Jennifer Egan’s episodic novel A Visit from the Goon Squad traverses the decades from the ’80s to the not-too-distant future. A vehicle she uses on that journey is, in fact, PowerPoint.

Two-page PowerPoint spread in book

Ed Champion thinks it’s the stupidest fucking thing he’s ever seen and pointed me to some allegedly superior uses I didn’t bother to look up. Egan’s pacing and degree of exposition are exactly right and were obviously dictated by the medium itself, as the authoress effectively admits in a video hosted by a Microsoft bimbo (hitherto an unimaginable category).

Nonetheless, I have some objections to the presentation.

  • Egan offers us a movie of her PowerPoint deck instead of just giving us the PowerPoint file. This strikes me as quite a bit worse than a PDF of a text-only MS Word document or a screenshot of a multilayer AutoCAD file. We need the native file with its native interface. (We especially need that file to stick it to open-source fanatics.)

  • Even if you take high-resolution printing into account, the typography is too good. It’s only as good as typography can get in that medium, but too good it still is. I strongly suspect a designer has wrestled with these slides post-facto. (I also suspect it was created in PowerPoint for Mac, not Windows.) As with a “screenshot” of a Web site used in a print ad or on TV, the type is overprecise and unpixelated.

    Stated another way, Egan’s slides aren’t ugly enough to be real.

But in storytelling terms, it works shockingly well.

I wonder what’s next, then: A screencast that really works as a motion picture? We have one of those already, and it’s called La jetée.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2011.01.11 13:31. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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