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Die Debatte um PowerPoint


von Mathias Mertens

Kürzlich entdeckten die Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung (Julia Voss: "Wie Bilder eine Katastrophe begünstigen", 1.2.2004) und die Frankfurter Rundschau (Heinz Schlaffer: "Menetekel", 10.2.2004) das Thema PowerPoint und seine kulturzersetzende Wirkung. Zwischendrin berichtete der Freitag auch noch über den PowerPoint-Kunstband des Talking Heads-Sängers David Byrne ("Kunstform oder Volksverdummung.", 2. Januar 2004). Offensichtlich ein hochbrisantes und aktuelles Thema. Aber damit wurde im Wesentlichen nur ein Schlagabtausch aus den USA aufgewärmt, der dort 2003 hohe Wellen schlug. In diesem Dossier wird die dortige Debatte mit ihren Hauptprotagonisten nachgezeichnet.

Eine Meinung aus dem ZMI zu diesem Thema findet sich in dem Freitag-Artikel Technologisches Kokain. Ein Software-Produkt wird gescholten oder: Wie aus billiger Kulturkritik wertvolle Medienkunde wird von Mathias Mertens und Claus Leggewie.

0. Geschichte

Eine Geschichte von PowerPoint auf (basierend auf Ian Parkers New Yorker Artikel)

Microsoft estimates that at least 30 million PowerPoint presentations are delivered every day in total around the world. That translates into nearly 11 billion PowerPoint presentations a year, 1.25 million an hour, 20,833 a minute, and 347 a second.
According to New Yorker magazine, PowerPoint accounts for a staggering 95% of the presentation software market worldwide as of January, 2002.

A former Berkeley Ph.D. student and head of computer-science research at Bell-Northern Research in Mountain View, California, Bob Gaskins is widely acknowledged to be the inventor of PowerPoint. Less known is that Whitfiled Diffie, an encryption specialist at Bell-Northern Research who worked with Gaskins, created the original prototype program for PowerPoint, although he received no money for his work in developing the presentation software.

According to New Yorker magazine, Whitfield Diffie created the first protoype of PowerPoint in 1981. In preparing to give a presentation 35-mm. slides, he wrote a program that allowed you to draw a black frame on a piece of paper. The page could show a number of frames and text inside each frame, and included space for commentary.

The original name was Presenter. In 1984, Bob Gaskins left Bell-Northern Research and joined Forethought, a Silicon Valley software company. There, Gaskins hired Dennis Austin, a software developer, and together they worked on Presenter. After a trademark problem, Presenter became PowerPoint.

The first version of PowerPoint - PowerPoint 1.0 - went on sale in April, 1987. The program in its initial release was considerably different from the product we know today. Back then, the program was used to generate pages of text and graphics that could be turned into overhead transparencies. PowerPoint was not yet a tool for delivering live electronic presentations.

The first release of PowerPoint was available only for the Macintosh and generated only black and white text and graphics.

Microsoft paid $14 million to acquire Forethought - Bob Gaskin's company - which owned the rights to PowerPoint. According to New Yorker magazine, Microsoft paid cash and allowed Bob Gaskins and his colleagues to remain a partly self-governing entity in Silicon Valley, away from the Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Washington. Microsoft soon regretted the terms of this deal. Bob Gaskin and his colleagues were renowned for their independent spirit, and for their elaborate and expensive staged parties which included caviar, string quartets, and Renaissance-style dress.

The first PowerPoint for Windows was launched in 1990, alongside Windows 3.0. Along with Word and Excel, PowerPoint began to be integrated into Microsoft Office. In the mid-1990's when Microsoft learned that presenters using PowerPoint found it hard to get started and build a presentation from scratch, AutoContent was added. According to New Yorker magazine, the AutoContent concept - punch a button and create a presentation - was considered "crazy" by Microsoft programmers, and the name was meant as a joke. As noted by Ian Parker, Microsoft still took the idea and kept the name - an example of a product named in blatant mockery of its target customers.

The stick figures were created by Cathleen Belleville, a former graphic designer who worked at Microsoft as a product planner from 1989 to 1995. According to New Yorker magazine, she was amazed to see a clip-art series she had created become contemporary business icons. "My artwork is in danger of being more famous than the "Mona Lisa", she once quipped to her mother.

