The success of DYK? has confounded me for a long time. Its message is aggressive, fascinating, and a little scary so I shouldn’t have been surprised that it went viral, racking up hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube. But I was.
Its form — the visual experience, that is — is flat. Unless I’m mistaken, it’s simply a video export of a PowerPoint presentation. The audio track — something from Last of the Mohicans — is ponderous and magisterial, neither of which adjectives befits a presentation on technology’s rapid acceleration.
That the video has been trafficked and forwarded so widely testifies to its powerful content. But every plodding slide of the presentation begs the questions: how does this work any better in a YouTube video than as an e-mail forward? What distinguishes DYK? from a brochure with the same content?
Naturally, several hundred thousand brochures would have been infinitely more expensive than a free YouTube upload, but DYK? squanders the medium’s other advantages over print.
I’m kind of a freak for all this graphic design and video stuff so forgive me: we must always earn the medium.
I’m excited to see professional graphic designers like XPLANE massage a message I approve, created by people I respect, but this post is only a little bit about Did You Know?
Our mandate to earn the medium applies principally to the growing ranks of teachers with digital projectors in their classrooms, each firing up PowerPoint to strikingly unstriking results: hoary templates, tiny text, pictures brusquely tacked to the edge of a slide, Comic Sans.
What we’re talking about:
This slide begs the question: what does any of this have over a printed handout with the same content? That dorky blue pill?
Bottom line: it is your professional obligation to pursue the best examples of every slice of your field. If, at the point you discover truly great technique, you shrug and say, “There isn’t enough time in the day to be great at everything.” then I’ll shake your hand and agree wholeheartedly. You aren’t paid enough.
But at least then drab slides like that one above, or overbearing class management like you find in some classes, or poor time management like you find in some classes, won’t slip past your quality control simply because you weren’t aware of the alternatives. Obliviousness is a lousy excuse for anything.
My chosen alternatives, for the record:
Guess which set of slides — the top one or the bottom two — elicited a thoroughly grossed-out “ewww!” from my classes.
Neither a b&w handout nor a blurry color overhead transparency would’ve carried with it quite the same terror as does this one-two punch. And you can’t even see how nicely the first photo zooms into the second. This is how I earn my medium.
This process doesn’t even have to be difficult. As long as I make the act of recognizing and assimilating greatness as natural and instinctive as possible, the mandate isn’t a chore. In fact, my worst, most tired, unhappy moments this year were when I knowingly shortcut this process, helping myself to an extra fifteen minutes of sleep at the expense of what I knew to be great teaching.
See, from my vantage point this year, that prickly fella up there with the huge stinger, he’s my joy. My pursuit of greater technique in this job has consistently kept me at a 60-hour week, but if my body could handle it, I’d go for 80. The mandate isn’t a chore. Most days it’s my best reason for staying.
- … and the other thing [Re my trivial pursuits.]
- Google Master Plan and What Barry Says. [Examples of the manifesto-style filmmaking Did You Know? oughtta be.]
- Presentation Zen. [If you’re looking to pursue the best in PowerPoint presentations, this is your RSS feed.]
- dy/teaching. [Re the other slices of our field.]