Wednesday, February 02, 2005

More on Edward Tufte and Problems of PowerPoint

A few people have commented to me in person about my refernce to Edward Tufte's book The Cognitive Style of Power Point, which convinced me to never use it again in teaching (not that I was using it anyway, but now I feel strangely validated). His website,, has lots of great materials (including tips for students on resume design), but I thought I'd offer some of the posts that turned into sections of his above-mentioned book. I really recommend the book(let) (it's only $7), and I'm happy to circulate the copy I ordered to other people at our school. "Read the full post" has some interesting links.

Click here for a good thread discussion about Power Point parodies. Click here for the famous Gettysburg Address parody, and here for the creator's commentary. An interesting thread on the 2003 New York Times article "Power Point Makes You Dumb" is here.

Click here for a discussion of the mythic numerology of presentations often incorporated into PowerPoint presentations. One example is the purported "6x6x6" rule:
Use no more than six words per bullet, six bullets per image, and six word
slides in a row. Any more words per bullet, and you don't have a bullet. More
than six bullets per slide are difficult to read. By the end of six text-filled
slides you have been talking for about 10 minutes without a visual."

Tufte's response:

"The 6-line-only rule seems to come up in witless PP presentations on how to make witless PP presentations. Here is the full 666 rule in action, the Haiku Rule for presentations:"(his book notes that we insult our audiences with presentations following a conginitive style normally used for 6-year-old beginning readers)

Here is a great link for a chapter in his forthcoming book, Beautiful Evidence, entitled "Links and Causal Arrows: Ambiguity in Action". Law students should find it to be a good exercise in analytical skills.