Ruth Marcus at the Washington Post wonders if PowerPoint is a killing app. She’s not the first to note that NASA administrators make decisions — sometimes fatal decisions — on the basis of PowerPoint presentations that mask or misrepresent details. I wrote about Edward Tufte’s Cognitive Style of PowerPoint essay in a previous post. Marcus doesn’t add to many new points, but the column is a sign that an anti-PowerPoint movement may be growing. Here are three paragraphs:
[T]he insidious influence of PowerPoint goes beyond the way it frustrates scientific analysis. The deeper problem with the PowerPointing of America — the PowerPointing of the planet, actually — is that the program tends to flatten the most complex, subtle, even beautiful, ideas into tedious, bullet-pointed bureaucratese.
The most disturbing development in the world of PowerPoint is its migration to the schools — like sex and drugs, at earlier and earlier ages. Now we have second-graders being tutored in PowerPoint. No matter that students who compose at the keyboard already spend more energy perfecting their fonts than polishing their sentences — PowerPoint dispenses with the need to write any sentences at all. Perhaps the politicians who are so worked up about the ill effects of violent video games should turn their attention to PowerPoint instead.
In the meantime, Tufte, who’s now doing consulting work for NASA, has a modest proposal for its new administrator: Ban the use of PowerPoint. Sounds good to me. After all, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see the perils of PowerPoint.