Our commentator summarises what must be the classic j'accuse:
PowerPoint is digital Valium for user and viewer alike, calming the fears of nervous presenters while assuring the audience that instead of awkward human interaction, a comfortable somnolence awaits.
He reckons people are moving away from the drug-like technology as it's become 'high art' and therefore not so functional. It has also become something of a graphical arms race with presentations getting more and more technologically sophisticated and expensive. As a consequence some managers, in an outburst of rationality, are opting out, some even dispensing with slides altogether.
However, I can't believe this battle will be won quickly. The perniciousness of PowerPoint runs deep.
Let's put the PowerPoint experience into context. You have an opportunity for speaker and audience to enjoy some face-to-face interaction, something that today is highly prized (pop concerts have never been more popular or profitable). What's more, everyone has invested time, effort and money to be together, in the same room. So you'd expect the human - the bodily, tangible bits of being human, really - to be the main event.
But instead of gestures, looks, expressions and nuances being in the foreground - all the stuff you can't get down the line - Powerpoint hides these elements or distracts from them. You're left with the husk: the sort of passive, mediated consumption of information that you can get by looking at any sort of decent size screen, anywhere.
A scandalous squandering. And therefore something that must be happening for very compelling reasons. Firstly, as is commonly noted, this effect suits a lot of speakers as it shields them from their audience. And who can blame them? Public speaking is a nightmare for many (I certainly used to think so).
The second reason is more subtle and, I believe, more powerful. I think that offering up a wizzy bit of animated Powerpoint has entirely transcended its intended purpose of enhancing communication. It's now more what anthropologists would describe as a 'gift giving' ritual, a potentially powerful mode of social exchange. Gifts are used to as a form of flattery, to indicate respect, to suggest wealth, to create a liability owed to the giver, to ingratiate.
In this way, the medium truly has become the message: the overly-colourful, complicated, difficult-to-follow, dazzling graphics are actually the point. What is being offered is the peacock's tail of presentations. They're big, colourful and get your attention, and they unmistakeably demonstrate that you value your audience, that you had the desire and resources to make the effort to get them something really impressive. You might not have made a particularly useful effort. But, whatever: it sure looks good and must have taken some fairly expert people ages to put together (and that's an easier and more self-satisfying an appraisal to make than having to do the work of judging the content).
This seems a great example of how technology sets out to do one thing - make communication more effective - but is actually used to achieve some near-oppositional goals: reducing the visibility and accountability of the speaker and offering a purely emblematic token of their esteem for you. However, these goals are very alluring ones. They play to fear, on the one hand, and the desire to ingratiate, on the other: two powerful impulses in the corporate world (along with greed, probably the most powerful). I therefore can't see the PowerPoint ritual disappearing anytime soon.