Awarded the Mahoney Prize for our PowerPoint article

Erica Robles-Anderson and myseIf are incredibly honored to just have been given the Mahoney Prize for our 2016 article “‘One Damn Slide After Another’: PowerPoint at Every Occasion for Speech” (which is a dear, important project to both of us). The Mahoney Prize recognizes “an outstanding article in the history of computing and information technology, broadly conceived”, and is awarded by by the Special Interest Group in Computers, Information, and Society (SIGCIS, part of the Society for the History of Technology) and was just presented to us in Philadelphia. Here is the press release from Umeå University (in Swedish).

The motivation from the Prize Committee follows:

In “’One Damn Slide After Another’: PowerPoint at Every Occasion for Speech,” Erica Robles-Anderson and Patrik Svensson provide a highly original and insightful history of PowerPoint’s design, development, and use. They convincingly argue how PowerPoint has become a dominant and indispensable medium for communication, yet like many other forms of ubiquitous software programs and packages it has undergone minimal critical analysis. As such, the conditioning of knowledge production with PowerPoint is overlooked, and once distinct situations and settings such as classrooms, press conferences, and church sermons become more alike. Overall, their article stands out for astutely engaging with communication theory, as well as making significant IT history and historiographical contributions by analyzing PowerPoint within the context of precursor technologies such as the DuPont Chart Room, white boards, and overhead projectors.

The article was published in Computational Culture (Issue 5, 2016) and is available here.

A more personal note too: Erica Robles-Anderson came to HUMlab as a postdoctoral research fellow (as part of the international postdoctoral fellowship program sponsored by the Kempe Foundation) just after having finished her Ph.D. at Stanford (and was also important to initiating an important collaborative program with Stanford).


Erica Robles-Anderson presenting our PowerPoint work at a 2014 conference in HUMlab

We both shared an interest in screens theoretically, historically and materially, and worked together in an experimental, humanistic infrastructure that was in the process of being imagined and built. The collaboration continued after Erica finished her time in Umeå and was employed at New York University, where she is now Associate Professor (NYU website), and while we were planning the infrastructure of the new lab, HUMlab-X, Erica and I had a dialogue that eventually led to the imagining of the display studio in HUMlab-X (the two slanted screens being an important part of this setup, which is also referenced in the article), which we (with great expertise in HUMlab including Johan von Boer, Roger Mähler and Mattis Lindmark) later built.

I have written about this setup and “angled screens” more generally and from a more practical point of view here.

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