1. Doc Searls

Doc Searls: "It's the story, stupid! Don't let presentation software keep you from getting your story across." (16. August 1998)

Von einer dezidiert positiven Grundhaltung gegenüber Software aus ("I'm one of those guys for whom no software ever got in the way of anything other than the time I should spend away from the computer") kritisiert Searls einzig den PowerPoint "Wizard" für seine "fascist wrongheadedness about what a presentation is supposed to be". Das Resultat seiner Meinung nach: "It's not your presentation. It's your version of a PowerPoint presentation, which is not about what you want to say, but about how you say it."

Searls hält sich aber nicht lange mit der Kritik auf, sondern gibt lieber Ratschläge, um Präsentationen zu verbessern. "There is always a temptation to avoid talking about problems in presentations. Big mistake. Your company has problems, or it wouldn't be interesting. So do your customers." Der PowerPoint Wizard hält statt dessen dazu an, "Solutionese" zu reden und damit langweilige Aufzählungen zu generieren.

2. Ian Parker

Ian Parker: "Absolute Powerpoint. Can a software package edit our thoughts?" The New Yorker (28. Mai 2001)

Ian Parker hat den definitiven Artikel zu PowerPoint geschrieben. Er dokumentiert die Geschichte von PowerPoint (siehe Abschnitt 0.), er bringt alle Argumente der Debatte (in einem gemäßigten Stil, der seinen Plagiatoren wie Julia Keller völlig abgeht) und er beschreibt das soziale Umfeld, in dem PowerPoint plaziert ist. Die massenhafte Verbreitung hat aus PowerPoint eine Erweiterung des Körpers gemacht (McLuhan): "The usual metaphor for everyday software is the tool, but that doesn't seem to be right here. PowerPoint is more like a suit of clothes, or a car, or plastic surgery. You take it out with you. You are judged by it-you insist on being judged by it. It is by definition a social instrument, turning middle managers into bullet-point dandies." PowerPoint trägt zur sozialen Distinktion bei: "[T]here are great tracts of corporate America where to appear at a meeting without PowerPoint would be unwelcome and vaguely pretentious, like wearing no shoes." PowerPoint-Präsentationen wird eine höhere Validität zugerechnet und die so Vortragenden genießen höhere Autorität, wie der Psychologe Robert Cialdini an der Arizona State University in einem Experiment belegte. Um diese Ergebnisse zu kommunizieren, mußte er selbst auf PowerPoint zurückgreifen: "He always preferred to use slides when he spoke to business groups, but one high-tech company recently hinted that his authority suffered as a result. They said, 'You know what, Bob? You've got to get into PowerPoint, otherwise people aren't going to respond.' So I made the transfer."

Parker liefert das Standardargument gegen PowerPoint, das später von Edward Tufte ausführlich behandelt wird und von vielen anderen aufgegriffen und paraphrasiert wird: "It edits ideas. It is, almost surreptitiously, a business manual as well as a business suit, with an opinion-an oddly pedantic, prescriptive opinion-about the way we should think. It helps you make a case, but it also makes its own case: about how to organize information, how much information to organize, how to look at the world." Um das zu unterstreichen, zitiert er einen Beitrag aus einer Online Diskussion: "Last week I caught myself planning out (in my head) the slides I would need to explain to my wife why we couldn't afford a vacation this year." Brown meint, daß PowerPoint deshalb so erfolgreich sei, weil es "an impressive antidote to fear" darstelle, "converting public-speaking dread into moviemaking pleasure". Deshalb müsse Microsoft auch gar keine Regeln aufstellen, "businesses write them for themselves."

In seiner Beschreibung von PowerPoint-Erfinder Gaskins unterstreicht Parker dessen Bildungsbürgertum: "Gaskins is a precise, bookish man who lives with his wife in a meticulously restored and furnished nineteenth-century house (...). He has recently discovered an interest in antique concertinas." Das dient zur Unterstreichung von dessen Kritik an PowerPoint: "Gaskins is skeptical about the product that PowerPoint has become - Auto Content and animated fades between slides - but he is devoted to the simpler thing that it was. (...) For Gaskins, that had always been the point: to get rid of the intermediaries - graphic designers - and never mind the consequences."

