Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

The Power of Power-Point (Good and Bad)

Originally posted on January 27, 2011

My friend Ed sent me an article almost a year ago about the power of image (specifically
Microsoft’s Power Point Presentations) to manipulate and possibly distort reality. It reminded him that back during the Vietnam War, there was a similar thing: The Generals in the field used to show maps painted colors suggesting who was controlling what areas. One of them referred to a term invented way back in 1947, "carto-hypnosis" (Boggs, S. W. 1947. Cartohypnosis. The Scientific Monthly, June, 469-476.) to describe the way a map (or Power Point chart) can induce an Altered State in which you actually believe what you are seeing. Boggs refers to one K. Frenzel who wrote this for the journal of the German Cartographic Society back in 1938:
     “Every map has a suggestive force! Man is an ocular creature.
      He reacts to that which he sees and can take in at a glance.”
               (Boggs 1947: 472)
It leads to politically motivated cartography.
       This deserves more exploration. (AB: I’ll try to allude to it in my talk on illusions!)
Ed went on: There was at least a dissertation out of University of Minnesota: "Lost in Visualization: Using Quantitative Content Analysis to Identify, Measure, and Categorize Political Cartographic Manipulations"      Ed: Anyway, here is the article:
THE MAP IS ALMOST NEVER THE TERRAIN!
We Have Met the Enemy and He Is PowerPoint By ELISABETH
BUMILLER from the New York Times, April 26, 2010, is worth reading.  This article also has comments on the website.

   It starts with a comment on a briefing for the General in Afghanistan about the factors27powerpoint_CA0-articleLarge operating in the military and political efforts in that country. He responded, “When we understand this picture we’ll have won the war.”

It’s an interesting opening to thinking about how a new medium such as powerpoint is used.


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