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risali negli anni

22 Agosto 2003

Diavolo d’un Powerpoint!

Proprio ora che lo sto faticosamente imparando (il mio esperimento di e-learning in azienda), tutti ce l’hanno con Powerpoint.
Su Wired è appena uscito un articolo del famoso professor Edward Tufte dell’Università di Yale dal titolo PowerPoint is Evil.
Provocatorio, certo, ma non ha tutti i torti.

Il più famoso programma di slideware, nato nel 1984 per accompagnare presentazioni e speech, sta dilagando ovunque, soppiantando altri formati. Non solo nelle organizzazioni, come da noi, ma stando a Tufte anche nelle scuole americane, dove gli studenti si disabituano a forme di scrittura più complesse e argomentative a favore degli slogan e degli elenchi puntati di Powerpoint.

Nelle aziende tutto, o quasi, è affidato a Powerpoint: con il risultato che le slide sono piene zeppe di diagrammi, frecce, tabelle e dati illeggibili sullo schermo. Quando lo faccio notare, mi viene regolarmente risposto che poi la presentazione viene stampata e “resta” all’uditorio… quindi perché rinunciare a infarcirla di parole e di numeri. Perché per questo ci sono altri formati – rispondo io – molto più adatti alla lettura e alla stampa: word o il pdf, semplicemente.
Powerpoint, secondo Tufte, gratifica il relatore ma mortifica l’uditorio.
Il primo ha la sensazione di avere studiato e prodotto tanto, il secondo quella di non riuscire ad afferrare bene le mille cose che gli vengono sottoposte.

La slide è un formato orizzontale, che come una finestra o un paesaggio, invita alla vista più che alla lettura.
Le parole vi dovrebbero essere rarefatte, isolate, e così evidenziate e sottolineate. Ma per far questo bisognerebbe diluire testi e concetti in moltissime slide, con il rischio di perdere contesti e connessioni.
In realtà, dovremmo tornare alla funzione originaria del programma: non documentazione esaustiva ma sottolineatura delle parole di chi parla, non enunciazione ma mappa di concetti, dove le parole si guardano come le immagini.

3 risposte a “Diavolo d’un Powerpoint!”

  1. Il vantaggio di Powerpoint è quando fai delle presentazioni in cui sono inserite delle animazioni (in tal caso fai la tua presentazione tramite computer). Ma per presentazioni con semplice testo e qualche immagine va benissimo un qualsiasi editor. Poi concordo sull’estrema schematizzazione di testi ed immagini nelle presentazioni. Inoltre volevo segnalare un sw open source (e quindi gratuito) in grado di emulare perfettamente (senza essergli inferiore) Powerpoint: il sw in questione si chiama OpenOffice.org Impress. Per informazioni ed il download http://www.openoffice.org

  2. Mai messo mano a PowerPoint, ma ne ho sempre avuto opinione di surrogato malfunzionante (vorrei ma non posso) di Macromedia Flash o Director. Insomma: possibile che tutto ciò che fa Microsoft, ci sono altri che lo fanno meglio?

  3. I’ve found myself wondering what it is exactly that makes Powerpoint evil. Certainly it is dangerous: a graphic communications tool in the hands of people poorly trained in graphical communication is a bad thing. As Tufte points out, hierarchical outlines can be used to lend a spurious authority to banal or misleading statements and imply non-existent chains of inference and conclusion. But this, I think, is not enough to make Powerpoint truly evil. For a long time I wondered what I was missing, until I came across this:

    [quote]
    Leverage your existing presentations so you don’t have to start from scratch. You can import just about any file type into Keynote – including PowerPoint, PDF and AppleWorks presentations – and then enhance with themes. You can paste data from Excel documents into your Keynote charts and tables. Keynote lets you export presentations to PowerPoint, QuickTime or PDF.
    [/quote]

    At http://www.apple.com/keynote/ … and I realised that Chomsky had answered the question over a generation ago.

    PPT, surely, has as its antecedents the blackboard, the flip chart and the ohp. Even used amateurishly, all of these media are effectively deployed in communication. Thinking back to my schooldays, I was always worried about teachers who flourished OHPs rather than wrote on the board, for some obscure reason, but they never struck the terror into me that a session of PPTs can. Why is this? And why did ohps make me more nervous than blackboards?

    In the 1970s Chomsky noted that television was destroying political discourse. He realised that, in fact, discourse was stopping, as television demanded immediacy, and is not well suited to the delivery of lectures, encouraging a style of discourse now known as the “soundbite”. At first, “soundbites” were the distillation of more complex arguments – and this was the point of Chomsky’s objection: that complex political debate was being “dumbed down” into a soundbite for television’s consumption.

    This was the effect of television itself–as McLuhan spotted, the medium is the message–but the political classes soon got with the medium and rather than “dumb down” the argument to get to the soundbite, dropped the argument entirely to produce just the soundbite. By the 1980s, politics had become merely soundbite packaging: Consider, since when did “tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime” actually substitute for a policy on criminal justice?

    Although politics has always been about sloganeering–wrapping a complex idea into a memorable phrase like “votes for women”, “peace in our time”, “liberty, equality, fraternity”–there used to be complex political ideas behind the slogans. Nowadays, political parties don’t have policies as such, they instead craft soundbites to appeal to target swing voter groups. The party that does this best gets elected.

    There are no longer any big ideas in politics not because all the big idea battles have been won, but because there are not anymore big ideas at all – and Powerpoint has helped this happen to the presentation of complex information.

    In the past, the notes on the blackboard represented a summation. The teacher wasn’t writing all there was to know on the subject – that existed in books, papers, pictures, documents, films, and other archives. The teacher merely presented a synthetic overview of the corpus relevant to the lesson at hand.

    The teacher was able to do this (if they were a good teacher) because they had some mastery of that corpus. The notes on the board were ephemeral, epiphenomena of the narrative the teacher’s master caused him/her to weave around the source material. On reflection, this is why I got nervous about OHPs.

    OHPs were more difficult to produce, and were produced in advance of the lesson. The teacher became preoccupied with the presentation of the OHPs, making sure they were laid out clearly and legible from the back of the class, as they would be unable to effect significant changes on the fly. They would have to prejudge very accurately the length of their talk, and the level of engagement of their audience. They would, in short, have come to see the production of the OHPs as the end in itself, rather than the summative mastery of the subject matter.

    PPTs, too, has become an end in itself. PPTs don’t summarise more complex corpora, they are the sole embodiment of a piece of thinking, information or ideas. The are lavishly prepared: my anecdotal impression is that for every hour a Powerpoint is worked on, 40 minutes are on looknfeel, and 20 minutes are on content.

    As more and more visual tools are loaded into presentation software, as with Keynote, more and more time is spent on the looknfeel. This is what makes Powerpoint evil: it is the primary medium for the expression of ideas in business, and, increasingly, education.

    PPT is no longer an ephemeral medium, but a medium of record – so what we record is executive summaries and bullet-points. Not only are complex ideas no longer explored –if they won’t fit on a slide, there’s no place for them–but people are becoming increasingly ignorant of complex ideas: All thought has become slogans.

    Is there hope? Very little, I fear. But I say this – delete your Powerpoint slides after presenting them. Promise yourself that you will always treat them as ephemeral, that your primary sources will be elsewhere, in greater depth, and with more detail, and you may yet be saved.

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