Parker hebt hervor, wie PowerPoint als "a response to the new corporate world of interdepartmental communication" entworfen wurde. Als der Erfolg einsetzte, wurden die von Gaskins beklagten Veränderungen vorgenommen, insbesondere der kritikwürdige Wizard, der zunächst als Witz von den Technikern aufgebracht wurde, dann aber vom Marketing übernommen wurde: "AutoContent was added in the mid-nineties, when Microsoft learned that some would-be presenters were uncomfortable with a blank PowerPoint page-it was hard to get started. "We said, 'What we need is some automatic content!'" a former Microsoft developer recalls, laughing. "'Punch the button and you'll have a presentation.'" The idea, he thought, was "crazy." And the name was meant as a joke. But Microsoft took the idea and kept the name-a rare example of a product named in outright mockery of its target customers."

Zwei weitere Kritiker kommen in dem Artikel zu Wort. Cathy Belleville, die Designerin der populären Strichmännchen, beklagt die fehlende Interaktion: "We present to each other, instead of discussing", was Brown in die Formel packt: "Instead of human contact, we are given human display." Außerdem betrachtet sie die gängige PowerPoint-Praxis als eine Verschwendung von Arbeitszeit, die für die sinnvollere Tätigkeit der Inhaltsgestaltung verwendet werden sollte: "[N]ow we've got highly paid people sitting there formatting slides-spending hours formatting slides-because it's more fun to do that than concentrate on what you're going to say. It would be much more efficient to offload that work onto someone who could do it in a tenth of the time, and be paid less. Millions of executives around the world are sitting there going, 'Arial? Times Roman? Twenty-four point? Eighteen point?'" Tad Simons, Herausgeber des Presentations Magazin, verweist außerdem auf "the sin of triple delivery, where precisely the same text is seen on the screen, spoken aloud, and printed on the handout in front of you".

Aber nicht nur, daß PowerPoint einen Einfluß auf die Konzeption und Gestaltung hat, beschreibt Parker, sondern er sieht auch Konsequenzen für die Zuhörer und formuliert einen Klassiker der Medienkritik: die Berieselungsthese. Die "bright and hyperreal" Erscheinung der Präsentationen führe zu einer Verschleierung des mangelhaften Inhalts: "PowerPoint is strangely adept at disguising the fragile foundations of a proposal, the emptiness of a business plan; usually, the audience is respectfully still (...), and, with the visual distraction of a dancing pie chart, a speaker can quickly move past the laughable flaw in his argument. If anyone notices, it's too late--the narrative presses on."

Die Dialektik des Werkzeugs faßt schließlich Computer-Soziologe Clifford Nass zusammen. Einerseits verbessert es die Präsentation von Ergebnissen und Inhalten: "What PowerPoint does is very efficiently deliver content." Auf der anderen Seite verliert sich dabei der Prozeß der Informationsgewinnung und der Herleitung von Argumenten: "What you miss is the process. The classes I remember most, the professors I remember most, were the ones where you could watch how they thought. You don't remember what they said, the details. It was 'What an elegant way to wrap around a problem!' PowerPoint takes that away. PowerPoint gives you the outcome, but it removes the process."

3. Dan Brown

Dan Brown: "Understanding PowerPoint: Special Deliverable #5." (29. September 2002)

In einem sehr ausführlichen und ausgewogenen Artikel untersucht Dan Brown nicht die Frage "Does PowerPoint suck?", sondern viel mehr "Even though PowerPoint sucks, should I use it for my deliverables?" Er betrachtet auch nicht die design templates und den AutoContent wizard, sondern er beschäftigt sich mit den grundsätzlichen Möglichkeiten des Programms: "PowerPoint still has some obvious shortcomings. These limitations do not make PowerPoint useless. Instead, by recognizing PowerPoint's boundaries, we can use it more appropriately." Sein Plädoyer ist deshalb auch: "Tool selection is a design decision like any other - have good reasons for your decision and know the limits of the tool you choose."

Daß man nur sehr wenig Text auf einem slide unterbringen kann, begreift er als Chance: "Ultimately, PowerPoint forces you to be a better writer. People who prepare decks with lots and lots of text do not see the opportunity to find fewer words to say the same thing. Only by selecting your words carefully and eliminating redundant thoughts can you create effective reports in PowerPoint." Auch hebt er hervor, daß durch die beschränkten Möglichkeiten relativ leicht "saubere" Layouts entstehen: "PowerPoint, for all its faults, allows users to create layouts with no mess or fuss."

