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February 12, 2007

Lessig presentations

Prof. Larry Lessig, well-known scholar on Internet (and constitutional) law, is not only an excellent scholar but also an excellent public speaker. One of his signatures is his presentation style: he has developed an idiosyncratic use of slides to enhance, not detract from, his talks.

His style, in brief, is to use many slides with very little information on each: often one word or one picture. These serve to illustrate or punctuate what he is saying, sometimes as frequently as a few different slides for a single sentence. He typically places the white words in a crude typewriter font on a black background (sometimes reversing the colors for emphasis).

To make this work, Larry gives highly scripted presentations, with the slides tightly timed to his delivery. It's not a style that would work well, I'm pretty sure, for a classroom lecture or a scholarly presentation to a conference of new research, at least in many social science, engineering, or hard science fields. But for policy talks (which is Larry's primary forum in recent years), and some other presentations it is highly effective, and Larry has something of a cult following for this style.

To see a superb example of this (and a very interesting history / policy talk on network neutrality), Carl Malamud put together a Quicktime movie that combines a recent Lessig speech and his slides. Unfortunately, it's a 239 MB download, so use broadband and be patient. Even watching just five minutes is quite stimulating.

Posted by jmm at February 12, 2007 12:09 PM


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