Patrick Stewart’s Big, Bald Head

August 20th, 2003  |  Published in Uncategorized

I’ve always found David Byrne pleasantly weird. There’s something comforting about his whole “so normal I’m a freaking art project” schtick (as seen in “True Stories”), coupled with his “so arty I’m freaking normal” musical excursions (which bubbled over into Glassian hypnosis with “The Forest”). So it’s reasonably cool that WIRED has recruited him to confront the cognitive and social scourge of our time: PowerPoint:

“This is Dan Rather’s profile. Expanded to the nth degree. Taken to infinity. Overlayed on the back of Patrick Stewart’s head. It’s recombinant phrenology. The elements of phrenology recombined in ways that follow the rules of irrational logic, a rigorous methodology that follows nonrational rules. It is a structure for following your intuition and your obsessions. It is the hyperfocused scribblings of the mad and the gifted. The order and structure give it the appearance of rationality and scientific rigor. This appearance is easy to emulate.”

Part two of WIRED’s fearless confrontation of PowerPoint is penned by Edward Tufte, who has the benefit of not being Jacob Nielsen:

“Particularly disturbing is the adoption of the PowerPoint cognitive style in our schools. Rather than learning to write a report using sentences, children are being taught how to formulate client pitches and infomercials. Elementary school PowerPoint exercises (as seen in teacher guides and in student work posted on the Internet) typically consist of 10 to 20 words and a piece of clip art on each slide in a presentation of three to six slides -a total of perhaps 80 words (15 seconds of silent reading) for a week of work. Students would be better off if the schools simply closed down on those days and everyone went to the Exploratorium or wrote an illustrated essay explaining something.”

(I guess it’s fair to point out that Cliff Stoll followed this line of inquiry a while back.)

Here’s an entertaining Powerpointized interpretation (via MeFi).

With that, since my eyes are still dilated from this morning’s optometrist visit, I’m going to go sit in a dark room and wait until I can tell what time it is again.

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