I took a class yesterday – more of a 1000 person lecture – with Edward Tufte, the author of four excellent books on ‘analytic design.’
It was a great class on design, and as someone who prepares large presentations about once a month, his excoriation of Powerpoint had me waving my hands in the air.
But there are two deep philosophies, maybe three, that I saw in his work yesterday that have me in that post-‘Zen slap to the head’ kind of mode, where I see things but can’t yet articulate them. And it has to do with a connection I’m seeing between his work and two issues that are very important to me – agile development and management, 4th generation warfare, and the political theory of praxis (in Aristotle’s sense).
I’m going to try to noodle through this in a few posts today and tomorrow.But I’ll leave you with three things of his – first, a quote.
Making a presentation is a moral act as well as a physical activity. The use of corrupt manipulations and blatant rhetorical ploys in a report or presentation – outright lying, flagwaving, personal attacks, setting up phony alternatives, misdirection, jargon-mongering, evading key issues, feigning disinterested objectivity, wilful misunderstanding of other points of view – suggests that the presenter lacks both credibility and evidence. To maintain standards of quality, relevance, and integrity for evidence, consumers of presentations should insist that presenters be held intellectually and ethically responsible for what they show and tell. Thus consuming a presentation is also a moral activity.
Next a key part of his excoriation of Powerpoint – an explanation of why ‘Powerpoint thinking’ doomed the shuttle Columbia.
And finally, an image: