Edward Tufte’s description of the quality of thought in “The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint”
Edward Tufte, an expert in the presentation of information graphics, contributes to the visual communication of information. In ‘The cognitive style of PowerPoint,’ he argues that Microsoft PowerPoint is normally used but is not the best and has various shortcomings. He cites that PowerPoint depends on the skill of the presenter, who may be a bad designer and may thus poorly design templates, which will lead to a bad chart layout.
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Ultimately the presentation ends up being non-informative. He also discredits the fact that PowerPoint presentation waters down ideas into simple bulleted points, thus losing meaning and lacks emphasis. Instead of informing the audiences, PowerPoint presentations only guide them. It also suffers from a lack of content and displays ideas with many red tapes. Its charts and tables are too simple and have a low resolution like that of early computers. It also makes it impossible to make comparisons because it breaks up information; thus, he suggests that handouts should be used instead of PowerPoint presentations (Tufhte 49)
Tufte’s use of “the software corporation itself” as a metaphor for PowerPoint. “Good teaching” as a better metaphor for presentations
Tufte uses ‘the software corporation itself’ as a metaphor for a PowerPoint cognitive style, comparing it to a large computer programming company that is highly structured and containing a lot of red tapes, is extremely hierarchical, and involves itself in a lot of marketing and branding thus misleading and at times amplifying notions. It also involves itself in advocacy rather than analysis.’ Good teaching’ is a better metaphor since a presentation, just like teaching, will look to clarify a problem realistically, involve students in a lot of reasoning, questioning, and a lot of explanation is done.
“Dominance relationship” between the presenter and the audience established by PowerPoint
PowerPoint establishes a “dominance relationship” between the presenter and the audience. The presenter tends to dictate his ideas to the audience rather than providing a platform where the presenter involves them in a discussion where they may exchange ideas.
Hierarchical organization of PowerPoint presentations reducing the analytical quality of their content
PowerPoint presentations, unlike handouts, mainly composed of words, are mainly full of illustrations arranged in many unnecessary slides, which at times may be repetitive, thus reducing the analytical quality of the content.
Tufte’s parallel about PowerPoint with George Orwell’s quote
“The English language becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.”
Tufte realizes that any PowerPoint presentation will depend on the presenter skills, content quality, and presentation methods. Thus Orwell’s classic essay, just like PowerPoint, shows the relationship between quality of thought and the cognitive style of presentation.
Tufte, Edward. The cognitive style of PowerPoint: pitching out corrupts within. Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press, 2006. Print.