Report on Participation Case Study

Excerpt from Case Study :


Review of Student PowerPoint

The paper evaluates a PowerPoint summarizing a workshop given at Murdoch University by Dave Palmer in 2009. The workshop addressed the community building movement, an initiative that has gained popularity in Australia.

Slide three stated introduces a group of four students, although while these are presumably the authors of the PowerPoint, this is never explicitly stated and should be explained clearer. Slide 5 ("Introduction by Dave), which discussed the impetus for Mr. Palmer's presentation (the Aboriginal emphasis on the land and the need to return to this state) also included a picture of the presenter, which usefully allows one to connect the information with the face of the person delivering the material. Still, there was an almost excessive amount of text in this slide, and it would have been helpful for it to have been condensed. This set the standard for a dynamic in which certain slides were overburdened with text, while others offered only pictures or brief descriptions.

In Slide 6, a useful synopsis of the Yeriman Project is provided, offering not only a thorough description of the project but also its inspiration and a number of the positive effects that have resulted from it. While it is useful for the author to provide the benefits, there is no description covering any of the particular limitations that may result from the undertaking. Although it is certainly logical that the presenter would not discuss the limitations (insofar as he is trying to promote his initiative), it would have been helpful for the author of the PowerPoint to conjecture some possible drawbacks or obstacles associated with the Yeriman Project. As an example, there is still ambiguity concerning whether the initiative should stem from the government or from the community members. Perhaps the most common view stipulates that community building should be a government initiative.

For example, certain literature addressing community building states warns that if the government does not remain invested, the responsibility will fall on social workers.

Another possible scenario involves national parks agencies, who would have to balance their tourism duties with strengthening the community.

As it stands, the PowerPoint reads as though the author were overly deferential toward the material, or perhaps too timid to initiate any critique surrounding it.

Although Slide 6 is useful through its comprehensive overview of the Yeriman Project, there are 5 main bulleted ideas (as well as several subheadings) discussed in the single slide; this made it so that there was simply too much material for one image. Admittedly, the information overload is not as much of a problem for someone reading the PowerPoint one slide at a time at their own pace, but it is likely that if it were presented one slide at a time for an audience, one would not have sufficient time to glean all of the information presented in Slide 6. To circumvent this predicament, it would be beneficial to divide the material in the slide into 3 constituent slides: one discussing the background for the project, another explicating the methodology, and a final one examining the benefits (and limitations.)

Where Slide 6 overwhelmed through an excessive amount of text, the subsequent page featured an overabundance of images. There were four images, with the title Yiriman Project: Building Stories in Our Young People. One can safely assume that this slide was accompanied by a lengthy description of each of the four images; however, the concept of narrative and "Building Stories" was not firmly established in prior slides and comes as a great surprise. While it is possible that the presenter would supply an explanation covering the introduction concerning the importance of cultural narratives, none is provided in the PowerPoint itself and so it feels as though there is absent material. Moreover, no caption is provided for each of the images, so there is no adequate way for one to decipher the images. Even if the presenter supplied lengthy descriptions of each of the images, it is important to note that PowerPoint presentations are a primarily visual medium, one that should never rely on the explanations of the presenter.

The information would be transmitted more lucidly if the 4 images were each granted its own slide, with an adequate caption describing each and their relevance to the project.

Slides 7 and 8 both described the audience's reflections on Yiriman. The author usefully divided this material into two slides, and the greater font size afforded through bifurcating the material into separate slides made the information more accessible. Unfortunately, the reflections are often quite vague and would benefit from more precise descriptions. For example, one of the reflections states that "Young people were 'finding themselves' in the country." It is somewhat vague what is meant by 'finding themselves'; although the implication is that people go to the country to acquire or develop some sense of identity, this is not stated explicitly and results in confusion. It would perhaps have been more useful to devote a single slide to this theme as it is one of the concepts most open to interpretation. Additionally, the possible association between community and crime, (the way in which one's investment in their community could be related to the neighborhood crime rate) is a pertinent issue that went unexplored and would have stimulated the report.

Another concept that remains under-explained from the PowerPoint is the cultural traditions associated with the Aboriginal culture. Although the author does describe the Aboriginal association with the land and certain Aboriginal customs, many of these would be vague or confusing to a non-native audience. For example, in Slide 9 a bulleted point mentions that there is a "physical nature of exchange between older people and the youth, touching each other in a healthy way as well as touching the land." Since physical contact is culturally frowned upon in many locales around the world, specific examples of such contact should be provided so as to avoid foreign audiences gleaning the wrong impression from this Aboriginal custom. Of course, if the audience for this presentation consists solely of natives, then such a problem does not arise. This issue demonstrates the importance of knowing one audience, which Gallian describes as being one of the salient factors in issuing a strong PowerPoint presentation.

One of the compelling attributes of the PowerPoint is that it preserved the unfolding narrative of the proceedings, endowing the reader/viewer with an almost experiential impression of how the workshop was conducted. To this vein, seemingly gratuitous slides such as Slide 10 ("Before a Break") and Slide 24 ("Lunchtime") contributed productively to the presentation. Just as the break and the midday meal provided the workshop participants with an intermezzo in the middle of the proceedings, it allows the PowerPoint viewer to take an intellectual break during the lengthy, 38-slide presentation.

During the middle of the presentation, two slides discuss prominent scholars on community bonds, Ferdinand Tonnies and Emile Durkheim. The shift to a discussion on the theories of the two scholars on community is surprising in light of the less academic slides that precede these two. The author does an admirable job of providing a lucid summation of Tonnies' theory of Gemeinschaft and Durkheim's theory of the relationship between modernity and solidarity between community members. However, even at this point in the presentation, one becomes aware that the presentation has still not provided an actual explanation of crucial terms such as "community" and "place." Although everyone most likely possesses some understanding of both terms, they are sufficiently ambiguous that a more precise definition of each (in the context of the workshop) would be helpful. Moreover, the author provides no critical stance concerning the theories of either Tonnies or Durkheim. A critical evaluation of each theorist, as well as an explanation concerning which the author prefers, would allow establish a more immediate engagement with the audience for the PowerPoint. With regard to Durkheim, the notion of modernity is introduced and never sufficiently unpacked; given that both the definition and implications of modernity are incredibly complex, a more thorough explanation of this concept is necessary. There is also no explicit mention of globalization, which has been demonstrated to be applicable in the context of such a discussion on modernity and community building.

It should be noted that such vague, under-defined concepts are common within the general discourse of community-building; according to Hounslow, while the idea of community building is generally regarded with praise, it is also a concept that people have difficulty defining.

Shortly after discussing Tonnies and Durkheim, the PowerPoint shifts to an examination of two different scholars, Robert Putnam and Richard Florida. Again, the author does a thorough job of succinctly summarizing potentially difficult material. However, one helpful way of connecting the theorists would have been to organize an information table comparing and contrasting their theories; this is a technique that has been identified as being especially successful for PowerPoint presentations.

Ultimately, the PowerPoint offered a thorough summation of the Workshop's proceedings, including a useful sequential…

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