Monday, May 29, 2006

It's the PowerPoint?

This May 26th posting from Technology Commerce Science Daily, is an interesting and fun take on Al Gore’s new global warming movie, (and all presenters using the ubiquitous powerpoint)…it’s all about the technology?

Here is an excerpt

PowerPoint Politics
By James Pinkerton

If a picture is worth a thousand words, how much is a moving picture worth? You know, as in Al Gore's new movie, "An Inconvenient Truth"? That motion picture is powerful and effective, and so it must be worth a lot to the environmental cause. Some viewers might dwell on the irony of cine-technology -- all those celluloid-y chemicals! all those kilowatts! all those people driving their fossil-fuelmobiles to the theater! -- being harnessed to aid the cause of Greenery, but in fact, the techno-irony gets twistier than that. The heart of the film, and the true source of its effectiveness, is Gore's lecture on the grave danger of global warming, in which he uses the latest high-tech tools to present a brainful of quantitative information.

Say what you will about Gore the man, but there's nothing stiff or boring about his lecture. As he says, it's "like a major hike through the Book of Revelation." And speaking of revelation, the former vice president has sure had his epiphany. In the film, he recalls asking himself, "How should I spend my time on this earth?" As we well know, the answer for him was environmental salvation: "It's almost as if a window was opened, and the future was visible." And what was visible was "not so much a political issue as a moral issue."

However, to help the rest of us come along, there's PowerPoint. I'm no scientist, so I will leave it to others, including Arizona State's Robert Balling, Roy Spencer, and others here at TCS, to wrestle with the actual skull stuff. But I do know a visceral good show when I see one. And "Inconvenient Truth" is just that, a good show, because PowerPoint is its own kind of guaranteed spectacle. It's like putting men in black tie -- everyone looks good in a tux.

As meeting-attendees everywhere know, what works about PowerPoint is the seductive combination of high tech and high touch. That is, someone is in the room with you, as a reassuring stage presence, but he or she has a pretty good arsenal of slam-banging special effects, too. So you are lulled along by the voice, even as you are pulled along by the charts and graphics, in which all the risers and trendlines invariably move in the desired direction. It's hard to argue with a good PowerPoint -- how d'ya think the Pentagon convinced itself that it was going to win in Iraq with so few troops?

Indeed, the weaker the underlying argument, the more one needs PowerPoint. Microsoft knows this truth; it asks on its website, "Got the presentation jitters?" Not to worry: "Use headlines, graphics, and your spoken words to gain confidence and engage your audience." Phew!