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Powerpointless sermons

Cognitive Style of Powerpoint book jacket

As part of my dissertation work, I have come across an extremely interesting pamphlet called The Cognitive Style of Powerpoint by Edward Tufte. Tufte is Professor Emeritus at Yale and he is something of a guru, it seems, on statistical evidence, analytical design and interface design.

In the extremely readable pamphlet, Tufte eviscerates the use of Microsoft Powerpoint and says that in presentation situations, it weakens verbal and spational reasoning, corrupts statistical analysis, foreshortens evidence and thought, and forces all thought into hierarchical linear structures.

Amongst other things he highlights the Investigation Board into the final flight of the space shuttle Columbia and the sad disintegration of the shuttle during re-entry on 1 February 2003. The conclusions of that Board stated that they believed the endemic use of Powerpoint briefing slides instead of technical papers as a key component in the disaster and an illustration of all that was wrong in the technical communication at NASA at the time. He goes onto show a few of the actual slides and illustrate just what a terrible method of communication it was in that context.

He’s not alone. Greg Pece has examined the use of Powerpoint in the US Military and concluded that it has changed how missions are conceived, briefings are conducted and then the missions executed… and not for the better. Read more

Giving up giving up

Picture of a girl with ashes on her forehead

Ash Wednesday today and the start of Lent. I did my best to explain the 40 days ahead to a group of fourteen and fifteen year olds girls this morning in a local school’s assembly at 8.30 in the morning when I’m not sure who was the least awake and compos mentis – them or me.

As things currently stand, Ash Wednesday is not a particularly big deal in this part of the world and the low evangelical leanings of this particular parish and this particular deacon means that Lent isn’t that much closer to the surface of consciousness either.

I do regret that in many ways and have been taking gentle steps locally to try and bring this 40 day opportunity for a spiritual ‘health-check’ into the forefront of people’s thinking at the present time.

Ridley Hall have published a new Lent book ‘Cast of the Kingdom’ to which I contributed last year whilst still at college and for which I also happen to have been one of the co-editors. I’ll be using it during Lent and have encouraged our church members to do likewise.

I’ve also pushed the CHP Love Life, Live Lent course and we have a few people taking up the challenge to do that each day. My family and I are going to be following the family book as best we’re able together, incorporating it into our evening meal routine.

But I’m struggling to work up any enthusiasm for the idea of giving something up this year. Read more

mobile phones and projection

Mobile phones and projection

I’m less in touch with the bleeding edge of technology than I once was (and I was never that bleeding edge at the best of times) but I was interested to hear the news that those clever technology geeks are working on putting digital projection equipment into mobile phones.

There’s some very obvious business applications for people like sales reps who currently lug various bits of technical equipment around to do a pitch with the ubiquitous Microsoft® Powerpoint presentation. They will go from laptops and projectors to their mobile phone on its own. With phones increasingly being able to store and present Word files and all the rest, if you add a projection capability in there, those reps will be laughing.

I’ve been ruminating, given my dissertation interests, about how such technology might find its way into church and, to be honest, I’m struggling to see any obvious applications at the moment. The PCC meeting, perhaps, might be able to make use of it or, indeed, other smaller meetings – staff meetings, home groups, youth groups perhaps. I’m not sure yet though that the church has a ‘killer app’ for this sort of thing in the same way that businesses may well be able to make heavy use of such things.

Nevertheless, projectors and mobile phones. You heard it here first! 🙂

Church of England wants your help

Church of England website

I was pleased to see that the people that run the Church of England website are looking for feedback. A survey has been made available to enable users of the site to give their thoughts and opinions… presumably as a first stage of an overhaul of the current offering.

The current site, I would guess, is around five or six years old which is ancient in Internet terms. Before I am too critical, I guess I have to remember too how bad it was in the days before the current site was created and published. Certainly, this current site represented a big step forward for the Church of England and since that time, the Communications unit of the National Church Institutions have continued to move things forward through a series of initiatives and sub-websites for particular things and the ongoing tweaking that comes when you run a big website like that.

I guess sub-websites for particular projects, like the recent Advent campaign, will always be needed and will always exist but it’s indicative that some of the material on those sites weren’t incorporated into the main CofE site. I think a lot of it should have been incorporated but navigationally the main site really isn’t very good so you can see why it was kept apart.

Of course, I have to be a bit careful as to what I say because Read more

Bringing it all together

Image of the book cover for Holding Together

One of the key reasons why I chose to go to Ridley Hall to study for ordination was because Chris Cocksworth was the Principal. I had come across Chris through my work for Church House Publishing whilst he served on the Liturgical Commission and he struck me as a very wise man. I was particularly attracted to the way in which he, an unashamedly evangelical and charismatic Christian, seemed to hold that stream of church life together with a deeply ‘catholic’ view of the Church and a definite and strong loyalty to the Church of England.

Of course, Chris has now gone on to become the new Bishop of Coventry. Ridley’s loss is most definitely Coventry’s gain. Still, Chris’ approach has made a big impact on me in the last few years. One of the ways in which that happened was getting the chance to read some of the draft chapters of Chris’ latest book Holding Together before the book was published. Now that it’s hit the streets and I’ve been able to fit some reading in around other commitments, I’ve finished reading the entire book and I wanted to blog about it since I would definitely recommend it to others.

Chris is never easy reading. It’s a big book that will probably take you some time if you take it seriously but it is a very deep book and worth spending time in. Chris holds out a vision and tries to engage with the issues that result from an attempt to be gospel oriented (evangelical) in the power of the Spirit (charismatic) but with a firm commitment to the Church (catholic).

Read more