NYU Steinhardt News

Professor Robles-Anderson Recognized by the Society for the History of Technology

An article coauthored by Associate Professor Erica Robles-Anderson has received the 2017 Mahoney Prize from the Special Interest Group in Computers, Information, and Society, a research division within the Society for the History of Technology. In 'One Damn Slide After Another’: PowerPoint at Every Occasion for Speech, coauthors Robles-Anderson and Svensson highlight the enduring ubiquity of PowerPoint software and its relative absence from any scholarly critique:

"For more than twenty-five years PowerPoint has shown up at lectures, events, talks, sermons, and briefings. What once were distinct occasions have now become formatted in the genre of the commercial demonstration. PowerPoint provides a common infrastructure, a template for the organization of speech, and for the logic of argumentation. As such, it shapes and produces the world. Nevertheless, the application has been almost entirely unremarked upon by critical scholars of media, technology, and the digital humanities. Why? Despite extraordinary claims about the total domination of algorithms, protocols, the digital, bits, and information, the material conditions of mundane software use go largely under-recognized as key sites for cultural work."

In the award citation, the committee praised the article's originality:

"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."

About the Mahoney Prize:
The Mahoney Prize recognizes an outstanding article in the history of computing and information technology, broadly conceived. The Mahoney Prize commemorates the late Princeton scholar Michael S. Mahoney, whose profound contributions to the history of computing came from his many articles and book chapters. The Mahoney Prize is awarded by the Special Interest Group in Computers, Information, and Society (SIGCIS) and is presented during the annual meeting of our parent group, the Society for the History of Technology.