Transmission in Motion

Seminar Blogs

“Using Slide Shows Asks for Reconsideration” – Justyna Jakubiec

Trying to imagine studying and working without slide shows in the background might prove to turn into a highly challenging quest. That is especially valid nowadays, considering the ongoing pandemic that makes quite a significant number of people stay in their homes. Perhaps that certainty and obviousness characterizing our approach to slide shows somehow overshadow the actual history of that technological development. From a student’s point of view, it seems that we come in contact with these digital pieces so often that we even fail to consider more thoroughly and with greater awareness how this kind of digital content influences the ways in which we interact with knowledge.

Delving deeper into how the field art history is now intertwined with the usage of digital slide shows can provide a clearer case showing how this intertwinement has turned into an obviousness. Following lectures based on art history without listening to a lecturer and following both her/his movements and speech and shifting slides with one’s eyes is almost unimaginable. Indeed, it was in the 1900s that the usage of visual slides became an important aspect of lectures on art history. Being able to see a sculpture or a painting on which the lecture story has been focusing added, undoubtedly, an influential and profitable layer to the process of knowledge acquisition. That aspect, nevertheless, is not the only one applicable to this discussion and not the only one to be considered relevant either.

Looking into the beginnings of the usage of slide shows in the discipline of art history and connecting it to the present-day functioning of these digital pieces can result in quite exciting thoughts. According to Jennifer F. Eisenhauer, following Trevor Fawcett, in the nineteenth-century art history lectures, the art historian “became the expert able to navigate the taxonomy of art, and his role was redefined from that of storyteller to ‘demonstrator’” (Fawcett 1983, quoted in Eisenhauer 2006, 205). Following this line of reasoning, a demonstrator, as someone explaining how something functions, might be interpreted in line with rationalistic and objective ways of thinking – providing images of artworks as evidence for what is being said.

This idea turns out to be even more interesting and worthy of reconsideration with regard to its (possible) connection to the present-day and wide-reaching use of Microsoft’s PowerPoint. This program has already proven to be applicable to the field of art history as well, although, initially, it had been created with the corporate aim behind it – running on the goal of making persuasive and “powerful points” rather than objective and rational, as it was the case in the nineteenth-century understanding of slide shows (Eisenhauer 2006, 208). One may say that these two ways of thinking are contrasting and represent completely different understandings of what it means to use the technology that makes slide shows available. Perhaps this confusion, or rather a revelation, will initiate new and more aware discussions on what it means to follow a slide show.


  • Eisenhauer, Jennifer, F. 2006. “Next Slide Please: The Magical, Scientific, and Corporate Discourses of Visual Projection Technologies.” Studies in Art Education 47, no. 3 (Spring): 198-214.

*Image credits: Pexels, Pixabay Photograph, November 29, 2016. Downloaded on March 10, 2021.