Author Archives: Dana Bisignani

Picking Up Final Grades

On Friday, April 27th, you will be able to come to my office and pick up my comments on your Current Events presentations, which will also include a calculation of your final grade for the course. After you’ve done this, your work for this class is done!

I will be in my office, Heavilon 208, from 1:00 until 2:30 on Friday. Please drop by to pick up your comments at that time. If you are unable to come during this time, please email me to arrange another pick-up time.

PLEASE NOTE: This blog is in continual flux each semester, so if there are resources or posts you wish to save, please copy or bookmark them before May 11th, as posts may be deleted and the blog revised at that time.


More News on SOPA

For those of you doing research on SOPA, here’s a gem:

Read “Netflix Creates Pro-SOPA Super-Pac”.


Sexual Humiliation as a Tool of Political Control?: Legalizing Strip Searches for…Well, Any Reason at All

Over the weekend, I read this article from the British paper The Guardian by feminist writer and activist Naomi Wolf. For those of you who went to the screening of Miss Representation, you might see some overlap.

The article, “How the US Uses Sexual Humiliation as a Political Tool to Control the Masses,” The article discusses, with justified concern, the recent 5 to 4 Supreme Court ruling this past week that allows anyone arrested to be strip-searched for any offense. This comes on the heel of two other recent laws that have passed: HR 347, known as the “Trespass Bill,” which gives anyone a 10-year sentence for protesting near someone under secret service protection, and the NDAA, which allows anyone to be arrested indefinitely at any time. Wold also does a sharp job of analyzing the growing use of the word “detainee” to describe, not Muslim terrorists in Afghanistan, but US citizens.

Wolf writes, “The most terrifying phrase of all in the decision is justice Kennedy’s striking use of the term ‘detainees’ for ‘United States citizens under arrest’. Some members of Occupy who were arrested in Los Angeles also reported having been referred to by police as such…Ten years of association have given ‘detainee’ the synonymous meaning in America as those to whom no rights apply – especially in prison. It has been long in use in America, habituating us to link it with a condition in which random Muslims far away may be stripped by the American state of any rights. Now the term – with its associations of ‘those to whom anything may be done’ – is being deployed systematically in the direction of … any old American citizen.”

Tues., April 10th: Computer Lab for Peer Review

This week on Tuesday, April 10th, we will meet in Stanley-Coulter Hall, Room 277 (SC 277), which is a computer lab. We will be able to have our peer review there in lieu of meeting in our regular classroom in Heavilon.

On Thursday, we will meet in our regular classroom, Heav 108, and then walk over to the Stewart Center together to view the projects in the Student Showcase.

“Death By PowerPoint” and Other Presentation Pitfalls: A Crash Course in Multimedia Design



What follows is the list of common mistakes I often see students make when they don’t consider the rhetoric of their multimedia design decisions. (You’ll recognize some of these from Don’s video.)

1. TIME & PROPORTION One Slide Doesn’t Always Equal One Minute

If you’re composing a PowerPoint, make sure you consider your ration of slides to minutes you’re presenting. It’s pretty hard to get through 20 slides in ten minutes unless you want your audience to experience visual whiplash. Depending on the kind of information you’re covering, some slides may take more time, whereas you might breeze through others. Practicing your presentation – and timing it – is the most useful way to know whether you need to cut down, or add on, to your presentation. Make sure you leave time for your title, introduction, and conclusion slides.

You’ll also need to pay attention to the proportion of slides you dedicate to each section of your presentation. For example, if you have 5 slides with information about your current event but only one that discusses your original analysis, you might want to rethink what you really need to emphasize. Likewise, if you’re making a DVD, don’t spend more time educating your audience about your issue than you do backing up your original analysis. Think balance.

2. STRUCTURE    Paragraph : Slide : Frame

Each medium has a basic organizing unit. An essay has paragraphs. A PowerPoint has slides. A video has frames.  Just as each paragraph in an essay should have a clear purpose, so each slide or frame should have a clear purpose and should relate to the larger composition. And just like an essay, your PowerPoint or DVD should have an introduction (including a thesis), a body, and a conclusion. An outline works for composing in any medium, and a topic sentence outline can still be useful for organizing your points in a multimedia project.

A. PowerPoint. Take advantage of bullet points and differing slide layouts to organize your ideas, manage your slide space, and help structure your ideas.

B. DVD. For frames that present written text, PowerPoint rules generally apply. In addition, make sure a quote or statistic stays on the screen long enough so that the audience can read it. If your text is spoken (i.e., an interview), choose someone who speaks clearly and is articulate about his/her ideas.

3. AESTHETICS    Flash does not equal attention

Multimedia software offers the student composer a number of zippy add-ons and animation options to make a presentation flashier.  But like a good essay, you want your audience focused on your ideas, on your good thinking, not on flashing colors and blinking text that distract readers from your ideas or hurt your ethos by making you look unprofessional.

