An evening with David Byrne.

This evening Christine and I traveled across the UCI campus to watch a PowerPoint presentation. :) This is the first time I’ve ever waited in line to see slides on an overhead projector.

David Byrne uses PowerPoint as a meta medium. A catch all for music, pictures, and text. He points out that a lot of applications don’t allow this sort of flexibility. “Try opening an mp3 with Photoshop,” he exlaimed. But he’s quick to point out it’s shortcomings. “You can make one thing fly across the screen, but when you ask it to do 5 images it doesn’t know what to do. It throws up it’s arms – I can’t do THAT, but how about THIS!” He’s excited when he gets an unexpected result. When you get something that you didn’t anticipate.

He went on to talk about how powerful a medium it is in the business world and how it can give a false weight to even meaningless presentation topics. How it’s wizard can suggest content, even if you don’t have any! The social implications of taking long complex topics and condensing them down into 7 bullet points.

I asked David if he was drawn to this sort of niche medium and if he was worried that future “enhancements” to the product may limit his creativity. He used the analogy of the pencil – “You don’t see people picking up the pencil and saying ‘I need to make this better! This needs to be in color!” He explained there are limitiations in PowerPoint that don’t need to be overcome. It’s what makes the program simple and easy to use. If it’s changed radically – it stops being what it is – a simple media basket for images, text and music. An interesting way to express ideas visually.

He presented us with several slides that he had found on the web. Marriage counseling; a jar of pants; suggestions for dealing with the homeless. All funny examples of slides that were intended to be serious, but it’s meaning somehow got lost in the translation.

I too ♥ PowerPoint. Read more about this on BoingBoing.

About The Author


Hardware hacker, technology integrator, and maker. He enjoys staring blankly at code, voiding the warranty, and touching things in the back. When not doing that he is building and racing a rally car.

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03 2005

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