Comments on: A physicist on the “Lessig style” Blog, news, books Tue, 10 Oct 2017 06:01:00 +0000 hourly 1 By: Marko Wed, 15 Apr 2015 12:37:00 +0000 This resource begins with a general description of essay writing and moves to a
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By: andrew Mon, 30 Jun 2008 08:10:46 +0000 Funny you should mention Tufte and blank slides. He does it all the time!

By: Vasco Castro Sun, 08 Jun 2008 21:50:55 +0000 Went for a Lessig style presentation for my phd defense. I’d say that beforehand it felt a bit scary to not have the traditional slides with different points to guide you, but it’s actually rather easy to deal with it when you have all your ideas organized in your head. The feedback was very positive!

By: Kathy Wed, 28 May 2008 12:08:43 +0000 Watch TED Talks clips. :)

More suggestions:

Presentation Zen

Deliver a Presentation Like Steve Jobs

The Art of the Pitch (mp3)

By: Chris Thu, 01 May 2008 19:37:52 +0000 Well… it wasn’t quite properly parsable XML, but in his first ChangeCongress talk (I believe…) he starts and ends points in this manner:

“And that ends my first point…,” then ” appears on the screen, “so now onto the second point,” then ” appears on the screen.


By: Matt Thu, 01 May 2008 01:39:55 +0000 Can you give an example of the use of XML tags in a presentation?

By: Chris Wed, 30 Apr 2008 22:15:09 +0000 Scott: Sorry, then I’m really confused as to what your point was. There was a failure in communication on one of our ends.

Sam: I think you’re right. Nice catch.

By: Sam Wed, 30 Apr 2008 17:59:33 +0000 Long-time listener, first time caller.

A recent college grad, I’ve only been teaching (at a secondary level) for a year now, but I’ve found Lessig-style presentations an extremely useful tactic with my audience as well. Whenever a lesson requires me to deliver a lot of new information to my students (being lucky enough to work at a school which has projectors in most classrooms), I try to support that information with a Lessig-style presentation. While people have already mentioned its usefulness with regards to “short attention spans,” I think there /is/ a significant aspect of Lessig’s presentations that Chris missed out on: visual humor. In numerous talks of Lessig’s, he’s managed to get a laugh from his audience based on the graphic he’s chosen, while the content of the talk can remain to the point (and on its own maybe even dry). (For an example, consider the story he tells about the Sugar lobby pressuring the W.H.O.) Experimenting with a similar technique, I’ve found that including a visual pun or other joke periodically draws audience members who might have been drifting away from the talk back in. Without following the talk carefully, such images don’t always make sense. For people that haven’t been listening carefully, an unexpected, seemingly unrelated graphic is enough to rekindle their interest–everyone wants to be in on the joke.

By: Chris Bullok Tue, 29 Apr 2008 23:58:47 +0000 A good solution for both which I’ve used is that you put the meat of your presentation in the notes of your PowerPoint or Keynote presentation … so you have both great visual impact during your live talk and great data density when you distributed the deck later.

By: Scott Ellington Tue, 29 Apr 2008 23:09:54 +0000
Another resource.

my suggestion was less than half-facetious.

By: Chris Tue, 29 Apr 2008 23:02:28 +0000 The last post was me, not Scoot. Oops.

By: Scott: Tue, 29 Apr 2008 22:29:00 +0000 Scott:

It may be worth saying that I am being playfully cynical when describing the audience. However, I do think it’s an accurate assessment, and I know that when I’m in the audience I’m as bad — or worse — than them. I say this just because I’m not positive that you picked up how facetious I was being, and I’m having trouble figuring out the tone of your reply.

But I think you make a good point. Part of what I am describing is “showmanship”. I am going up there to teach about my work, so there are many ways that I can make it easier for them to learn about my work. For instance, I could do as you say and make a show to make sure that I capture their attention. However, I could also — this was the central point to my e-mail above — figure out how to make the information clear. There are many ways to help people learn information.

Half of my work is communicating the other half of my work.

To All:

Ooops. So Tufte isn’t dead. My mistake. That was certainly a joke which completely failed and demonstrated some level of Tufte-ignorance on my part. Sorry.

By: Scott Ellington Tue, 29 Apr 2008 20:59:38 +0000 Chris,
There’s no business like SNO business.
My opening statement obviously trivializes the vitally important and crucial significance of your work, demonstrating tremendous, unreasoned contempt for (among other things) a Wikipedia entry that begins:
The first measurement of the number of solar neutrinos reaching the earth were taken in the 1960s, and all experiments prior to SNO observed a third to a half fewer neutrinos than were predicted by the Standard Solar Model. Yadada, yadada, yawn.

