looks are everything

The Smithsonian Institute Libraries have this wonderful resource available:

Portraits from the Dibner Library of Science and Technology

Everyone loves pictures of the scientific personalities behind abstract concepts. The wackier the better! In general, images are an absolute neccessity for academic talks. I’m pretty strict that my slides contain an image (be it a picture, a figure/graph, or text presented to make a graphic point). When I’m presented with a slide that contains nothing but text, I switch off the slides and just listen to the speaker (I try to listen to the speaker rather than read their text as a general rule). The exception would be the Steve Jobs one-phrase slide, which I recently saw Rod Page use to nice effect at the Evolution 2007 conference. I’m trying to evolve towards a style that has nothing but an active statement or question as the title (for focus), a figure of some sorts, and (optionally) no more than ten words. Sometimes that’s not possible, and sometimes I am lazy, but a talk is a presentation. It’s not a reading.

Anyhow, images are terrific as they sometimes suggest metaphors or new ways of explaining concepts. My idle time spent browsing flickr and other image websites is never totally idle (honest!), as I’m always looking for images that relate to research concepts. Graffiti, signs, and travel photography are often real gems in that regard. I’ve built up a good collection of pictures for talks. Now, if only I had a systematic way of tagging them and remembering their attributions…

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One response to “looks are everything

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