Brown beschreibt, wie das ursprüngliche Programmkonzept mit vielen weiteren Funktionen und Möglichkeiten "überwuchert" wurde, so daß "the application has tried to become all things to all people". Ob PowerPoint nun als ein Werkzeug "for creating website documentation like site maps or flow diagrams" eingesetzt werden sollte, hängt für ihn von zwei Faktoren ab: "scope and cost". Seiner Meinung nach ist PowerPoint geeignet für die Präsentation von wenigen Informationen - "If your data set is small, PowerPoint can be good enough for producing a diagram to illustrate it." - und für kleine, unterfinanzierte Projekte - "PowerPoint is ideal for small gigs: doing a bit of low-profile pro bono work or your friend's wedding website, or working with colleagues on a low-budget side project. (...) PowerPoint can serve as a low-cost production vehicle."

Mit Bezug auf Scott McClouds Analyse von Comics begreift Brown PowerPoint-Präsentation als "a dance between imagery and word (...) to convey an idea that neither could convey alone." Statt wie Seth Godin in Really Bad PowerPoint starr den Bildern die Emotionen und den Wörtern den Intellekt zuzuweisen, plädiert Brown für ein dialektisches Zusammenspiel und zitiert McCloud: "When pictures carry the weight of clarity in a scene, they free words to explore a wider area." Und so sieht er, ähnlich wie Doc Searls, PowerPoint-Präsentationen als Geschichten: "PowerPoint is designed to be a storytelling medium, and your presentations should have a beginning, a middle, and an end, like any good story."

4. Julia Keller

Julia Keller: "Is PowerPoint the devil?" Chicago Tribune (22. Januar 2003)

Julia Keller beschwört die umfassende Macht, die PowerPoint erlangt hat, und sieht darin "one of the most pervasive and ubiquitous technological tools ever concocted." Nur, um dann gemäß ihrer satanischen Metaphorik die "dark side" des Programms hervorzuheben: "It squeezes ideas into preconceived format, organizing and condensing not only your material but - inevitably, it seems - your way of thinking about and looking at that material." Und selbst wenn der Teufel PowerPoint beim Anwender versagen sollte, "it may have that effect on your audience - which is at the mercy of your presentation."

PowerPoint wird konsequent als Akteur beschrieben, der "world domination" anstrebt. Um diese Metaphorisierung zu verschleiern, wird sie selbst metaphorisiert, indem sie mit Drogen gleichgesetzt wird: "Its astonishing popularity, the way it has spread exponentially through the culture, seems analogous, in a way, to drugs. Think of it as technological cocaine - so effortless to embrace initially, so difficult to relinquish after that. People who once use PowerPoint generally don't stop using it. People who don't use it can't quite understand what all the fuss is about. And then they use it. And neither they nor their relationship to information is ever quite the same again."

Unter anderem wird in dem Artikel Sherry Turkle zitiert, die zwar ähnliche Kritik äußert, aber PowerPoint nur als Symptom eines komplexeren Systems sieht: "PowerPoint doesn't teach children to make an argument. It teaches them to make a point, which is quite a different thing. It encourages presentation, not conversation. (...) I don't want to make PowerPoint the motor for an apocalyptic future. But it's part of a general trend. It's one element among others that keep us from complexity."

5. Edward Tufte

Edward Tufte: "The cognitive style of PowerPoint" (Abstract)

"In corporate and government bureaucracies, the standard method for making a presentation is to talk about a list of points organized onto slides projected up on the wall. For many years, overhead projectors lit up transparencies, and slide projectors showed high-resolution 35mm slides. Now "slideware" computer programs for presentations are nearly everywhere. Early in the 21st century, several hundred million copies of Microsoft PowerPoint were turning out trillions of slides each year.
Alas, slideware often reduces the analytical quality of presentations. In particular, the popular PowerPoint templates (ready-made designs) usually weaken verbal and spatial reasoning, and almost always corrupt statistical analysis. What is the problem with PowerPoint? And how can we improve our presentations?"

