More evidence that the cognitive style of Powerpoint is a thing of the past – evidence from museums and art galleries

I have a new breakfast habit each morning.

Since I purchased my 64GB/3G iPad last week, I now take it with me to breakfast where I read the day’s newspapers on real paper (supplied by the cafe) while the iPad sits at the side of the table, open to email or twitter so I can get my day off and running.

This morning’s Age newspaper’s Arts and Style section contained an interesting article on art galleries and museums, and their curation. In the last few years, the Macintosh User group of which I’m currently President has continued a relationship with the featured museum, Museum Melbourne following an exhibition we participated and helped curate about the history of Apple computers. You can see some of it here.

Today’s Age article, called The Evolving Art of Assembly, featured interviews with Juliana Engberg who is the Artistic Director of the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, and Melbourne Museum’s senior curator, Kate Phillips. You can read the full article from the Age here.

The essence of the article reveals how these two curators in their own styles are radicalising museum exhibiting in order to keep museums relevant in an age of social media and so-called information overload.

Here’s how the article describes Engberg’s work:

For Engberg, (the) process of assembling – ideas, people, work, concepts – has changed radically in the past couple of decades. The days when gallery-goers were content to wander, pausing by a canvas here, an information panel there, catalogue in hand, are long gone. The internet, blogs, social networking tools and myriad forms of multimedia mean we now engage and interact with art in constantly changing ways.

Kate Phillips’ work was described this way by the article’s author, Liza Power:

Curiously, for a place most people associate with ”do not touch” signs, Phillips says the biggest revolution in museum curation in recent years has come from making displays immersive and touchable.

”Kids are exposed to so much media from their earliest years now,” she says. ”They use computers, the internet, they’re accustomed to very sophisticated visual communication.” To engage them, museums have had to up the ante.

Does this sound familiar to Presentation Magic readers and workshop attendees? Of course! It’s the recognition that the display of information, whether it be on screen, on paper, or in a gallery or museum, must attend to the peculiar needs of the humans who will attend. And that whichever means you decide to choose to convey ideas needs to address that peculiar human trait of “engagement” if you’re to be successful in achieving your purpose.

In terms of presentation skills, it’s more evidence from unusual sources that the traditional way of presenting information – what has come to be called the Cognitive Style of Powerpoint – no longer cuts it with most generations, but in particular with younger generations whose media world of information is so interactive and visually rich.

How you keep your audience involved and engaged is the secret to great presenting, not just presenting a message of importance.

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3 responses to “More evidence that the cognitive style of Powerpoint is a thing of the past – evidence from museums and art galleries

  1. I attended a presentation today by a paint manufacturer for designers today. The Power Point presentation with bullets and beautiful photographs left the audience disappointed. Several amongst the group requested to participate in and handle the new materials being described by bullets and photos. Each of us wanted to touch and experience the materials described. The presenter admitted that he had tactile participation with the group the day before with better audience satisfaction. Just another example of the point you are making. Passive learning is less tolerated than before.

    • Very applicable example and comment Shellie. Once you start to see these things it’s hard to ignore poor examples of information sharing. Ta for the comment, Les

  2. Scott Siegling

    Great post as usual, Les!

    Money quote: “It’s the recognition that the display of information, whether it be on screen, on paper, or in a gallery or museum, must attend to the peculiar needs of the humans who will attend. And that whichever means you decide to choose to convey ideas needs to address that peculiar human trait of “engagement” if you’re to be successful in achieving your purpose.”

    It strikes me that included in broad category of “the display of information” can be included things like alternative traditions in 20th-century art, for example, Smithson moving outside the museum in the 1960′s, or any variety of performance art/ Happenings — Kaprow, Fluxus, etc. So in my opinion the ideas presented are quite expansive.

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