Full PowerPoint Dominance

The multi-domain path to crushing your audience's will to resist

It’s tough to live midway down your own intellectual hierarchy. That’s what a whole slew of humanities scholars do. The crypto-primitive twitter handles, the network topology background website graphics, the unnecessary github.io website, resistance to computers and the Internet as a means and target of scholarship until mid-2011, a land-rush to study the latest trend (Second Life, the Internet itself), a scramble to become an algorithms expert in c. 2016, a collapse of the distinction between study of intellectual authority and the intellectual authority itself that ends in an effort to redeploy their own work with the authoritative stamp of the field they study. But even the best python script, the best-tuned transparency setting in the terminal window, cannot grant the authentic status granted to the engineer, to the STEM practitioner, to the scholar with the background in science. What is the digital scholar of the humanities, the humanist of the digital, the digital humanist, what are they to do?

I think of simulating intellectual authority as something to approach with a toolkit. Github is one of those tools. So are EFF stickers and posts explaining the decision to leave social media platforms that are already in terminal decline and can no longer improve our visibility. This is where Full PowerPoint Dominance comes in. It isn’t about an individual tool, but instead it is about the mission, the complex sociotechnical system in which your PowerPoint will operate.

Full PowerPoint Dominance is, at its core, a show of force, a demonstration of computational sophistication. Like so many of the dominant strategies that pock-mark our computer age, it is explained best with a vignette:

You stand at the podium and open your computer. The audience is, as ever, uninterested in anything but their own email. The projector flickers on, and your stratagem comes into focus with at least a dozen translucent terminal windows, each running an extremely verbose command-line process. Code is everywhere. And there’s VSCode too, there’s PDFs with classical and canonical texts, there’s C and python, there’s repos and gists, a Zotero window with a lavishly appointed ‘intersectionality and the digital’ folder left open. “I’m sorry,” you report, “I must have left some work up.” You begin an aggressive series of keyboard shortcuts that activate a nested series of FOSS shortcut apps. Your audience is sinking lower into their seats. You are the digital expert. You have ascended the hierarchy that imprisons you. You are the captain now.