Power Point and the Crafting of Social Data

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In this paper I suggest that we should take a closer look at how we use PowerPoint. Authoring and presenting via PowerPoint is an invisible yet pervasive part of the work involved in corporate ethnography. Rather than being a pointer to a text elsewhere PowerPoint both produces the evidence of having done the ethnographic work as well as being expected to constitute the ethnographic analysis. The challenge of such software is not that it offers the wrong cognitive style, but that presentations are ‘thick’ social events, rather than ‘thin’ devices for knowledge transfer. Drawing on recent writing in Science and Technology Studies, these thick events can be thought of as continually creating hybrids or co(a)gents. In order to maintain a critical and reflexive practice we need to develop ways of keeping open the relationship between the researcher and the PowerPoint, such as leaving traces of our own relationship to the participants within the slides, or experimenting with different kinds of time-based media.

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