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Thread: Why Dissensus?

  1. #1
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    Default Why Dissensus?

    The word 'dissensus' came to me while I was sitting on the 28th floor of Centrepoint a few weeks ago.

    They took me to the top of the mountain

    The view was of course stunning, literally sublime: London in all its unmanageable vastness, seen from both above and from its very heart. It was high, so high, and with the long table in front of you and the metropolis below, you felt like you should be crushing the economies of third world countries.

    I was there for a meeting about Moodle, which is a 'Virtual Learning Environment', a fairly new - and, so it would turn out, very exciting - open source educational software application. I knew nothing about it and when were 'put into groups' by the Blairite Komissar in charge, I simply asked what were the merits of Moodle as opposed to using html. Cue black looks and frowns from the initiates. The Komissar, who has joined our group, tells me, in the nicest possible way of course, that I 'seemed to be sceptical and might like to think about my attitude.'

    Aha! So being sceptical is pathological now. Rude. I geddit.

    Course, quick as a flash, I replied. 'Yeh... and you 'might like to think about' being a Blairite managerialist.'

    'Blairite?' He replied, clearly stunned at having his politesse challenged. At being counter-pathologized.

    Later, a woman from Dublin College, also in our group, launches a not-before-time assault on Powerpoint ('death by bullet point'.... 'something used by people with no charisma...', as someone rightly said on Danny Baker's radio show this week). She pointed out that she had done a presentation a few weeks ago and people had been appalled and outraged that SHE DID NOT HAVE POWERPOINT. As she rightly argued, if you have an organized mind, there really is little need for Powerpoint.

    Cue Komissar, again. 'Powerpoint? Rubbish? It's just a tool isn't it?'

    I didn't say the following, but I wish I had: Well, not really Mr Progtech Microsoft, that's a rather naive view of technology donchathink ... Technology, especially MS techology, has a tendency to induce behaviours, it does not 'enable' some pre-existent human 'creativity' ... (Sure, there can be innovative uses of Powerpoint, but we all know what the Standard use of Powerpoint involves... total redundancy... banal bullet points apologetically talked through.. sentences tailing off... 'well, as you can see...'.... all in the name of 'Professionalism'....)

    Blairite power IS microsoft... in every sense... diffuse... emolliating... blandly inescapable....

    And you only see its real face when you challenge it, step outside the smothering consensus of politeness.

    The English master class are the only people for whom hypocrisy is not only acceptable, but obligatory.

    'Yes, yes, you have a grievance, yes, of course things are totally unjust. But there are ways of going about things, old chap. Procedures. Aggression, confrontation, they never get anything done, do they? (And after all, they are a little vulgar, don't you think?) Now, that's not what I'm saying, I think your intensity is admirable, but other people, well. They're not quite so intelligent. They won't understand. So I would advise moderating it a bit. For your own sake. Carry on like this and things might get uh difficult for you....'

    Stupidity and cowardice are always the stupidity and cowardice of the other.

    Power is always the power of the big other, that which speaks through you and of whom you speak.
    Last edited by k-punk; 25-10-2004 at 11:11 PM.

  2. #2
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    Default moodle

    Hi Mark, would be interested in more of your thoughts on moodle: we've been using it at work since the summer, and the university (large, slightly non-typical Russel Group) has now decided it to adopt it en masse. (because it's free, of course, nothing to do with the pedagogical model behind it).

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    Did you hear that programme on Powerpoint and the decline of civilisation on Radio 4 the other day, Mark? I think it's still up on the Beeb website.

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    Technology, especially MS techology, has a tendency to induce behaviours, it does not 'enable' some pre-existent human 'creativity'...
    Have you explored Edward Tufte on this topic? Here's some blurb for The Cognitive Style Of PowerPoint:

    the popular PowerPoint templates (ready-made designs) usually weaken verbal and spatial reasoning, and almost always corrupt statistical analysis. What is the problem with PowerPoint? And how can we improve our presentations?
    Commercial interests and tyrants: both attempt the censorship of music, the former by harnessing its potency for financial gain, the latter for the consolidation of their own power.
    Yehudi Menuhin, from Index on censorship 27 6 188-9

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    Alan, no --- haven't come across any systematic critique of powerpoint --- just anecdotal grumbling --- this sounds like something Ccru would have made up as a hyperstitional avatar --- i.e. brilliant...

    Alex --- sounds like YOU shd be telling me about Moodle --- I was incredibly excited about it and the whole can-do kyber-punk vibe surrounding it ---- and there was a guy there from OSS Watch, the Open Source group from Oxford, who was INCREDIBLY positive --- like one of the no-nonsense hyper-knowledgable hacker types from Stephenson's Cryptonomicon, or like Sphaleotas, but American ----

    I only get 40 hrs a year remission to do the Moodle, so I have decided to start work on that in the 'soft time' at the end of the college year after the exams --- but in the meantime keen for any tips or ideas anyone's had...

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    'Powerpoint? Rubbish? It's just a tool isn't it?'

    You might want to keep it simple for this guy, Mark - when the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem is a nail.

    For marketing purposes, all applications are defined by their capabilities, which is why features proliferate to the point of negative utility, but from the user's viewpoint, it's always about what they don't allow you to do.

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    In the medical research institute where I work, Powerpoint is widely used by staff, students and IT for research seminars, poster presentations, and even for simple image manipulation (due to its flexibilty with file formats and ease of use). It is widely recognised that the quality of seminars - both in their content and accessibility - has vastly improved over recent years, thanks to the wider use of this tool. In terms of content, powerpoint enables an efficient, natural and flexible organisation of information. Of course, like any software, the blind application of templates will lead to confused results - a reflection of the confused thinking of the author rather than a fault of the software. Some level headed responses to Tufte's hysterical assessment of the software can be found here: http://www.sociablemedia.com/articles_dispute.htm .

