In August, the Columbia Accident Investigation Board at NASA released Volume 1 of its report on why the space shuttle crashed. As expected, the ship’s foam insulation was the main cause of the disaster. But the board also fingered another unusual culprit: PowerPoint, Microsoft’s well-known ”slideware” program.
NASA, the board argued, had become too reliant on presenting complex information via PowerPoint, instead of by means of traditional ink-and-paper technical reports. When NASA engineers assessed possible wing damage during the mission, they presented the findings in a confusing PowerPoint slide — so crammed with nested bullet points and irregular short forms that it was nearly impossible to untangle. ”It is easy to understand how a senior manager might read this PowerPoint slide and not realize that it addresses a life-threatening situation,” the board sternly noted.
PowerPoint is the world’s most popular tool for presenting information. There are 400 million copies in circulation, and almost no corporate decision takes place without it. But what if PowerPoint is actually making us stupider?
NewMexiKen has seen enough PowerPoint presentations — and, alas, given enough — to believe the way the software is used often hinders rather than enhances communication. See the Gettysburg Address PowerPoint style for an illustration.