I am not alone in decrying the dumbing down of language through tweets and twitters. There is something disconcerting about imagining an entire generation ensconced in robot-speak, – “R U OK, LOL” – and then getting lazy in life and sinking permanently into abbreviated, mechanical discourse.
The HAL of “2001 A Space Odyssey,” Stanley Kubrick’s brilliant film about the future, spoke in dulcet tones, poetically cajoling his fellow travelers. No mechanical computer lingo for him. He stretched his sentences into eloquent pleas, outsmarted his shipmates, and managed to create more than a semblance of humanity. Can you imagine how this epic, symbolic struggle between man and machine might have thudded into obscurity if Hal had only spoken in tweet dialog? Gone would be the mythic narrative that tripped open all manner of thought about human evolution and artificial intelligence.
In other words, technology did not need to be portrayed or emulated by machine-speak at the expense of language. But thanks to Microsoft, that is exactly what has happened in our classrooms and service clubs today.
It’s only been this past year that I have regularly encountered something called PowerPoint Presentation. Now I see it everywhere. At garden club. Even at church. If someone is going to give a speech, it apparently is expected. A mark of professional superiority. Marketed in software from Microsoft. And I now find myself quietly groaning every time I see the screen and the laptop and the cords coming out.
There is a reason that the process has been dubbed “Death by PowerPoint” and “PowerPoint Hell.” However much I might be longing to see photos of all the newest hydrangeas, a presentation using endless slides usually leaves me irritable and bored at best. I want the Story not the list of varieties. The language and nuance of the growing experience.
If you’ve been an international judge for the United Nations in Kosovo, please don’t show me pictures of your passport and various street signs. Tell me about the drama and the conflict and the resolutions. Please don’t reduce complex issues into bullet points.
Can you imagine if Lincoln had begun the Gettysburg Address by pointing at a screen showing a calendar with a date circled, instead of beginning – “Four score and seven years ago…”?
There’s a good reason why PowerPoint has been called a “prop for poor speakers.” HAR HAR BET U TWT & TTR, LOL.
Please. Tell me a story…