Edward Tufte: "PowerPoint is evil." Wired (September 2003)

In diesem Artikel reduziert Tufte sein Essay auf drei Kernaussagen. Zunächst der Formalismusvorwurf: "The standard PowerPoint presentation elevates format over content, betraying an attitude of commercialism that turns everything into a sales pitch." Dann die fehlende Publikumsorientierung: "PowerPoint's pushy style seeks to set up a speaker's dominance over the audience. The speaker, after all, is making power points with bullets to followers." Und schließlich der Reduktionismus und die Sequentialität der Präsentation, die zum Verständnisabbau führen: "When information is stacked in time, it is difficult to understand context and evaluate relationships. Visual reasoning usually works more effectively when relevant information is shown side by side."

Das Fazit ist dasselbe wie im Essay: "PowerPoint is a competent slide manager and projector. But rather than supplementing a presentation, it has become a substitute for it. Such misuse ignores the most important rule of speaking: Respect your audience."

Aaron Swartz: Powerpoint Remix of Edward Tufte's Powerpoint Essay

Eine PowerPoint-Präsentation, die zeigt, daß man jeden Inhalt als Bullet-List gestalten kann - auch die Kritik an diesem Verfahren.

[Kommentierungen zu PowerPoint is Evil auf (offline)

Ein deutscher Kommentar bezweifelt, ob "Inhalte tatsächlich trivialisiert [werden], wenn sie übersichtlich zusammengefaßt werden" und verweist auf nicht näher spezifizierte "Erkenntnisse der Psychologie" und die "7±2 Regel aus dem InformationMapping".

kwc-blog-Kommentar zu einem Vortrag von Edward Tufte (offline)

Dieser Bericht über eine Veranstaltung mit Tufte hebt hervor, daß der Kritiker des Vorlesens vom PowerPoint Slide genau dieses selbst macht: "[T]here came a point where he transformed into the table of contents for his books:"on this page there's this diagram that x, and if we go to page 74 we can see another diagram that x. (...) [E]ven when Tufte focused on a particular example, you could hear him using the exact same verb and adjective choices as were present in the text that you were following along in." Die Veranstaltung wurde dadurch genau das, was Tufte anderen vorwirft: "an infomercial". Statt als Lehrer "someone you interact with" zu sein, bietet Tufte nur Merchandising: "[T]he closest we got to that was a long 'autograph and question' line during five minute breaks."

Dean Allen: "Stalin's bullet list." Textism (3. Juni 2003)

Dean Allen hebt hervor, daß Tuftes Forderungen an der Realität von Arbeitssituationen vorbeizielen. Er sieht in der reduktionistischen und pauschalen PowerPoint-Praxis sogar den Vorteil, daß man mehr Zeit für Interaktion hat: "Tufte's advice usually has little relevance to a designer working in the arena of business, (...) where the pressure and speed of money leave little room for the 'design, think, design, think some more' approach in which Tufte passionately believes, yet which ironically leaves open canyons of room for the BOGSAT (bunch of guys sitting around a table) approach that is the gravitational force of commercial design."

Außerdem kritisiert er Tuftes Tendenz, das Sprachliche in Präsentationen herunterzuspielen, und betont wie Dan Brown das Wechselverhältnis von Bild und Sprache: "[T]here's Tufte's usual tendency to downplay the significance of words and their meaning in design, preferring to evaluate data as something to be appreciated more on its visual gestures rather than the concurrent swirl of visual-textual meaning that must be parsed by those seeing information for the first time."

Ed Nixon: "More on Tufte's points about power." Versions of truth Blog (4. Juni 2003, offline)

Ed Nixon hat sicherlich die interessanteste Sicht auf Edward Tuftes Essay. Auch er verweist wie Dean Allen auf die veränderten Anforderungen am Arbeitsplatz, die im Sinne von Herbert Simons "bounded rationality" zu einem immer kleiner werdenden "decision space" führen. Deshalb sieht Tuftes konservatives Literarizitäts-Konzept auch als hinderlich für die Debatte an. Veränderte Kommunikationsformen sind kein Qualitätsverlust, sondern eine notwendige Anpassung an die Verhältnisse: "The predominantly verbal literacy explicit in Tufte's recommendations is becoming more and more diluted as the communication media that support and require it - print - become less important in our day to day information gathering and decision making activities. These new media may be causing changes in the way people are educated, in what skills are emphasized in our formal education, in what skills we use for our own self-directed learning."

