Posts Tagged Presentation

Engineering Connections in an Invisible World – a Crash Course

For several years I’ve been a big fan of  Top Gear – the guys have been entertaining my inner child. Seen rationally, the petrol-based internal combustion engine is a dead end,  but getting from A to B is hardly the point, or is it? I like the irreverent, playful and fun approach to how things actually work – by taking them apart, blowing them up or whatever else seems suitable – they have an immense imagination in that department. You know, what distinguishes the men from the boys is the size of their toys. In this regard, the top gear presenters are the real grown-ups, thinking big and out of the box. Some of their projects on science and engineering are among my all-time favourites, so I am happy to see Richard “Hamster” Hammond back on the screen again.

First, there’s the recently launched “Crash Course” :  

And then I have to mention his series “Engineering Connections” on the National Geographic Channel where Hammond

looks at how engineers and designers use historic inventions and clues from the natural world in ingenious ways to develop new buildings and machines.

And if you still can take some more, there is some really stunning footage in the “Invisible worlds” –  series (2010). Definitely something to go into my DVD collection, here’s a teaser:

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Networks and Presentations: déjà VUE ?

The Visual Understanding Environment (VUE) is an Open Source project based at Tufts University. The software seems quite mature (current release v3.1.1)  and strikes me as a crossover of a graph visualisation/layout and a mind-mapping tool, resulting in a different way of sharing and presenting information – think prezi.

VUE, the Visual Understanding Environment, is an open source concept mapping tool, licensed under the Education Commons License. Although originally developed with a focus on educational needs, VUE has grown to be used by people in many organizations working on engineering, graphic design, creative problem solving, construction, writing, and more. VUE 2 introduced the melding of the map with presentation tools, allowing people to advance from the linear nature of traditional slide paradigms to a more flexible model allowing presenters to walk their maps in dynamic and visually controlled manner.

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My (first) PREZI-ous

In order to test how alternative ways of presentation work in real life, I’ve created the “backbone” of a lecture on the basics of structural alignment.
The current version of the prezi can be viewed at here/.

The plan is to combine this with a couple of intro-slides (keynote) plus using / demonstrating some “practical” aspects of alignment “life” with pymol and other software (cmview, processing sketches). I guess it’s choosing the right medium for the message, so I’ll include some “real” 3D models and use the black/white board as well – so the prezi gives the overall outline, but does not contain the entire lecture.

So far it has been a smooth and rewarding experience to use prezi, especially since it alows to gather all the concepts on one screen and subsequently put a logical path through it. This results in an interative process by adding / removing items and changing the path accordingly. It really helped because I could start by throwing in all the important concepts I wanted to talk about without a pre-conceived linear order. The ordering is an “emergent property” of the process. Any feedback is very much welcome!

Thanks to Bosco Ho for inspirations (the title is from him), see his post “Structural alignment done right”.

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Next slide, please …

The arguments against using PowerPoint keep mounting. Originally developed for the Mac by Forethought under the name “Presenter” as an “object oriented bit-mapped application software” – which means a program to show some pictures – it was bought by Micro$oft and turned into the mind-numbing torture tool you have been exposed to far too many times. It goes along my reasoning in terms of cargo-cult that by now you are expected to give a talk in PowerPoint, full stop, no discussion. Considerations if there might be better ways of communicating are met with raised eyebrows – making you feel somewhat between ludicrous or heretic. With people crediting form rather than function, meaning or content it takes some guts to deviate from the norm. You probably have similar experiences: Engaging the audience using (white/black) boards, visual aids, flipchart, models, toys, random items lying around, body language, rhetoric or humor could have serious negative side-effects. What if we do not dim the lights and get through endless bullet-points in a monotonous voice and actually do get something important across? Well, it could keep people from their 30+ minutes of uninterrupted dozingPowerNapping and well-deserved in-office meditation! Just imagine the damage done to the mental well-being of your colleagues…
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It’s the question what drives us

Sounds somewhat like Trinity whispering to Neo in the disco – but seriously: there is new scientific data presented in a gorgeous way by the RSA. They have a few lectures re-worked in that style (cognitive media), and it’s compelling. (By the way, in the end they mention Linux and the “Atlassian” – see previous post)

For all those who support Edward Tufte in his fight against “death by PowerPoint” : Seems there is indeed a life after death since now there is a new tool out that promises some help in liberating the masses from the the tyranny of bad slides:
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