If I correctly understand your description of the audience before which your talks are typically presented, trivializing, unreasoned hostility and distracted, cynical contempt generally characterize the room…anyway.

I think you’re seeking a tutorial in showmanship in order to present information that entertains the attention of your peers without violating the parameters of decorum set by a governing body that (inexplicably) likes its physicists routinely bored to tears.

There are thousands of unemployed, union screenwriters and actors with whom you might collaborate in punching up your presentation. Short of that, take another look at Wag the Dog with an eye to Dustin Hoffman’s character, whose contribution to the presentation of unpalatable informational material is to orchestrate a riveting, spectacular, extravagant pageant. It’s the (frequently immoral) role of a producer.

By: David Darts Tue, 29 Apr 2008 10:10:02 +0000 Over the past year, I’ve actually adapted and adopted the “Lessig style” for both my teaching and conference presentations. The feedback from students and conference attendees alike has been overwhelmingly positive.

More recently, I’ve started watching and deconstructing Lessig’s TED talk with my Art & Media Ed students (most of whom are becoming teachers) in order to better understand the power of Lessig’s approach. We also review the critiques of PowerPoint put forth by Edward Tufte, Sherry Turkle, and David Byrne.

As a point of reference, we view Peter Norvig’s PowerPoint reworking of the Gettysburg Address. If you haven’t seen it, Norvig’s presentation translates Abe Lincoln’s moving 1863 cemetery speech into a series of six generic slides featuring bullet points, bland colors and a nearly incomprehensible ‘Organizational Overview’ graph. It clearly illustrates some of the profound limitations of PowerPoint as a communications tool.

In contrast, Lessig uses visuals (and selected text) in a way that truly compliments and extends the conceptual/pedagogical aspects of his presentations. As Chris Tunnell has pointed out, the multiple slides, repeating images, and minimal text allows the audience to focus on, enjoy (and presumably remember) the material being presented. This is further enhanced by the logical (e.g. 3 stories and an argument) and sometimes poetic (e.g. “the refrain”) structures that Lessig uses to organize his talks.

Of course, another key ingredient to the Lessig style is Lessig himself. His research, organizational, and storytelling abilities ultimately make the presentations what they are: engaging, thought-provoking, and entertaining.

I think all of us (and particularly those of us who teach) would do well to learn from and adopt a little of the Lessig style.

By: Alan De Smet Tue, 29 Apr 2008 09:08:03 +0000 Rolling over in his grave? Hardly. I’m quiet confident that Tufte would agree: if you don’t have anyting to display, a blank slide is better than filler.

As to the distributing decks as content, what you’ve got is slideuments. While distressingly common, it’s garbage; you end up with a mediocre presentation and a mediocre document. The better solution is a set of slides designed to support the speaker and a seperate written document. The only down side is that it really requires writing two works, not just one. This pretty much summarizes the problem; speakers are pressed for time, so instead of spending a few more hours of their own time, they make for a worse use of time for the dozens of people who see or read the presentation.

By: Chris Tue, 29 Apr 2008 08:56:15 +0000 Just curious: is there some element I missed in describing the “lessig style”? I’m just wondering if anybody has noticed some subtle aspect to his speaking that I failed to state.

Also, does anybody have tips on how to give such a talk? The main advice I would give would be to make practice considerably the first time that you try out the style since it strains certain speaking skills. In other words, it’s much easier to crash and burn this way because the audience will realize when your confused, lost, or hung-over.

John: Can you include notes in PDFs though? Also, I think that in our case, there is generally a paper reference associated with a talk, so it’s much easier just to distribute that instead. However, I guess you could — I’ve never tried this I admit — just have slides at the end of the talk with citations and references.

By: Ben FrantzDale Tue, 29 Apr 2008 08:12:11 +0000 Prof. Lessig, Do you know if Tufte is aware of you our your unusual presentation style? While it is not always high-data-density, like Tufte advocates, it is also not your typical low-content PowerPoint presentation. Personally, I find that it uses the medium to focus the audience’s attention on good

By: Scott Ellington Tue, 29 Apr 2008 08:10:02 +0000 It’s also worth noting that Tufte’s primary criticisms of the typical PowerPoint presentation are not applicable here.

Presentations largely stand or fall on the quality, relevance, and integrity of the content. If your numbers are boring, then you’ve got the wrong numbers. If your words or images are not on point, making them dance in color won’t make them relevant. Audience boredom is usually a content failure, not a decoration failure.

Lessig presentations are riveting, but just as a spectacular photograph may galvanize attention without eliciting comprehension of a specific complexity, he requires an extremely hip room. And that’s not too much to ask.
In other words, they inspire bootstrapping.