Against the tyranny of PowerPoint: Technology-in-use and technology abuse

Yiannis Gabriel


Yiannis Gabriel (2008) Against the tyranny of PowerPoint: Technology-in-use and technology abuse. Organization Studies, 29 (2). pp. 255-276. ISSN 1741-3044

Our Full Text Deposits

Full text access: Open

Links to Copies of this Item Held Elsewhere


Over the past five years, PowerPoint has emerged as a powerful piece of communication technology, having profound consequences on presentations (business and educational), classroom communication and, possibly, on the nature of lecturing itself. An analysis of the ways in which PowerPoint is used offers considerable insights into, first, the nature of educational technologies and their organizational implementations, second, the effect of these technologies on the construction and dissemination of organizational knowledge, and, third, on the qualities and skills of a society of spectacle, where a great deal of organizational knowledge assumes the form of visual representations. Using illustrations from his personal experience, the author examines some uses to which the software is put and some of its potential short-comings. These include the parcelling of knowledge into bullet-points, reliance on visual aids to support weak analysis and the forced linearity of argumentation that limits improvisation, digression and inventiveness. The author, however, argues that PowerPoint can be used more creatively, to build on our culture’s emphasis on spectacle and image and related multi-tasking skills that lecturers and students develop. In this manner, PowerPoint can redefine the nature of a lecture, from the authoritative presentation of a text into a multi-media performance that elicits a critical, creative and active response from its audience.

Information about this Version

This is a Draft version
This version's date is: 2008
This item is peer reviewed

Link to this Version

Item TypeJournal Article
TitleAgainst the tyranny of PowerPoint: Technology-in-use and technology abuse
AuthorsGabriel, Yiannis
DepartmentsFaculty of History and Social Science\Management



Deposited by () on 17-Feb-2010 in Royal Holloway Research Online.Last modified on 09-Jul-2010


(C) 2008 SAGE Publications Ltd, whose permission to mount this version for private study and research is acknowledged.  The repository version is the author's final draft.



Abernathy, D. J. 1999. "Presentation tips from the pros." Training & Development 53:19-+.

Abrahamson, Eric. 1991. "Managerial fads and fashions: The diffusion and rejection of innovations." Academy of Management Review 16:586-612.

Alvesson, M. and D. Karreman. 2001. "Odd couple: Making sense of the curious concept of knowledge management." Journal of Management Studies 38:995-1018.

Ball, Kirstie and David C. Wilson. 2000. "Power, control and computer-based performance monitoring: Repertoires, resistances and subjectivities." Organization Studies 21:539-565.

Bartsch, R. A. and K. M. Cobern. 2003. "Effectiveness of PowerPoint presentations in lectures." Computers & Education 41:77-86.

Baudrillard, Jean. 1988. "Simulacra and simulations." Pp. 166-184 in Jean Baudrillard: Selected Writings, edited by M. Poster. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Bauman, Zygmunt. 1997. Postmodernity and its discontents. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Boorstin, Daniel J. 1962. The image or what happened to the American dream. New York: Atheneum.

Boylan, M. 2004. "What have we learned from 15 years of supporting the development of innovative teaching technology?" Social Science Computer Review 22:405-425.

Boyle, David. 2000. The tyranny of numbers: Why counting can't make us happy. London: HarperCollins.

Brown, Stephen. 1998. Postmodern marketing two : telling tales. London: International Thomson Business Press.

Cook, S. D. N. and J. S. Brown. 1999. "Bridging Epistemologies: The Generative Dance between Organizational Knowledge and Organizational Knowing." Organization Science 10:381-400.

de Certeau, Michel. 1984. The practice of everyday life. Berkeley, CA.: University of California Press.

De Vita, Glauco and Peter Case. 2003. "Rethinking the internationalization agenda in UK Higher Education." Journal of Further and Higher Education 27:383-398.

Debord, Guy. 1977. Society of the spectacle. Detroit: Black and Red.

Doumont, J. L. 2005. "The cognitive style of PowerPoint: Slides are not all evil." Technical Communication 52:64-70.

Eco, Umberto. 1986. Travels in hyperreality. London: Pan.

