A tribute to and a lament for Marshall McLuhan.  Five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday, I present one of McLuhan’s observations and talk about its relevance today.  300 ideas. 300 days.  300 posts.

The coolness of TV and PowerPoint too

Marshall McLuhan (1965, age 54). TV is cool!

As I have pointed out in Understanding Media, TV is a cool medium.  It is low definition.  It provides information sparsely, not richly, which means it is extremely involving.  All the senses are put to work.  Naturally it induces high participation in an audience.

Me (June 2010, age 57).  So is PowerPoint!

Like TV, PowerPoint is a cool medium.  Although little recognized as such, PowerPoint’s coolness is one of the reasons – McLuhan would have said the chief reason – it has come to dominate the world of presentation and at the same time attract widespread criticism as a tool for oversimplifying communication.

Last year I saw a PowerPoint presentation given by the chief economist of a bank in which it was easy to see how cool the medium was.  The presentation took place in a large ballroom in a hotel in Montreal.   Two large screens glowed on either side of her.  While she was obviously a good speaker and the audience seemed to be very involved in the talk hardly anyone looked at her.  Instead all eyes were riveted on the screens.  After the presentation was over I asked someone at a neighbouring table what they thought of the talk.  Their answer: “Too simple.”

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading for this post

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1965, p. 319.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, June 12th, 2010
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication, Technology, Vol. 1 No Comments

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