Monday night, I attended an excellent UC Berkeley lecture by David Byrne about his passion for the PowerPoint presentation software. (Previous posts on Byrne's Powerpoint here and here, including an interview by Xeni! More background at Wired and NPR.) Surprise guests included PowerPoint creators Dennis Austin and Bob Gaskins, both of whom seemed to get a kick out of the presentation. Watching Byrne's twitchy motions from the front-row kinda made me jumpy though. The event was part of BB pal Ken Goldberg's Art, Technology, and Culture Colloquium lecture series. My friend Bonnie Powell has a great play-by-play of the evening at the UC Berkeley NewsCenter with photos by the always-amazing Bart Nagel.
"There's a lot of criticism of PowerPoint" — for encouraging users to do things in a particular way and discouraging them from other things, such as putting more than seven bullet points on a slide, he acknowledged. "But if you can't edit it down to seven, maybe you should think about talking about something else." PowerPoint restricts users no more than any other communication platform, he asserted, including a pencil: "When you pick up a pencil you know what you're getting — you don't think, 'I wish this could write in a million colors.'"...Link
Ultimately, Byrne said, he just enjoyed playing with the program, and continues to do so. "I made a presentation recently that was just colored slides fading in and out, like a rainbow. I put this gospel music to it — it was this wonderful, uplifting celebration," he said. "Who knew? Sometimes you only find out what's in there when you take everything out."