Edelman, Murray. 1988. Constructing the political spectacle. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Elkins, James. 1998. On pictures and the words that fail them. Cambridge ; New York: Cambridge University Press.

-. 1999. The domain of images. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Felder, R. M. and R. Brent. 2005. "Death by PowerPoint." Chemical Engineering Education 39:28-47.

Feyerabend, Paul. 1987. Farewell to reason. London: Verso Press.

Feynman, Richard P. 2001. What Do You Care What Other People Think? New York: Norton.

Fiske, John. 1989. Understanding popular culture. London: Unwin Hyman.

Gabriel, Yiannis. 2002. "Essai: On paragrammatic uses of organizational theory: A provocation." Organization Studies 23:133-151.

-. 2005a. "Glass cages and glass palaces: Images of organizations in image-conscious times." Organization 12:9-27.

-. 2005b. "MBA and the education of leaders: The new playing fields of Eton?" Leadership 1:147-163.

Gabriel, Yiannis and Tim Lang. 2006. The Unmanageable Consumer: Sage Publications.

Gherardi, Silvia. 1999. "Learning as problem-driven or learning in the face of mystery?" Organizational Studies 20:101-1024.

-. 2004. "Knowing as desire: Dante' Ulysses at the end of the known world." Pp. 32-48 in Myths, Stories and Organizations: Premodern narratives for our times, edited by Y. Gabriel. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Goffman, Erving. 1959. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Garden City, New York: Anchor.

Gould, Eric. 2003. The university in a corporate culture. New Haven ; London: Yale University Press.

Gould, Stephen Jay. 1996. Life's Grandeur (Full House). London: Jonathan Cape.

Griffin, J. D. 2003. "Technology in the teaching of neuroscience: Enhanced student learning." Advances in Physiology Education 27:146-155.

Holmes, Cooper B. 1990. The honest truth about lying with statistics. Springfield, Ill.: C.C. Thomas.

Hu, P. J. H., T. H. K. Clark, and W. W. Ma. 2003. "Examining technology acceptance by school teachers: a longitudinal study." Information & Management 41:227-241.

Jay, Martin. 1993. Downcast eyes: The denigration of vision in Twentieth-century French thought. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Kaplan, Sarah. 2006. "Strategy and PowerPoint: communication genres and the practice of strategy making." in Organization Studies Summer Conference: "Re-turn To Practice: Understanding Organization As It Happens", Mykonos, Greece, June 15-16, 2006.

Karreman, Dan and Lars Strannegard. 2004. "PowerPoint knowledge - Discursive closure in action." In 20th EGOS Colloquium. Ljubljana, July 2004.

Kavanagh, Donncha. 2004. "Ocularcentrism and its others: A framework for metatheoretical analysis." Organization Studies 25:445-464.

Lamb, R. and E. Davidson. 2005. "Information and communication technology challenges to scientific professional identity." Information Society 21:1-24.

Lévi-Strauss, Claude. 1966. The savage mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Linstead, Stephen and Robert Grafton-Small. 1990. "Organizational bricolage." Pp. 291-309 in Organizational Symbolism, edited by B. A. Turner. Berlin: De Gruyter.

Linstead, Stephen and Robert Grafton-Small. 1992. "On reading organizational culture." Organization Studies 13:331-355.

Lyotard, Jean-Francois. 1984/1991. The postmodern condition: A report on knowledge. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

McLaughlin, J. and A. Webster. 1998. "Rationalising knowledge: IT systems, professional identities and power." Sociological Review 46:781-802.

McLuhan, Marshall. 1962. The Gutenberg galaxy : the making of typographic man: Routledge & K Paul.

-. 1964. Understanding media; the extensions of man. New York,: McGraw-Hill.

Ohmann, Richard M. 2003. Politics of knowledge: The commercialization of the university, the professions, and print culture. Middletown, Conn: Wesleyan University Press.

Orlikowski, Wanda J., JoAnne Yates, K. Okamura, and M. Fujimoto. 1995. "Shaping Electronic Communication - the Metastructuring of Technology in the Context of Use." Organization Science 6:423-444.

Orlikowski, Wanda J. 1992. "The duality of technology: Rethinking the concept of technology in organizations." Organization Science 3:398-427.

