Friday, December 07, 2007

Creativity, Copyright and Presentations

I want to point you to something today that aptly illustrates 2 things that I can frequently be found ranting about: the woeful state of our arcane copyright laws and the prevalence of terrible presentations. Whilst both are worthy of a standalone post of their own, that will be for another day. Here, I'm relying on Larry Lessig to effectively combine the 2.

This video is of a recent TED talk by Lessig on the effect that copyright laws are having on creativity. Lessig asserts that creativity is being stifled and that we are moving from a 'read-write' culture (i.e. creative) to a 'read-only' culture (where people simply 'consume'). I think he's spot on with this and the law is falling way behind the times. If it fails to catch up soon we are essentially criminalising the majority of people born after 1980 (Gen Y) who are IT and web savvy and keen to express themselves via social media, blogs, user generated content (UGC) and the like. Lessig's comparison with the common-sense approach taken to repeal outdated property laws in relation to land is effective and apt.

That brings me nicely to the second part of my rant; that you just don't see a lot of good presentations. I must have seen 40+ presentations from potential suppliers and many more at conferences, university etc. Yet I could count the number of good presentations I've seen on one hand (in fact only 2 stand out of real note - Noam Chomsky when I was at university and a talk by Jeff Pfeffer on Evidence Based Management at a Chicago based HR and IT conference). Even my colleagues are inclined to give bad presentations (despite my frequent desperate pleas to change things) because it's just the way things are done. My argument that your typical PowerPoint, death by bullets presentation is boring and ineffective is met by the counter-argument that everybody does it that way, so it must work.

Yet in this world of terrible presentations, poor presenters and horrific slideware, there is hope. Not many people embody that hope as well as Larry Lessig. Watch his talk; I promise it'll be time well spent. He is passionate, articulate and funny. He has great slides (his style of slideware is in fact famous, and there's a presentation method named after him, The "Lessig Method"). He commands the room and steers the audience to his way of thinking, whilst as a viewer you take a tonne of information away with you, surely the ultimate goal of any presentation.

I promise I'll put up some separate posts on presentation and copyright more generally, when I get round to writing them! Also, here is probably a good time to point out that despite the lack of widget on the subject, anything you read here is under this Creative Commons License. That means you can copy it, print it out, link to it etc with appropriate attribution. Basically you can't take it and charge for it, or alter it. For more information about Creative Commons check out the site.

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