Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Research 'shows PowerPoint is a waste of time'

[...] research, from the University of New South Wales, suggests that we process information best in verbal or written form, but not in both simultaneously. As so often, it has taken the best efforts of brainy academics to prove what most of us instinctively knew. Trying to follow what someone is saying while watching the same words on a screen is the equivalent of riding a bicycle along a crowded train. It offers the appearance of making extra progress but is actually rather impractical. Read more

3 comments:

Simon Heathfield said...

Perhaps the title of this link is a tad misleading. Agree wholeheatedly that people are not all that 'knowing' about how they use pp. But I have to say that I have often found buisness presentations to be amongst the worst culprits in using the medium, many churches/christian communicators actually don't do such a terrible job with it. It was interesting that the article did not enange with any of the wealth of philosophy or reserach which has focussed on the socio-political implications of ppoint and the way in which ppoint templates shape thinking processes (generally for the worse). But as in anything it's about what you do with it that matters, rather than the thing itself (remember what new testament says about money!?). Ppoint has to be the servant, not the master, and I long for a vigorous Christian debate on the ethics and use of technology and culture in Christian communication. So much that comes from my own evangelical tradition is often unthinking reactionism (or just plain unthinking)! Used wisely and as a complement and illustrative/creative tool integreated into a presentation, it can still be a powerfull aid to engaging with people. The thinking preacher might reflect on the nature of parables or object lessons taught mostly outside where the illustration was literally to hand, ppoint can allow us to bring the world of scripture's narratives to life, provided we, like Jesus, are sharp about the nature of style and substance. Yes, it takes time. But so does anything worth hearing. Of course, those of us who inhabit the world of Mac, iwork and the rest of God's-own operating system always knew that PC slaves would see the light one day....ho hum!

Revd John P Richardson said...

Personally I think PP sucks, and not just because it is produced by Microsoft. Marshall McLuhan's notion that "the medium is the message" said it all. PP is visual, preaching is verbal, and as Jacques Ellul pointed out in "The Humiliation of the Word", the visual always wins over the verbal. The desire for the visual encounter with the divine in this world always ends in idolatry or mysticism - clinging to the unascended Jesus. Moses reminded Israel that on Sinai they "heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice". I think he had a powerful point.

(PS I admit to being a bit provocative here but hey, nobody usually posts much ;-))

Daniel Roe said...