A. Clip Art. Like flash animation, clip art can also be distracting. More importantly, it probably won’t set the right tone. Let’s say you’re creating a presentation on the importance of foxes in an ecosystem. Consider the ethos of the following images. Which one seems most professional?

Cartoon clip art.

A pen-and-ink illustration.

A photograph.

B. Other Images. Tables, graphs, and photographs can also be useful and may help your audience visualize a point you’re making. Make sure these images are big enough for the person in the back to see clearly, and make sure they’re not fuzzy, stretched, or pixelated, especially if you’ve enlarged the original. Poor photographs and hard-to-see graphics will hurt you more than not including them at all.

4. FONTS    Pretty Isn’t Always Professional

Just like clip art, fonts have a tone or ethos as well, and your audience will take you more, or less, seriously depending on the font you choose. As with Word, you have a wide choice of fonts to use both in PowerPoint and Movie Maker. There are basically two types of fonts: serif fonts and sans serif fonts.

Two Types of Fonts.

Remember to pick a font that’s easy on the eyes. You may want to use a different font for headings than you use for the rest of your text. That’s fine, but be consistent and don’t use more than two fonts total or your text will start to look messy.

DO steer clear of fancy fonts or fonts that are “themed” – for example, those that look like handwriting or cursive or fonts that look like engraving, etc. In addition, avoid using fonts with letters placed too close together; they’re hard to read.

A. Font Color. The most important thing to remember with fonts, and particularly with font color, is readability. This is especially important when your audience is viewing something like a PowerPoint or a video. Your favorite color might be yellow, but it sure won’t show up well on a white background. And yellow on a dark background can look fuzzy when enlarged.

Stick with neutral colors and remember that the sharpest contrast is usually dark text on a very light background.

B. Font Size. Again, readability is of the utmost importance. Make sure your fonts are big enough to that the person in the last row can read what you’ve written.

5. TEXTUAL EXTREMES    Achieving Balance

I tend to see extremes in students’ PowerPoint slides: either a slide contains a whole paragraph and fights with the presenter for the audience’s attention, or  a slide has very little text and looks “unfinished.” Another problem: bullet points may contain one vague word apiece, neglecting to give the audience enough to understand what’s being said. So I often see bullet points on slides that look like this (say your presentation is about advantages of cleaning up the Wabash River):

  • Water – ecosystem
  • Wildlife

When these more specific bullets would help your audience understand your points better:

  • Healthier river ecosystem
  • Return of endangered wildlife

6. JUGGLING THE MULTI- IN MULTIMEDIA    Transitioning with Technology

The last mistake I often see students make is neglecting to transition smoothly between different forms of technology. For example, if you’ve been going through PowerPoint slides and you want to show a video, make sure that the audience knows what’s coming and why we should pay attention. In short, just as you would offer us a transition in an essay, give us one in your presentation too. Consider the following introductions and which one would make you sound more credible:

  • “So here’s this video…”
  • “The following BBC news clip from October shows protesters occupying Wall Street…”

So  make sure you effectively introduce your media.  Here’s one last thing to consider. You don’t necessarily have to embed a video in your PowerPoint. It’s fine to have a video pulled up ahead of time and to switch over to it. Just make sure your transitions are smooth and seamless so you don’t waste time or look unprepared, and your audience doesn’t have time to get distracted.

“Miss Representation”: Free Screening on Campus

The long-awaited film Miss Representation, a documentary that takes a critical look at the media’s portrayal of women. Building on work done by scholars like Jean Kilbourne, this film focuses not just on ads but on the media as a whole. Those of you who found Killing Us Softly 4 eye-opening should find this equaly interesting.

The screening will be followed by a brief panel discussion about the film.


Tuesday, March 27th from 6:00 to 8:00pm, Lawson Computer Science Building, Room 1142

Check out the Facebook page for more details.

“This insightful documentary from director Jennifer Siebel Newsom examines how women are portrayed by the mainstream media, and how the focus on beauty and sexuality instead of intellect and talent contributes to disenfranchisement. Interviews with high-profile leaders such as Dianne Feinstein, Jane Fonda and Gloria Steinem are intermingled with observations by young women who struggle with mixed messages about body image, self-worth and power.” (from

Watch the Official Trailer:

Rally for Trayvon Martin, March 28th

There will be a rally and march to show solidarity for Trayvon Martin on March 28th at 5:30pm. Participants should meet at McCutcheon Hall at 5:30pm, and the march to Stanley Coulter (SC) 277 will follow. Please wear hoodies and bring signs. The event is being sponsored by the Purdue University Black Student Union (BSU).

Seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin was gunned down by a self-appointed neighborhood watch captain while walking through his father’s gated community in Florida back in February. He was returning from the local convenience store where he’d bought a bag of Skittles and an iced tea. Though the shooter is known, he has not been arrested. The case has sparked rallies and protests across the nation.

Read more about Trayvon Martin’s case.