Als Einziger bisher verweist Nixon allerdings auf die Ironie, die in Tuftes Essay steckt, und sieht in ihm eher einen Advokaten als einen Inquisitor: "Tufte says we need more words, better grammar and traditional rhetorical forms. However, Tufte, as a long time exemplar of better visual representations, is really talking about the need to improve the visual literacy of our presentations. And he doesn't just mean better graphs and diagrams; he also means better and more appropriate use of physical space for our words." Und so betrachtet er Tuftes Kritik auch eher als eine Aufforderung, die neuen Möglichkeiten tatsächlich zu nutzen und nicht zur Imitation veralteter Formen zu verwenden: "Yes, words are important for creating the chain links of our decision processes, but the key, says Tufte, is more creative, accurate and truthful visual representations. And Tufte says we must also improve our visual critical skills to be able to discriminate between good informative graphics and those that prevaricate or unintentionally mislead."

Adam Hanft: "Grist - More power than point." Inc. Magazine (August 2003)

Adam Hanft verweist auf das eigentliche Ursache-Wirkungs-Verhältnis: "Which came first on the evolutionary ladder, stupidity or PowerPoint? For all the demonizing, PowerPoint is just a tool." Und als ein solches Werkzeug erzählt es von veränderten Bedingungen: "It's probably closer to the truth to see PowerPoint as the symptom of a deeper disease, a syndrome marked by a shortage of reflection and insufficient critical thinking. Call it distractulitis, an inability to remain focused on something long enough to assess it effectively, and the resulting tendency to default to the simplistic and grabby. Distractulitis is what makes companies intolerant of subtlety and nuance, turns complexity into a sign of weakness, and marshals antibodies at the presence of an idea that spills beyond the confines of a bullet point." Und so plädiert Hanft dafür, sich nicht mit dem Symptom zu beschäftigen, sondern mit der Ursache: "(You can't crush the old boy network by banning golf courses.) Eliminating PowerPoint won't solve the problem of bad decision-making any more than PowerPoint itself brought on an epoch of sharply distilled, fact-based thinking. We can certainly unplug the projector, but wouldn't it be better to plug in our brains?"

Miglia: Posting vom 1. Oktober 2003 zu "Tufte, PowerPoint and Web Content" Asterisk. D. Keith Robinson's Web Design Blog (offline).

Nicht nur hier, sondern an verschiedenen Stellen im Netz verweist Miglia darauf, daß Tafelbilder früher "ephemeral, epiphenomena of the narrative" waren, die der Lehrer aufgrund seiner "mastery of that corpus" und in Relevanz "to the lesson at hand" erzeugen konnte. Overheadprojektionen (OHPs) müßten nun allerdings im Voraus produziert werden, so daß die Flexibilität und individuelle Relevanz der Präsentation verloren geht: "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."

Eine interessante Kritik bezieht sich darauf, daß die PowerPoint-Dateien das einzige Material geworden sind, in dem Wissen aufbewahrt wird: "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." Deshalb wird empfohlen: "[D]elete your PPT 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."

Cliff Atkinson: "Don Norman on PowerPoint Usability."

In diesem Gespräch betont Don Norman, Autor von The Design of Everyday Things, daß schlechten PowerPoint-Präsentationen immer eine mangelhafte Ausbildung im Bereich Kommunikation allgemein zugrunde liegt: "PowerPoint is NOT the problem. The problem is bad talks, and in part, this comes about because of so many pointless meetings, where people with - or without - a point to make - have to give pointless talks. The problem is that it is difficult work to give a good talk, and to do so, the presenter has to have learned how to give talks, has to have practiced, and has had to have good feedback about the quality of the talks - the better to improve them."

Außerdem will er das Gespräch an sich nicht gutheißen und als Alternative zur PowerPoint-Präsentation verstehen: "Tufte is correct when he complains about misleading data and bad summarization that oversimplifies and may even omit important footnotes and qualifications about the data. Tufte is wrong when he confuses great depth of detail with a good talk. (...) A talk can NEVER present as much information as a written paper. Talks should be pointers to the important material. But neither the spoken talk nor the accompanying notes - PowerPoint or not - should be confused with or used for the real information. (...) Any dense, detailed information that requires study to understand can NOT be presented in a talk - it can be summarized and described, but the study and concentration required for understanding should be done elsewhere. Talks are for summaries."

