturing itself. An analysis of the ways in which PowerPoint is used offers considerable insights into, first, the nature of educational technologies and their organizational implementations, second, the effect of these technologies on the construction and dissemination of organizational knowledge, and, third, on the qualities and skills of a society of spectacle, where a great deal of organizational knowledge assumes the form of visual representations. Using illustrations from his personal experience, the author examines some uses to which the software is put and some of its potential short-comings. These include the parcelling of knowledge into bullet-points, reliance on visual aids to support weak analysis and the forced linearity of argumentation that limits improvisation, digression and inventiveness. The author, however, argues that PowerPoint can be used more creatively, to build on our culture’s emphasis on spectacle and image and related multi-tasking skills that lecturers and students develop. In this manner, PowerPoint can redefine the nature of a lecture, from the authoritative presentation of a text into a multi-media performance that elicits a critical, creative and active response from its audience.

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