-. 2000. "Using technology and constituting structures: A practice lens for studying technology in organizations." Organization Science 11:404-428.

Orlikowski, Wanda J. and JoAnne Yates. 1994. "Genre Repertoire - the Structuring of Communicative Practices in Organizations." Administrative Science Quarterly 39:541-574.

Parker, M. and D. Jary. 1995. "The Mcuniversity - Organization, management and academic subjectivity." Organization 2:319-338.

Porter, Michael E. 1985. Competitive advantage. New York: Free Press.

-. 1991. On competition and strategy. Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business Review.

Power, Michael. 1997. The audit society: rituals of verification. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ritzer, George. 1999. Enchanting a disenchanted world: Revolutionizing the means of consumption. Thousand Oaks, CA.: Pine Forge Press.

Rosen, Christine. 2005. "The Image Culture." The New Atlantis 10:27-46.

Sontag, Susan. 1977. On photography. New York: Farrar Straus and Giroux.

-. 2004. "What have we done?" Pp. G2, 2-3 in The Guardian. London.

Spicer, A. 2005. "The political process of inscribing a new technology." Human Relations 58:867-890.

Sturdy, Andrew 2004. "The adoption of management ideas and practices - Theoretical perspectives and possibilities." Management Learning 35:155-179.

Sturdy, Andrew and Yiannis Gabriel. 2000. "Missionaries, mercenaries or used car salesmen? Teaching MBA in Malaysia." Journal of Management Studies 37:979-1002.

Susskind, J. E. 2005. "PowerPoint's power in the classroom: enhancing students' self- efficacy and attitudes." Computers & Education 45:203-215.

Thompson, John B. 1995. The media and modernity : a social theory of the media. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

Tsoukas, Haridimos. 1996. "The firm as a distributed knowledge system: A constructionist approach." Strategic Management Journal 17:11-25.

Tsoukas, Haridimos and Mary Jo Hatch. 2001. "Complex thinking, complex practice: The case for a narrative approach to organizational complexity." Human Relations 54:979-1013.

Tufte, Edward R. 2003a. The cognitive style of PowerPoint. Cheshire, Conn.: Graphics Press.

-. 2003b, "ET on Columbia evidence - Analysis of key slide",  Retrieved 5/5/05,  (

- 2003c. "PowerPoint is Evil." Wired magazine, pp. September 2003.

Tyre, M. J. and Wanda J. Orlikowski. 1996. "The episodic process of learning by using." International Journal of Technology Management 11:790-798.

Walsham, G. 1998. "IT and changing professional identity: Micro-studies and macro-theory." Journal of the American Society for Information Science 49:1081-1089.

Washburn, Jennifer. 2004. University, Inc. : the corporate corruption of American higher education. New York: Basic Books.

Weick, Karl E. 1993. "Organizational redesign as improvisation." Pp. 346-379 in Organizational change and redesign: Ideas and insights for improving performance, edited by G. P. Huber and W. H. Glick. New York: Oxford University Press.

Wenger, E. 1998. Communities of practice: Learning, meaning and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Westphal, J. D., R. Gulati, and S. M. Shortell. 1997. "Customization or conformity? An institutional and network perspective on the content and consequences of TQM adoption." Administrative Science Quarterly 42:366-394.

Whyte, Jennifer K. and Boris Ewenstein. 2005. "Do you see? Visual representations as 'artifacts of knowing'." in 6th International Conference on Organizational Learning and Knowledge. Trento, Italy, 9-11 June 2005.

Yates, JoAnne and Wanda J. Orlikowski. 1992. "Genres of Organizational Communication: A Structurational Approach to Studying Communication and Media." The Academy of Management Review 17:299-326.

-. forthcoming. "The PowerPoint presentation and its corollaries: How genres shape communicative action in organizations." in The cultural turn: Communicative practices in workplaces and professions, edited by M. Zachry and C. Thralls. Amityville, NY: Baywood Publishing.

Zuboff, S. 1985. "Automate / Informate: The two faces of intelligent technology." Organizational Dynamics 14:5-18.

-. 1988. In the Age of the Smart Machine. Oxford: Heinemann.