Die Kritik an PowerPoint ist deshalb nur eine Glorifizierung des älteren Mediums, das genau dieselben Probleme hatte wie das neue: "I used to have to sit through dull, boring talks by government officials and military contractors long before personal computers, when slides were hand drawn or typed and projected by overhead projectors."

Andrei Herasimchuk: "Norman on Tufte." (7. Januar 2004,offline)

Auch Herasimchuk meint wie Nixon, daß Tufte weniger PowerPoint kritisiert, sondern für mehr Anstrengung bei der Herstellung von Präsentationen plädiert: "I think Tufte's main argument is that PowerPoint allows people to be lazy much too easily when making presentations. (...) Bullet points tend to act like sound bites do in the news." Normas Kritik an Tufte hält er nicht für zutreffend: "I have never seen Tufte exhibit any of the behavior described by Norman. In fact, Tufte is great at using very dense, detailed packed visuals, and then discussing them so you can go through it yourself! (...) Tufte would simply ask you to think. Designers are supposed to solve problems. In that process, you are supposed to think about how to communicate, and also keep in mind what the data communicates at the most fundamental level." Sein Gegenargument zu Norman ist also Normans Gegenargument zu Tufte.

Clive Thompson: "How Powerpoint makes you dumber." Boston Globe (7. Juli 2003)

Nach einem Referat von Tuftes Kritik, daß die PowerPoint-Slides zuwenig Daten und Details transportieren und dem Zitat "Doing a bit better than Pravda is not good enough", macht Thompson den sarkastischen Einwurf, daß es in heutigen Unternehmen vielleicht doch reichen könnte: "Sure, PowerPoint may make it impossible to convey information. But that's just fine, if -- like so many corporate drones we're forced to work alongside -- you haven't actually got anything to say. Maybe Microsoft understands more than we imagine about our modern Dilbert-style office life."

Ross O'Brien: Kommentierung zu Clive Thompsons "Powerpoint makes you dumb". (19. Dezember 2003)

Als Antwort zu Ross O'Brien hinterfragt Ross O'Brien die Logik hinter Tuftes Argument der zu geringen Details von PowerPoint: "[P]owerpoint is low resolution, he argues, therefore it can't transmit as much data (I'm with him so far) - and therefore is unable to allow people to analyze information. Whoah; that's a tad of a leap, which he doesn't bother to prove - he just presents a few other examples of charts that pack in more datapoints (many of which are available for sale on his web site, suitable for framing) and claims, bizarrely, that because they had more factiods per square inch, they were inherently superior analytical tools. That is the sum, the grand sum of his argument--and it holds no logical water."

6. David Byrne

David Byrne: "Learning to love PowerPoint." Wired (September 2003)

Byrne beschreibt, wie er PowerPoint als ein autopoetisches System begriff, daß die eigene Form als Inhalt hat: "I began to see PowerPoint as a metaprogram, one that organizes and presents stuff created in other applications. Initially, I made presentations about presentations; they were almost completely without content. The content, I learned, was in the medium itself. I discovered that I could attach my photographs, short videos, scanned images, and music. What's more, the application can be made to run by itself -no one even needs to be at the podium. How fantastic!"

Ursprünglich war seine Beschäftigung mit PowerPoint satirisch gemeint. Im Laufe der Zeit setzte sich für ihn allerdings die spezielle Ästhetik des Programms durch: "Although I began by making fun of the medium, I soon realized I could actually create things that were beautiful. I could bend the program to my own whim and use it as an artistic agent. The pieces became like short films: Some were sweet, some were scary, and some were mysterioso. I discovered that even without text, I could make works that were "about" something, something beyond themselves, and that they could even have emotional resonance. What had I stumbled upon? Surely some techie or computer artist was already using this dumb program as an artistic medium. I couldn't really have this territory all to myself -or could I?"

Rachel Konrad: "David Byrne makes PowerPoint art." USA Today (27. Dezember 2003)

Konrad meint, daß Byrne PowerPoint "into a multimedia canvas" verwandelt habe und daß sein Buch Envisioning Emotional Epistemological Information ein "coffee table book for nerds" sei. Er liefere "lucid musings on how PowerPoint has ushered in 'the end of reason'."

