Thursday, June 28, 2007

Disoriented

For my entire life, I have been afflicted by a severe problem with motion sickness. I will spare you the ghastly details of my uneasy relationship with vehicular travel, and in particular tales of my youth involving having a nautical family that thought nothing was more fun than to spend the weekend on a sailboat.

Such experiences used to be confined to travel and watching certain movies (I wish movies could be rated for their likely effect on the balance-impaired), but the advent of PowerPoint, laser pointers, and other advances in presentation technology has had the consequence of introducing motion sickness into my academic life. I am commonly nauseated at talks, even when I like the science and/or the scientist.

I just had a rather extreme experience with this: a talk involving a wildly moving laser pointer and lots of animations. At least the talk was lacking one of my most hated nausea-inducing features: unnecessary animations for changing from one slide to another, including the awful rotating-cube animation. Even so, I felt queasy for more than an hour after the talk.

For the really motion-filled talks, I have to close my eyes or I will faint (or worse). I hate to do this because then the speaker might think I am sleeping (like some of my senior colleagues). And sometimes even closing my eyes isn’t enough because the flickering of light and colors on my eyelids is enough to induce queasiness. Covering my eyes isn’t a socially acceptable option. Sometimes I am able to look down and pretend to take notes and avoid the worst of the motion-effects that way.

Some talks are much enhanced by animations, and I don't begrudge the speaker the use of some zippy moving graphics. I use animations and movies in my talks when they serve the purpose of making an important point. It's the bad laser pointer technique and the gratuitous spinning things that I could do without.

If someone asks me what I thought of the talk I just described, an honest answer would be "It made me feel violently ill."

12 comments:

Ambitwistor said...

Hmm, I try to avoid animations in my slides themselves, except for maybe a fade-in here and there to highlight the appearance of something new. But I've always liked the rotating cube thing for slide transitions. No transition always seems too abrupt to me; I find it jarring. With the rotating cube (as opposed to a dissolve or something) it gives you a sense of moving from one slide to the next. Of course, it's the "sense of moving" that you're objecting to!

Maxine said...

Lucky you do not live in the UK and have therefore not been subjected to our famous "ill-inducing" Olympics 2012 logo!
(which I have only seen reproduced in the newspaper as I don't watch TV apart from DVDs)

Kristin said...

Wow - I've never met any one more prone to motion sickness than I am before. I like to joke that I can get car sick in a car that isn't moving! But I've never gotten sick from watching power point presentations. I guess you wouldn't do too well in a planetarium, either, what with the constant use of laser pointers, and then moving the star field all around. Have you heard of antivert (prescription meclizine)? It works wonders for my motion sickness (take it before you get sick), but I know it doesn't work for everyone.

nonk9 said...

I hate motion sickness.

theunbeatablekid said...

I'm an acupuncturist and have treated several people for motion sickness (usually before air travel). They've reported back that the treatments are helpful at least temporarily. Anyway, it's very safe so it's worth trying.

Kristen said...

It was drilled into me during grad school to avoid -at all costs- ANY animation, other than light/dark fading of text to highlight was is relevant. Text rotating or zipping on and off the screen is at best unnecessary and at worst, irritating and, in your case, nauseating.
The important bit is the science, not the snappy -or nauseating- graphics and animation which I agree, certainly detract and distract from the talk and the science being discussed.

Ms.PhD said...

I'm with kristen, I was taught to avoid animation except where absolutely needed.

Your problem sounds really severe, though. Inner ear issues, eh? The acupuncturist raises an interesting question- do you ever take medication for this while at work?

I don't get motion sick, but the wildly circling pointer makes me ill if I watch it dance around...

CareShare Network said...

motion sickness is such a hassle.

FemaleCSGradStudent said...

Perhaps...rock star sunglasses could be worn during conferences. Then no one can see you closing your eyes.

Anonymous said...

black board presentations are *cool*

Rosie Redfield said...

It's a shame that laser pointers have so completely replaced stick pointers. There are many venues where a stick would do fine; the only real exceptions are giant conference halls where even a very long stick can't reach the screen.

The body language is so much better with a stick, as the audience can follow the speakers arm and then the line of the stick, directly to the desired point. With a laser pointer, the speaker tends to lean back, away from the screen, and the dot is completely disconnected from the speaker.

Because the tiny laser dot is hard to see, most people wave the pointer around to get the dot frantically circling the place on the screen they want you to look at. It's much better for everyone if the speaker can use a brighter pointer and hold it steady.

Better yet, ask for a stick if you're a visiting speaker, or go to Home Depot and buy some long dowels if this is a room you have regular access to.

Deborah Crittenden said...

I suggest wearing *really* dark (but reflective on the outside, so that no one else can tell) sunglasses - this usually works for me. Of course, you don't get to see much of the presentation, but you can at least listen in (relative) opthamological peace...