    Alternatives to Powerpoint are relatively few (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Categor...ation_software) , and while many of these are little more than clones, apparently some of the commercial products are in some ways superior. A long time Linux user, I use no other microsoft product, but am yet to find anything in the Opensource world as efficient given my needs. The point being, it is the mundane fact that software design is difficult that is the primary reason for both the ubiquity and weaknesses of PowerPoint. One should not blame it (nor its owners) for its misuse by confused people, without carefully considering the software design issues involved, no more than a politician, or political tendency, should be blamed for a bored workshop leader - something that's hardly a new phenomenon.

    'Blairite power IS microsoft... in every sense... diffuse... emolliating... blandly inescapable....' I have trouble finding ANY sense here.

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    while I agree with K Punk's powerpoint points generally (for conformist twits who've never really left school/home), hasn't David Byrne been doing something quite interesting with it recently?

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    I agree Powerpoint CAN be used effectively; the fact remains that - at least in my experience and that of many others I have spoken to - it simply is NOT. Why can't people listen, or read key points off a blackboard? As Jennifer said at the Moodle meeting, if the speaker has an organized mind, what does Powerpoint add? The amount of meetings which I have attended in which there is multiple redundancy beggar belief-- the speaker ---- the same points onscreen in bullet points --- a photocopy of the slide show --- and then a disc to take home with the Powerpoint presentation too! Great....

    As a GENERAL RULE, Powerpoint encourages stupidity on the part of both the audience and the lecturer --- it is literally STUPEFYING --- encouraging the belief that public presentations must be tramlined through rigid and inflexible bullet pointed inanities and the idea that people cannot digest anything unless it is cut up into iccy liccle morsels of data which they are then spoonfed ----

    Course, as with anything else, imaginative people can use it imaginatively --- problem though, as Jennifer complained, is that MicroStupefying presentations are becoming standard, insisted upon --- 'What, you're making me sit up and listen, and THINK? What's going on?'

    There's a sinister agenda with this in education to do with 'student-centredness'. Education should precisely not be 'student-centred', it should be learning-centred. The Blairite model wants educators to pander to students' laziness and intransigence by taking things down to where they are (please note, I'm not saying ALL students are lazy etc: most of my students are brilliant, dedicated, hungry for discourse) - that's why Meeja studies is so popular. Course, you have to start where the students are, but to end up there too and call it education is unforgivable. Any teacher who is less interesting or engaging than a Progtech Flash presentation with a dancing paperclip saying 'it looks like you want to type a comma, can I help you with that?' should give up now.

    'Blairite power IS microsoft... in every sense... diffuse... emolliating... blandly inescapable....' I have trouble finding ANY sense here.

    Ok, i'll start a thread on dat asap...

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    It is very strange that power(point) seems to want us to sit in rooms becoming more and more tired and bored - I thought power wanted us to WORK UNTIL WE DIE - perhaps all of our jobs nowadays are a bit like a hospice, just a place you sit around in until you expire with boredom. And this phenomenon is not restricted to just the workplace - what could be more tedious than a University these days? A space in which all ideas must have the energy squashed out of them..

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    Powerpoint, for better or worse, is the new standard in my work (art history + theory), a sea change from the magic-lantern slide projection. The new medium has its merits: it's hard to have a discussion with a whirring, hissing, clacking machine in the center of the table. I wonder how I learned anything at all during the slide days, when hearing the smart one across the class was only managed by lip-reading

    But of course for me powerpoint's not bullet points just pictures. Another positive for those of us in the art field is that it frees us from the constant dual-slide projection, AKA the "slide comparison," whose dialectic logic makes for a field governed by endless, ridiculous binaries. On the other hand: slides have a cinematic mystery that digital media don't. They're essentially phantasmagoric, flashing lights in the darkness. Digital media projectors have a dull, atomized look in comparison.

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    I agree that Powerpoint is an effective slide projector... that's the only way I'd use it.. it's when the WHOLE of the presentation is nothing but PP that things go to shit...

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    I find the whole powerpoint thing bizarre in the opposite way, too. The number of meetings I attend which consist of people essentially reading out a set of PP slides. I'd rather just read the bloody things myself.

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    Quote Originally Posted by k-punk
    I agree that Powerpoint is an effective slide projector... that's the only way I'd use it.. it's when the WHOLE of the presentation is nothing but PP that things go to shit...

    you can imbed moving pictures in it too, one of the first jobs i had when i moved up to london was editing footage to go into powerpoint shows that i also had to make which would then be shown to corporate clients like british airways. this was a luzury service to try and make dull men seem hi tech

    grim, after not using software for about a month you strangely forget how to use it..


    I'd like to see artists exploit some of these programmes, or at least build more versatile models of them, ones that maybe loose control... i'd like to see powerpoint bubble up like bacteria ..

    I don't know many artists that have exploited the pixilated buffering of things like windows media player, that would be interesting, dropping subliminal images in etc
    although some people are already on top of things like the nightvision factors of digital video, I saw a show fairly recently.

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    Quote Originally Posted by OldRottenhat
    For marketing purposes, all applications are defined by their capabilities, which is why features proliferate to the point of negative utility
    No, that's when marketing fails. You're talking about product management without real marketing input.
    Quote Originally Posted by OldRottenhat
    but from the user's viewpoint, it's always about what they don't allow you to do.
    Yeah, Eno's point.

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