Sie zitiert Byrne, der von PowerPoints großen Ausdrucksmöglichkeiten innerhalb bestimmter Grenzen schwärmt: "It communicates within certain limited parameters really well and very easily. The genius of it is that it was designed for any idiot to use. I learned it in a few hours, and that's the idea." Das wichtigste Argument, das Byrne zu der PowerPoint-Debatte beiträgt, liegt in seinem Plädoyer für einen kreativen, selbstbestimmten Umgang mit dem Programm: "Software constraints are only confining if you use them for what they're intended to be used for. (...) PowerPoint may not be of any use for you in a presentation, but it may liberate you in another way, an artistic way. Who knows."

Auch Peter Norvig kommt zu Wort, der eine differenzierte, aber dennoch drastische Sicht auf PowerPoint hat: "People are asking whether, ultimately, PowerPoint makes us all stupid, or does it help us streamline our thoughts? (...) My belief is that PowerPoint doesn't kill meetings. People kill meetings. But using PowerPoint is like having a loaded AK-47 on the table: You can do very bad things with it."

7. Peter Norvig / The Gettysburg PowerPoint Presentation

Peter Norvig: "The Gettysburg PowerPoint Presentation."

Eine Umsetzung von Lincolns berühmter Rede in eine Serie von Bullet-Point-PowerPoint-Slides.

Peter Norvig: "PowerPoint: shot with its own bullets."

Norvig zitiert die Aussage von Cliff Nass in Ian Parkers New Yorker-Artikel, daß PowerPoint einerseits "allows some main points to come across even if the speaker mumbles, forgets, or is otherwise grossly incompetent", daß es andererseits aber "makes it harder to have an open exchange between presenter and audience, to convey ideas that do not neatly fit into outline format, or to have a truly inspiring presentation." Genau darauf zielten seine Anstrengungen: "This is what I was getting at when I created the Gettysburg PowerPoint presentation".

Peter Norvig: "The making of the Gettysburg PowerPoint Presentation."

Norvig beschreibt, wie er zu dem grauenhaften Layout der Seiten kam: "I wasn't a professional designer, so I thought I'd be in for a late night doing some serious research: in color science to find a truely garish color scheme; in typography to find the worst fonts; and in overall design to find a really bad layout. But fortunately for me, the labor-saving Autocontent Wizard took care of all this for me! "

Der Erfolg seiner Präsentation liegt deshalb auch nicht darin begründet, daß er "a kind of idiot savant of bad design" wäre: "I had succeeded in breaking all the rules, but incredibly, the Autocontent Wizard did most of the work for me."

John Naughton: "How PowerPoint can fatally weaken your argument." The Observer (21. Dezember 2003, offline)

Naughton empfiehlt Norvigs Präsentation als Abschreckung: "Nobody who visits Norvig's site will ever want to use PowerPoint again, which is why it should be compulsory viewing for all management trainees, teachers and public servants." Die Popularität von PowerPoint sieht er, wie Ian Parker, darin begründet, daß so viele Menschen Angst vor dem Reden in der Öffentlichkeit haben: "Most people are terrified of public speaking and PowerPoint gives them a handrail to cling to. It provides reassurance against the dread of drying up in front of an audience; there's always the 'next slide' button when you get stuck."

8. Powerpoint-Karaoke

Erst war es nur ein Rauschen in der Blogosphäre, seit dieser Woche ist es im Maistream-Journalismus angekommen. Die Rede ist von der Idee der Berliner Zentrale Intelligenz Agentur: Powerpoint-Karaoke. Im Gegensatz zu den vorherigen Disputationen um den Nutzwert einer schönen Powerpoint-Präsentation zielt diese Idee auf den Amüsement-Faktor einer herrlich "gehirnabtötenden" (Zitat auf der Website der ZIA) Powerpoint-Präsentation.
Die üblichen Verdächtigen sprangen auf diesen Zug auf, und schon wurde ein Event der Sonderklasse auf die Beine gestellt.
An der Schnittstelle zwischen Unternehmenskommmunikation und Performance Lectures fand am 25. Januar im Club nbi die Weltpremiere der neuen Extrem-Sportart statt.
Übrigens, die Siegerpowerpoint von Roland konnte man als zip-Datei herunterladen, um in vertrauter Atmosphäre an seiner Bullshit-Technik zu üben.

Happy Powerpoint-Karaoking!