Q
Well I think it’s a godsend – I mean, imagine, say it’s Christmas frInstance, and you’re a hard-pressed busy Vicar – I mean whatever there is to say about Christmas has been said – I mean, let’s face it, it’s not easy to think up something new at Christmas
A
Busy doing what, I wonder – never mind, let’s pass on that – OK, you’ve got nothing to say and no time to prepare your sermon, but with a few clicks of a mouse you can download some trivia about first century Palestine under Roman occupation, say, and some mediƦval nativity scenes, and bingo – you can knock up a 10 minute presentation to go with you sermon, er, ‘talk’ – and I dare say a few pictures of modern Palestine will add a bit of, er, bottom – ‘application’ – if you will – I mean isn’t that how a lot of preachers prepare – and I mean all the year round – they’ll call it being ‘accessible’ – trying to engage with people who would be bored with conventional preaching.
Q
Exactly – you need modern technology to get the message across.
A
What message? This vicar’s got nothing to say – remember. I mean, if you have someone who does have a message, I’m sure PowerPoint is an excellent idea – if used in small doses. Think of it like a sprinkling of spices to enhance the dish.
Q
As opposed to smothering it in a dollop of ketchup
A
Or a dishful of ketchup instead of a meal – that’s when the technology is used as a substitute for the message – OK, let’s fastBackward to the invention of the electric telegraph – some dude remarks that New York can now speak to Florida. Wise old Grey Eagle pauses for a moment – and with exquisite timing asks, ‘But has New York anything to SAY to Florida?’ And to return to the idea of PowerPoint as an enhancement to the message, well I dare say you could as well deliver the message without PowerPoint – OK, put it this way all this technology is a good servant but a bad master – it’s a bad master when it starts to drive the message.
Q
Yeah – I notice that with the music – thousands of microphones and high tech boxes all over the place and it’s the guy at the back who decides what we see and hear
A
Ah yes, controlFreak in charge of the flight deck – don’t you just wish singers could sing instead of having to bawl into a lollipop – I mean, there was a time when singers were unplugged – they knew how to make themselves heard – I mean I love the new songs, but do you really need all this high tech stuff to make it work?
Q
My grouse is that you can’t read the words of the songs – I mean yellow-green on a bright yellow background
A
Hey, have you noticed they have moving images – you know, the wind blowing through trees?
Q
Or scenes from some film of the life of Jesus – as people come up to make their communion, the guys at the back show what I think must be the Last Supper
A
Only you can’t be sure, because the musicians are quietly doing songs and the words on the screen obscure the action
Q
So you can’t appreciate what’s going on in the film – which seems to be in an endless loop anyway
A
And you can’t make out the words – and you used to think that worshipLeaders were taking over control from vicars – now it’s the dudes at the flight deck who are taking over – eagerly showing off all the latest technology. I mean you needed a priest if you wanted to encounter God through bread and wine
Q
And then it was the worship that brought you into God’s presence – I mean the opening songs were more than just a warm-up session before the real (vicar-driven) stuff starts up, the worship at the start was intended to take you in to the presence of God
A
And the musicians are of course key to all this – hence the PCC is more than happy to shell out on worship technology – and the priest no longer has the monopoly on mediation – you now have the worshipLeader – wow – I think Thomas Hardy would have appreciated this. In his day the organist (employed by the parson apparently) was taking over from the bands of amateur musicians – and now the balance of power is moving back to the musicians – but lo what light thru yonder window breaks? Well it’s a mix of flashing lights – it’s the flight deck at the west end
Q
Where the west gallery musicians were in Hardy’s day
A
Exquisite! Poetic! And without the flight deck there wouldn’t be any worshipLeaders – aye – it’s the controlFreak on the flight deck that putteth down one and setteth up another – Psalm 75:7 – but I’m sure you knew that
Q
And you just wanted to make sure I knew YOU knew that
A
True, O king – that’s Daniel 3:24 – as I’m sure you know
Q
The last three words of Daniel 3:24 actually
A
Oh, right – but as regards future trends in worship theology, fun though it is, I’m getting out of my depth – and we’ve tended to digress
Q
Haven’t we just
A
OK – PowerPoint and other technology – a good servant but a bad master – and as we’ve seen, it does tend to take over – technology-driven as opposed to message-driven
Q
And as you’ve observed, it circumvents the real problems as opposed to address them
A
Exactly – the problem is that most preachers haven’t got anything to say
Q
So the problem is not highFaluten technology, but giving them something to say
A
Well how about this quote by Charles Wesley:
MY heart is full of Christ, and longs
Its glorious matter to declare!
Of him I make my loftier song,
I cannot from his praise forbear;
My ready tongue makes haste to sing
The glories of my heavenly King
Q
So if you had guys like that as vicars there wouldn’t be the problem
A
I mean look at Jeremiah 20:9 – Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay – or 1 Corinthians 9:16 – For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!
Q
Wow – what a contrast to the guy who has nothing to say – I mean if these guys wanted to give up, they wouldn’t be able to stop – ‘My heart is full of Christ’ – sort up bubbling up like the living water in John 7:38 – irrepressible – driving – compelling – for both speaker and hearer
A
You know how some guys, both those who do have something to say and those who don’t, always like to start off with a joke before moving on to something more serious – well how about this then? ‘Walking through Chinatown, a tourist is fascinated with all the Chinese restaurants, shops, signs and banners. He turns a corner and sees a building with the sign, “Hans Olaffsen’s Laundry.” “Hans Olaffsen?”, he muses. “That doesn’t fit in here.” So he walks into the shop and sees an old Chinese gentleman behind the counter. The tourist asks, “How did this place get a name like “Hans Olaffsen’s Laundry?” The old man answers, “Is my name.” “You? How did you ever get a name like Hans Olaffsen?” “Is simple,” says the old man. “Many, many year ago when come to this country, was stand in line at Documentation Center. Man in front was big blonde Swede. Lady look at him and go, ‘Wha you name?’ He say, ‘Hans Olaffsen.’ Then she look at me and go, ‘Wha yo name?’ ‘’’I say, Sem Ting.’”’ It was brill! I mean the accent it was delivered in. When everyone had done laughen’, they fastens there eye directly on the vicar – I mean he had excelled himself – now to the profound bit of the sermon – no, this WAS the sermon. Quietly, the vicar tells the people that he has nothing to say, and sits down. There’s a bit of an embarrassed silence, but one of the curates takes over and the Vicar’s wife leads him away – the official story is that he was ill
Q
I wonder what happened next
A
His wife started a successful flower stall outside the train station – and he eventually recovered enough to do some part time office work – I mean when his wife first met him he was a dashing young valiant-for-truth in the University Christian Union – Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive…
Q
But to be young was very heaven – and washed out at forty
A
The problem was twofold: (1) he could realised that he had nothing to say, brilliant technique notwithstanding – and he could say nothing brilliantly – he didn’t need notes, let alone PowerPoint – as you’ve seen, he could play his audience like the maestro plays a violin – but he realised it was futile and empty; (2) there was nobody who could provide the remedy
Q
What about his wife?
A
She was in the same boat – she was able to help him recover physically, but not regain his vocation.
Q
That is really something – I mean I’ve met hundreds of guys like him, and somehow they don’t realise they’ve no longer anything to say, and yet they do realise they’ve got nothing to say when they are trying to prepare a sermon and find something original to say about, say, Christmas.
A
Perhaps that’s why they like to keep busy