Presentations & Graphics

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Apache OpenOffice has a module Presentation (similar to Microsoft’s PowerPoint). I won’t say much about it except that you should keep presentations simple e.g. only using black print on white background (which also makes printing cheaper) and avoid frames and any other basically unnecessary elements. On the whole there is a danger that the audience concentrates too much on the projection and not on what you are actually saying, so it’s a technique I would be pretty wary of.

Documentation note.png For the same reason I would recommend refraining from the use of graphics with arrows pointing in various directions in order to visualise a complex reality. I’m not talking about straight forward statistical graphs but the kind used to describe institutions, social relations or even psychological phenomena. For three reasons:

i) a graphic suggests that reality can easily be reduced to some simple visual structure, which is rarely the case;
ii) you are compelling the beholder to do an enormous amount of retranslation in the opposite direction, that is from the abstract image towards the concrete reality;
iii) at least one dimension is usually missing, i.e. that of time – a double arrow for instance doesn’t tell you which interaction starts first and how long the interval between the two interactions is;
iv) it is often said that one image expresses more than a thousand words – but this isn’t necessarily the case; this rule might apply to a photograph or an architectural plot, but even a photograph needs interpreting.

The central problematic is that of contestation. If a person says something then you can say something else, you can contradict him or her, and this is where human language developed over a period of tens of thousands of years is simply unbeatable. Precisely by “expressing more than a thousand words” the image robs the onlooker of the right to answer back. Putting a picture in the middle of a text is the opposite of engaging the reader in dialogue.

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